Pride Comes Before a Hole. Or a Virus

Warning: the following blog contains scenes that some people eating dinner may find disturbing. Finish your pudding first.

I admit it. I got complacent. Conceited almost. I’m at the age where I watch my peers trudge off to hospitals to get hips and knees replaced, appear at lunches with various body parts encased in medical grade supports and everyone’s smelling of icy hot liniment. When the joints aren’t acting up, there’s always a new virus in town that takes them down. Ha! How I chuckle! (Internally of course. It would be rude otherwise.) ‘Look at me!’, I titter behind the get well soon card I’m writing. I’m still striding confidently up steep Exmoor combes, planning long-distance flights, and taking on the rejuvenation of a large garden. You don’t scare me, ivy-covered wall. I laugh at you, wicked brambles. No old root is too deep or too big for me. Gardening prowess aside, I’ve spent the last several years sighing sympathetically as another neighbour/friend/family member succumbs to a week in bed with COVID or flu or a nasty cold. Not me. I’m the only family member who hasn’t had COVID (that I know of) and I can’t remember the last time I even had a cold. Yes, I’ve had all my vaccines, but I’m naturally supercharged, I tell you! Invincible! Just like I used to be when flying off horses over fences on a regular basis as a twenty-year -old.

Anyway, you know what’s coming. Two weeks ago I’m standing knee deep in a hole I’m digging so I can transplant a large climbing rose. I’ve dug a million holes before. I know about bending knees, and not lifting and turning at the same time. I’m a pro. And invincible. Until there’s a twinge. Followed by an electrical charge running down both legs. And suddenly all my toes are on fire. Then begins the radiating pain into both hips. But do I stop digging? No. Of course not. Because the friends helping dig the rose up while I prepare the new hole can never, I repeat never, know I’m not invincible. As they appear round the corner, wrestling the thorny tangle of a ten-foot-tall rose between them, I’m sitting on the edge of the hole, a very Wallace-type fixed grin on my face. Teeth clenched, I’m using the shovel to try to lift myself out of the hole.

‘Anyone for tea?’ I totter to the kitchen while the friends plonk the rose in its new home and backfill the soil. In the kitchen, the kettle feels incredibly heavy and I ponder calling the fire department to get the teabags out of the cupboard. But bravely, invincibly, I manage to make three cups of tea and deliver them to the garden crew. We part company and I spend the next couple of days flat on the floor with ice packs and paracetamol as my new best friends and pillows wedged in various places, hopefully holding my skeleton in place. The thought of a car ride to Tesco is unimaginable, forget that trip to Japan we’re thinking about. Hubby, who has lived with backpain almost our entire marriage, looks like he may expect more sympathy next time.

But wait. There’s more. All that sighing sympathetically about friends with viruses that will never touch my Teflon system? Saturday morning, I limp gingerly to the kitchen to make breakfast feeling things are maybe getting better in the twinged back department. Which is good because that darn transplanted rose needs watering, seeing as there hasn’t been a drop of rain since we moved it. But no. Things are indeed not getting better. An hour after breakfast, I’m flat on the floor in the bathroom, back spasming, toes curling, as a vomiting flu bug hits. You know how your skin and hair hurts and the chills, fever and vomiting mean every muscle is fighting to make your insides your outsides? Yes, that kind of flu bug. It’s hard to know what to protect first, the bathroom floors or the spine. Hubby brings more blankets and the dog pants in my ear something about did I know he hasn’t been for a walk yet and is said walk not happening.

The vomiting part only lasts a few hours. It could have lasted days in which case I’d have needed a complete spine transplant. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful about the short duration but that few hours of pain will go down in history on a par with childbirth and pulling the packing (read large couch) out of my nostril after sinus surgery. Don’t talk to me about pain scales only going up to ten. Anyway, just moments after I thank the Vomit Gods for getting bored and moving on to someone else, the coughing starts. Is it possible to cough without using your back? Apparently not. Any progress made during the last couple of days of icing and lying flat disappears in an instant. The back screams ‘Lie flat!’ The lungs scream, ‘Sit upright. And we mean all night!’ It’s a battle royal for control of the pain scale and everyone’s losing.

So, dear reader, if you’ve made it this far, what is the moral of the story? Well, obviously, you should never smugly write get well cards. Assume every word will boomerang back to you at some point. Stop buying the cheap cards, okay? Also, take a good, long, hard look in the mirror. Are you as young as your invincible self thinks you are? Just because you did that thing twenty or even ten years ago doesn’t mean you should do it again without a great deal of prior planning. While searching the David Austin rose catalogue, search your medicine cabinet for gel ice packs.

Week two, and here I am. Unable to sit at a computer for long. Unable to lie down for long. Unable to stand for long. Coughing up a storm and reaching out to social media for suggestions for daytime TV viewing because reading makes my head hurt. Most importantly, I’m wondering. I’m wondering how I’ll respond the next time a friend says they’ve injured themselves completing some mundane task. Or how I’ll respond to the next cancelled get-together because of a virus making the rounds. Differently. That’s how I’ll respond. Differently. There’ll be a lot less invincibility and a lot more empathy in that ‘Take care’ signoff in a get-well card. There’ll be no more pride before a hole. Or a virus.

Stay healthy out there!

(No roses were hurt during the writing of this blog.)


Wikimedia Commons: Sciatica nerve

Rawpixel: Flu virus, Public Health Image Library, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention