Flat White

Fighting off Wuflu at seventy

1 May 2022

10:00 AM

1 May 2022

10:00 AM

I am narrowly and slowly recovering from a bout of Wuflu.

It’s a bit like a really, really bad dose of influenza, the experts say, with a few nasty additions such as a powerful aching head, joint pain, an itchy rash, and fatigue so bad you never want to get out of bed.

It’s also the fear that has been implanted in you by your various governments that make it much worse.

Before you get it, as a 70-year-old male, you think you might be in reasonable physical and mental condition. Let me tell you, the first 24 hours with this virus and you can kiss goodbye any sense of both. It attacks your lungs making breathing fearfully difficult, but it also attacks your brain and your limbs so that you feel less like a 70-year-old and more like 90.

If you are a 70-year-old without any support say from family or friends or carers, then you need to think very carefully before you go anywhere you are likely to contract this virus. When you test positive, you are legally bound to register with your provincial government. This means you tell them you have it and they send you back an anonymous cold text message saying you must stay isolated for the next seven days.

I suspect anyone who has had it would have to agree, that there is no way you are going anywhere because you can barely get out of bed for the first week. The idea of driving your car, or walking somewhere is out of the question. Not only do you have difficulty moving around, you struggle to link two thoughts together. Every ounce of strength is channeled into staying alive.

This is not a joke. When you are in the grip of the virus the only thing that you think about is whether or not you will die. Whether you will stop breathing. Or if you have a weak heart whether it will stop beating.

Don’t pay too much attention to those who shrug it off as a bad cold. That bravado from the 30-somethings does no one any good. It is a dangerous virus that can kill you.

At the same time, the fear you have of it can be divided between what you were told by governments and what you now know yourself. Your own fear is justified. You’re 70 years old. You already have aches and pains. You have prostate problems, joint problems, and reduced kidney and liver function. In fact, if you get it, there is a chance it will kill you, but then you have had your vaccinations and that ought to keep you safe. Or that’s what they told you when you had them. But here you are with the virus ravaging your poor old body and you wonder how, if you survive, you will get back to some sense of normality.

Well, it may take some time if ever, for you to become the person you still want to be. Don’t rush. There is much talk of ‘long’ Covid, symptoms that can stay with you and cause problems months from when you thought you were over it.

In England, a survey of positive patients found 10 per cent had at least one symptom three months after initial infection. Symptoms included extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, memory loss, poor concentration, and joint or muscle pain. Most government organisation say well golly gosh, there you go, you have ‘long’ Covid. Stay home and don’t give it to others. The Australian College of GPS provides additional advice which is to stop smoking. That’s about as useful as a pocket in a singlet. A bit like having to fill in gender equality forms that ask if you are a male, then ask you to tick the box if you are pregnant.

The GP College also has advice about prioritising tasks. If you can’t do them all because of fatigue they suggest asking a friend or family member to do them for you. One has to question if these people are living in a parallel universe where everyone has friends and everyone has family just down the street who can drop everything and come to your aid. Perhaps they do, or they have the capacity to pay others to do things for them.

For the majority of us, especially males over 70, there is a good chance we are living alone, our family is off in other parts of the country or world, if we have any, and our friends are in the same boat as us, again, if we have any. If you live alone and you are in your 70s, you should be careful if you get the virus. There is plenty of stuff online that tells you what to do to ‘stay connected’ and other well-meaning but pious advice to ‘reach out’ to people you may have lost contact with. To be open to new invitations from people you feel comfortable with. Well, what the heck? Here you probably are, starting to feel like shit, your temperature’s gone through the roof, your throat’s doing razor blades and you can’t breathe. Right, you say… Time to be open to new invitations.

While I was in the grip of the virus, one of the things that lessened my fears was the mates who were there if I needed them. I am one of the lucky ones. I texted them when symptoms came on and told them what I thought was about to unleash. I had fought against it for a week while my wife went down with it so I was in isolation already. One mate who lives nearby offered to shop, another two further afield offered the same or anything else needed, even though it was a holiday weekend at the time, and my daughter, who lives 300 kilometres away, said she would come and look after us. Not everyone has such rewarding relationships. The text message from the mate up the street was enough for me to know that someone was there.

But what if there is no one? What if you are a 70-year-old man, who has no one upon whom you can rely? I know a few. Some will get the virus, suffer terribly for a week or ten days, then begin to improve. They may become dehydrated and need medical attention but they will shove their way through. Others will succumb and die. They may lie in bed for days unable to breathe. There are men who live such isolated lives that it may be a long time before they are missed. What advice does the government have for them? Perhaps they would tell them, in the next life, to call for an ambulance. What if they have no telephone? Unheard of in the 21st century, right? Wrong. Politicians will put on sad faces and say how tragic such circumstances are. Charitable organisations will seek more funding arguing that they can better assist those living in isolation and loneliness. But in the end, those old men will simply die.

My mind wandered during the peak of the virus to the possibility of not surviving. It was not a pretty thought but it was one that needed to be had. It was as if everything that had gone before rolled up into a ball and disappeared in a puff of smoke. The past ceased to exist. And there was no future, only the possibility of ceasing to exist also. It was as if my mind had disengaged so that I could use every ounce of what was left of strength to fight the virus.

I pumped paracetamol into me every four hours to attempt to numb the throat soreness and sat over a Vick’s Vaporub bowl of hot water to try to open my airways so I could breathe. The respiratory blockage was the worst part of it. The joint pain and the sore throat and head combined but I could tolerate them. It was the lungs that worried me. Everything I had read and every health boffin on television had me already dead if my lungs collapsed. This extra anxiety didn’t help. Had I read the College of GPs’ advice beforehand I would have seen that they recommend speaking to my own GP about breathing control exercises and remain calm, as stress and anxiety can increase my heart rate which makes me breathless. My goodness. What sensible advice.

Despite what governments and politicians tell you, you are alone.

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