Sometimes it’s hard to know when I’m sick. After all, acute illnesses share many symptoms with my chronic conditions. But if I don’t know when I’m contagious, how can I protect others?
What Was the Source of My Symptoms?
Christmas Eve might be my favorite holiday. My mom hosts a lovely dinner party for our extended family, and then Mark, our girls, and I spend the night. I love the intimate time with family and the anticipation of giving out our gifts. Plus, Mom’s hot spiced cider and beef with béarnaise sauce are delectable.
Unfortunately, this past Christmas Eve I wasn’t feeling well. I did my best to rise to the occasion, but it was hard to mingle when I felt miserable. The cacophony of sounds and heat from many bodies made me seek shelter outside and upstairs several times throughout the evening. Overnight proved even worse.
We usually spend Christmas morning at my parents’ house and the afternoon at my aunt’s. Because of how I was feeling, I planned to go home early that morning, as soon as our girls opened their presents. But my mom encouraged me to take DayQuil and stay.
She probably didn’t know how poorly I was feeling and didn’t want me to miss such a special day. So, I took repeated doses of medicine and cooled down by going outside barefoot.
The next morning, I was diagnosed with pneumonia and a sinus infection.
But Why Did I Get Pneumonia?
Two weeks prior, I got vaccines for measles and twenty-four types of pneumonia. Measles cases were rising, and my November labs showed I was no longer immune to the disease. Neither was I immune to fourteen out of twenty-four types of streptococcus pneumoniae. Because of that, I was vulnerable to several kinds of infections.
Did the vaccine cause my pneumonia and sinus infection? Or did getting those illnesses confirm what the labs showed about me being vulnerable? Since my immune system is weak, I suppose either is possible.
The Best-Laid Plans
In January—on the day we left for a weekend trip—our younger daughter tested positive for strep. Two days later, on the way home, our older daughter was acting lethargic and saying she felt cold. The next day, she tested positive for influenza B.
By the next week, I had strep. The nurse practitioner who diagnosed me said I also still had a sinus infection.
The night before, I hadn’t been feeling great, but I didn’t have a fever. So, I chalked it up to a flare of my chronic symptoms and served in our church’s children’s ministry.
The next morning, my strep test came back positive, and I felt awful. How could I work with kids while I had strep? Thankfully, since I thought I might have a cold, I’d taken precautions while serving.
As it turned out, others were carrying a contagious illness that would soon shut down the world.
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