EVERY October I have a flu jab. Every year, it’s the same process. I call the doctor’s receptionist. She asks me why I qualify. I tell her I have asthma. She books me an appointment. I go, have the jab and survive the winter without getting flu.
But not this year. No. This year, the flu is causing chaos.
First of all, I missed my appointment. It was in the diary, but I was that busy I forgot to look at the diary. The NHS is already stretched to capacity and there I was costing it money for missed appointments. I called the doctor’s receptionist the next day with the intention of confessing my general incompetence and grovelling an apology.
The phone rang seven times before the receptionist picked up. ‘Can you HOLD?’ She said.
‘Er…yes.’ I said, feeling a bit startled by her tone.
The line went quiet for a long time. ‘Hello,’ I said. ‘Anyone there?’ I was just about to hang up, but then… She was back. ‘HELLO,’ she said. ‘How can I help?’ But the way she said it, the brisk, no-nonsense, do-not-mess-with-me tone terrified the life out of me.
‘I’m sorry,’ I said. ‘I was supposed to have a flu jab on Wednesday but… I…er…I…got stuck in traffic on my way home.’ The lie was out before I realised.
She didn’t speak.
‘And I couldn’t call,’ I said. ‘Because I was driving.’ The lies just kept on coming.
I thought she might start ranting, telling me off about abusing the NHS, but she didn’t. ‘I’ll see if the nurse can squeeze you in now. Hang on.’ She put the phone down, returned a few minutes later. ‘That’s fine,’ she said. ‘We’ll see you soon.’
I hot-footed it round to the surgery, feeling a little ashamed of my lies. The nurse was waiting for me, needle in hand. I’d only just taken my coat off when she jabbed me. ‘All done,’ she said. ‘I hope you don’t get the flu.’
This threw me a bit. Wasn’t the whole point of the flu jab to prevent flu? I didn’t ask the question for fear of seeming a bit thick.
I left the surgery feeling confused. I went home and googled flu jabs and it turns out that I can still get flu but my body will recognise the virus and immediately start making antibodies to fight it. This made me feel better, and I went about my normal life for exactly seven days before I was struck down by the flu virus. As if this wasn’t bad enough, a cold sore the size of a house also appeared on my mouth, and my chin exploded into huge lumps of spots.
Cue the usual comments from my mum and friends.
‘You’re doing too much.’
‘You’re run down.’
‘You must be really run down with a cold sore that big.’
‘Look at your face!’
For a few days I refused to let being ill get in my way. I worked. I trained. Yes, I complained a lot, but I carried on. But then yesterday, things changed. I began to feel really ill. I managed to make it out for my friend’s 50th birthday, but knew I’d have to cancel my plans today.
I called my friend Lucy. We were supposed to meet for breakfast this morning.
I asked Mum to be on horse duty.
My plan is to have a full day of rest, because tomorrow…I’m supposed to be racing a 10k.
I’ve trained hard for this race. I was hoping to be fighting fit, ready to get a PB and possibly break 40 minutes for the first time. Instead I’m fighting flu, just hoping I’ll be able to get out of bed and run.
I’m sitting here, typing away, willing my flu jab antibodies into action.
I have one day.
Let’s hope the flu jab works its magic. I’ll keep you posted.