I don’t remember much of March 2016. Quite frankly, I don’t want to either. It was one of the most traumatizing months of my life. I was so sick for, literally, the entire month. I blame only myself.
While I always ensure my children get the flu vaccine, personally, I didn’t think it was such a necessity for myself. No big deal. Since there are so many strains of the flu I thought, ‘Why bother?’
I also thought: ‘Maybe getting the flu shot will give me the flu’, and I didn’t have time for the flu, being a working mother. That, turns out, is an absolute myth. The injectable vaccine does not contain any ingredients that would cause the flu, and therefore the shot cannot give anyone the flu.
In any case, I didn’t get the flu vaccine last year…and I ended up hospitalized.
The only thing that makes a mother feel worse than seeing her children suffer with the flu is being a mother who can’t mother because she has the flu and feels like she’s on death’s door.
I definitely couldn’t mother. I could barely get out of bed to shower. For an entire month, I was as good a parent as the veggies in my fridge. I had a fever on and off for weeks. I had muscle aches and extreme fatigue. I could barely function, and for a month I moved in-and-out of a state that felt coma-like. I really had no idea the flu could be so serious for adults.
I also couldn’t believe how hard it was to shake. Every night, for an entire month, I would go to bed and pray, ‘Please let me feel better tomorrow. Please!’ Yet, I’d wake up every morning, wanting to cry and have my own pity party.
I forced myself to go on a pre-paid, non-refundable March Break vacation. I’m told the resort was fabulous—I didn’t see any of it except the inside of my room. I was in the hotel bed for three days, ordering chicken soup from room service three times a day, while my poor daughter played on her own.
After three days we went home on doctor’s orders. It was the least fun vacation in the history of all vacations, cut short by five days and a complete waste of money. I do not remember how we got to the airport, or the plane ride, or how we got home, because I was in such a daze and so, so, so weak. I think my 12-year-old packed my suitcase.
I wasn’t getting better. I was only getting worse.
For some people, the flu can lead to pneumonia. People like me. After a few weeks of feeling like crap, my doctor sent me to the emergency room because he saw I was having trouble drawing breath. On top of the flu, I had developed pneumonia. On top of having the flu and pneumonia, I also had bronchitis. I felt like weeping (OK, I did weep. A couple times). I wouldn’t have wished my pain and frustration on my worst enemy.
I was not alone at the hospital. Far, far from it. The emergency room was full of babies, toddlers, children, teenagers and a lot of parents, all hacking away behind our blue masks over in our segregated corner. Because the hospital kept all of us in close proximity, away from other patients, I could hear all my neighbours’ diagnoses. It was always the flu resulting in pneumonia. I wondered then, as I wonder now, if they were thinking what I was: ‘I should have gotten the flu shot.’
I was put on three rounds of IV antibiotics and four rounds with an oxygen tank. In that moment, I was impossibly frustrated and angry with myself. I couldn’t parent my children. I couldn’t spend time with them. I was guilty and mad. I was so sick and tired…of being sick and tired.
I have since learned that in Canada, flu season generally occurs each year in the late fall and winter months.
Eventually, I did get better. But it was a long journey back to being myself and being a good and present parent. After the March of 2016 (otherwise known as ‘The March I Couldn’t Parent My Own Children’) I’ve changed my attitude about flu shots. This season, I was one of the first to get a flu shot in Ontario, I’m pretty positive.
I can admit when I’ve made a bad decision, and last year, I made an especially bad one. I didn’t listen to the experts. I didn’t believe the World Health Organization when they said the vaccine is designed to match the flu strains expected to circulate.
And guess what? My two children who did get flu shots were fine throughout the entire flu season. We may have had a couple of sniffles, but they never missed school because of the flu.
This year, my children will, hopefully, have a mother for the entire year, thanks to me getting the flu shot. Children, after all, need their mothers. But, more than that, they need healthy mothers. For more information on everything you need to know about the flu, check out ontario.ca/flu.
Trust me, you don’t want to end up like I did.
This post was developed in association with the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The opinions are our own.