If you get "swine flu" go to the Doctors and demand they do something about it. That's what they're there for, it's what we pay our taxes for. Screw all this advice about not worrying about it and just staying in bed. Go to the Doctors! Demand they cure you.
I recently did some overnight shows on London's all talk station LBC. I was on Thursday 10th September through 'til the 15th at 1am-5am in the morning. Quite a hardcore shift but it seemed to go well. We had more calls than we could take and the boss was happy enough to offer me another bunch of shifts. During that period I had a bit of a sore throat and I could feel I was coming down with something. I'd had a migraine a few days previously and that tired feeling you get when your body is under attack was sweeping over me.
They took a picture of me for the LBC website and in it I look ill. My eyes are red and I can see I look knackered. However, us radio presenters don't do ill, we're most of us self employed and if we don't work we don't get paid. Simple as that. So, I did the shows and thought I'd postpone getting better until once I'd finished.
As I slumped into my bed I remember thinking I had about a week or so to get better in time for the next run. My symptoms were; a sore throat, a cold and a cough. Unfortunately the next day things seemed to have got worse rather than better. I now had a thumping headache and a fever to add to the list. By day three I wasn't sleeping properly as my cough had escalated into a constant feature of my life. Furthermore I was really tired and running short of breath all the time.
I'm a bit of a fan of things like positive thinking so by the end of the third day I'd decided to convince myself that I was getting better. This went reasonably well but you can't positive think your way out of a coughing fit. Or the fact that you've got no strength in your body. By the end of the fourth day I was pretty pished with positive thinking and started on the drugs. Cough medicine. Nose spray. Vicks in a hot bowl of water. Paracetamol etc etc. You have to be careful with these things in that if you combine them you can do more harm than good so they were all nicely spaced out and so forth. None of them made any difference. I was getting worse.
By the fifth day I had to ring the boss of LBC and tell him that I couldn't do the second set of shifts he'd offered me. I cant tell you what I wuss I felt like. It didn't make any sense, I don't get ill!
My fear was that once I spoke to him my symptoms would suddenly clear up and I'd feel fine. The total opposite happened and I got much worse. That night I was actually hallucinating. I thought I was in conversation with the devil. I felt like I was being physically attacked by goblins. These hallucinations were interspersed with real life drama where I couldn't funking breathe. I had so much crap in my lungs I felt like I was being choked by it. I was drenched in sweat. It was really nasty.
I decided to ring my doctors surgery. It was a weekend so I got a long, long, long, recorded message telling me about the swine flu pandemic and advising me not to bother coming in as they'd be too busy. Also, they're closed on the weekend so feck off. Finally it told me to ring the NHS advice line. Bear in mind that I'm delusionally ill at this point.
The NHS advice line was amazing. Multiple choice questions to sort out the really ill from the idiotic. Advice to the effect of 'go to bed you'll get better' for people suffering from swine flu and a big long recorded lecture about pandemics. When I finally got through to a human she sounded nice and told me to take some codeine and I'd get better soon. Terrible advice. The codeine informed me there was a risk I'd become addicted to it if I used it for a few days. When I took it I felt drugged up like Renton out of Trainspotting. It didn't ease my headache. Then my nose started spunking blood.
It occurred to me as I mopped up the blood and worried I was going to die that a key skill for someone who works on the NHS advice line must be to sound like you care when actually you don't. If you did actually care you'd end up taking your work home with you and worrying about all the ill people you spoke to that day. If you sound like you don't people will notice and you'll lose your job. Therefore the best skill to have is good fake empathy.
The next day, after another night of choking and hallucinations we went to a doctors surgery located inside Boots the Chemist. I sat down in front of the receptionists and told them I was dying and I wanted them to sort it.
Bit over dramatic but I'd exhausted myself walking from the car park round the corner.
It's all a bit of a blur but I remember a nice doctor giving me some antibiotics which didn't really seem to work at first.
The next day I booked myself in to see my usual doctor, mainly to ask when I'd feel better in order to get back to work.
The surgery is walking distance from my house but I was so forked I couldn't make it there. My girlfriend had to drop me off in the car. I can't tell you how gobstruck I was when I walked in and saw that I was one of only two patients waiting to be seen. There were six staff behind the desk! This makes a staff to patient ratio of three to one. This from an organisation which was at every possible turn advertising how busy they were! Too ill to be annoyed I slumped into a chair and waited to see the doctor. A couple of minutes passed and he invited me into his office. He told me I'd been seriously ill and I wasn't really better yet. He prescribed me some stronger antibiotics and told me I wouldn't be fit to work for a fortnight. Bloody hell!
He suspected I'd been hit by more than one virus at once. I had to go in the next day for blood tests to check if I had anything more serious than an aggressive case of flu and sore throat. I've never at any point been told I had swine flu.
The next day I was THE ONLY PATIENT in reception. A staff to patient ratio of 6:1. That is until an old lady popped in to pick up a prescription, she remarked very loudly "what have you done with all the patients?" to which the receptionist replied jokingly "we've killed them all!". She was obviously making a point and the polite laughter that followed was interesting to listen to.
As I sat there, waiting for my blood tests I could hear the receptionists telling people over the phone that there were no possible appointments, they've very busy at the moment. They clearly were not. Quite amazing.
Why is it that receptionists in Doctor's surgerys look like dinner ladies?
Anyway, as I said in my opener, if you've got this swine flu thing, go to the Doctors. They're not busy.
Furthermore, listen out for me on LBC again soon. I'll twitter the dates nearer the time.