It begins with that unnerving feeling that something “just isn’t right”. The flight of stairs that you normal charge up in the morning, fuelled with caffiene and Hugo Boss For Men aftershave, takes a few more breaths than usual. You struggle with with zip on your bag, which normally glides open in one super-cool ‘swoosh’, and you find yourself getting annoyed. But – it is SO early in the morning to be annoyed – it usually takes AT LEAST until after lunch for that to begin.
“Morning, mate” echoes from the corridor. You go to respond but find the obligatory insidious frog lurking in your throat. It takes a second to clear before the reminants of the ‘croak’ pepper your “Morning, bud” in reply. You shrug it off. It was probably down to the fact that you were ‘mouth breathing’ more last night as you went to bed and you’ve just dried out your throat.
But what WAS wrong with your nose then? Why the mouth breathing?
As you continue pacing towards the wards, leaving a trail of probably too strong Hugo Boss, you take that deep, airating sniff in through the nose – all designed to oxygenate the body and mind, swirl into the sinuses, and prepare man for the day ahead.
Except there was no airation, no priming, no swirling. Your heart rate speeds up and you start to panic.
The inspiration, naturally followed by the expiration of breath (apart from those unlucky few for whom it was their last), is delivered with a side of of coughing, sneezing and the first miniscule trickle from your nose.
You stop dead in your tracks. Your eyes glaze over. The b*stard has got me. Again.
I have Man-Flu.
From then on it is a non-stop assault. The slow-motion car crash that you know is coming takes hold of your body. But you know this old adversary well. It is not the first time you have met. Back in the Summer of 2013 it caught you just before your birthday and you vowed never to let it strike again. Oh Berocca, yourabundance of tasty multi-vitamins, how you have let me down.
You take a pit stop in the patient toliets just before the ward – now, technically being a patient yourself – and inspect the damage. It is not good ladies and gentlemen. Your eyes are that of a 16 year old boy just being dumped by his 18 year old cheerleader girlfriend – watery, filled with pain and sorrow at what could have been ‘that Friday night’, your nose a mess of redness that glows dimly against the NHS ‘energy saving lightbulb’, and the slow but steady stream from your nostrils reveals itself like a lava flow inbetween every inspiratory sniff in.
It is growing stronger by the minute. This must be a super strain of Man Flu.
As you lean against the toilet cublicle wall, being mindful to avoid contaminating anything now that you are infected, you decide it is time. Grabbing a handful of the paper thin tissues you ready yourself like an expectant mother in child-birth – except this will not be such a pleasant delivery, you ponder. You place them to your nose, wincing as the red-raw skin is punished by the NHS quality tissue paper, and you blow.
WHERE THE HELL DID THAT ALL COME FROM?!
You stare in amazement and disbelief at what has been hiding in your nose all morning – half expecting it to scurry off and hide. What’s more is since you know that this is man-flu – there will be more up there. You grab another handful of tissues, mindful of the fact that you have now been in the toilet for some time and may be rousing the suspicion of security. You allow yourself a cough as the true wet gravelly nature of it surfaces now that you have discovered its presence. You blow again. The eyes water. The legs weaken and you get your first shiver. Oh man flu you taker of all things good!
You look in the mirror once again. The car crash is truly in full affect. How could it take hold so quickly?! A uncontrolled tear from your watering eyes plummets south over your cheek and falls kamakazi-like towards the ground. You wonder if your old friends in the intensive care unit would allow you a bed for the day – and perhaps, intubate and ventilate you to help you get through the worst of it. But you know you can’t – you know that the risk of spreading man-flu around the ITU is, well, just too great.
As you push on with your day it is a melting pot of sympathy for mistaken crying, sneezing quietly, patients avoiding you and attempting (and failing) to stem the tsunami from your nose.
Man Flu was definitely won this round.