Wallowing in swine flu data

Disclaimer: I have not been tested for or officially confirmed to have the swine flu. When I asked my doctor if I had it, he answered: Probably.


My head is spinning and it’s not all from Tamiflu and antibiotics. Trying to get solid information about this year’s H1N1 pandemic is enough to make you just want to curl up under the covers and wait for spring.

  • Are vaccines bad or good? Should we get them or not?
  • We are encouraged to get our vaccinations now. However, clinics are either canceled or have hopelessly long waits.
  • The president declared a national emergency. News reports focus on the lethal H1N1 cases, particularly children. Some doctors I have encountered seem very unconcerned about what kind of flu they are treating, only that they must treat it.
  • At what point does hand washing become excessive and in the territory of OCD? At what point do you decide that the excessive hand washing you engaged in did absolutely no good to prevent the flu since all you needed to get sick was to breathe the air inside your home?
  • Is there a link between worrying excessively about getting H1N1, rubbing your hands raw with alcohol-laden hand sanitizer to the point of extreme irritation, and actually contracting it?

On Friday, as I sat slumped in a metal and plastic chair at the medical clinic, with my Girl from the East draped over my lap like a towel, I asked the doctor if we had H1N1.

“Seasonal flu, H1N1, what difference does it make?” he responded.

At first I was taken aback. This is the second time I’ve been greeted with a blase attitude by the medical community about the swine flu. Last summer, Girl from the West attended music camp. One week later,  some orchestra members from that camp came down with the flu. They were not allowed to board their flight to Europe because of it. When my daughter became ill and I took her to the doctor’s office and inquired about swine flu, the doctor brushed it off as “just the flu.” Let it run its course, she advised.

What in hell is going on? If you watch TV, read online or in print, you are led to believe H1N1 is the Black Plague. Yet, all but ONE doctor I’ve asked has minimized the concerns.  I’ll admit, I’ve allowed myself to be swept up in the media frenzy. I have kids. I worry about them more than myself.

So, when the doctor seemed blase about my H1N1 inquiry, I fired back:

“It’s all over the media. There is paranoia everywhere. It matters to me.”

“Well, then, yes, you probably do have H1N1,” he replied.

Then he handed me  prescriptions for Tamiflu and antibiotics for our secondary respiratory infections and sent us on our way.

My always-on-the-go husband has been in bed for six days with what started as the flu and quickly turned to bronchitis. Most likely, he waited too long to see a doctor. Based on this, I didn’t waste time.  I packed us into the car and headed to the doctor 24 hours after coming down with symptoms.

We had a long wait at the clinic.

We had an even longer wait at the pharmacy as Tamiflu is in short supply.

Know what I think? I stressed myself out so badly about getting H1N1 I trashed my immune system.

I suppose the lesson in all this is to take care of yourself, wash your hands, and if you do develop symptoms get to the doctor immediately.

If you are wondering how it’s affecting us: On Thursday I felt fine when I woke up. By noon I was knocked flat on my back with a 102 fever, chills and severe joint pain. Within 24 hours I’d developed a respiratory infection. My Girl from the East, despite a deep cough and a high fever, was bouncing around like a monkey. She had one rough night.

But the larger questions remain: What is the truth? Are some doctors downplaying this? If so, why? Is the media overplaying it? I’ve always believed in immunizations and I get a seasonal flu shot every year. I know it doesn’t protect me from everything, but it’s always kept me standing when everyone around me dropped like flies with whatever flu strain was going around.

So I guess I should be relieved. Now I don’t have to worry anymore about getting the flu shot. Plus, I had a whole weekend to do nothing but goof off on Facebook, Twitter and my favorite blogs.

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Granny panties: public health nuisance?


by alessandraelle via creative commons

Aside from fine lines and dark circles and loss of muscle tone, there’s one thing that really deflates my over-40 self-esteem: the underwear choices for the typical middle-aged body.

Gone are the days of  itty-bitty pretty things in bright colors, accented with lace and beads and bows. Now, it’s all plain and dark and thick. Now, it could double as body armor in a combat zone.

More than anything else about this age, I’m embarrassed of my underwear drawer.

A few weeks ago at a picnic with a friend — who has not yet crossed the threshold into fortysomething — we cursed our big appetites and what it does to our bodies. Then, she revealed a secret to me. She raised the hem of her pink ruffled sleeveless blouse to reveal a heavy-duty bustier that stretched from her rib cage to her hips. She made a fist and rapped her knuckles against the reinforced siding to demonstrate its figure-controlling power.


I was floored. I assumed her smooth lines were the result of genetics. Some women are lucky. But for us, pregnancy turned a slab of granite into a bowl of mush. She bought it, she whispered to me over a bowl of Sun Chips we were sharing, because someone had asked her if she was pregnant again.


I feel her pain. As a former member of the itty-bitty bikini club, the crop top and low rise pants club, middle age has forced me to relinquish my membership. I hang with a different crew now, the ones who shop for what at worst can be called granny panties and at best are called figure shapers.


I have discovered some things that make this transition tolerable:  Spanx, or anything Spanx-like.

Shopping for this type of underwear, however,  is a different experience. No longer can I go to the cute  lingerie boutiques and grab a handful of candy-colored “fundies” in my size and pay for them. Now I need to go to stores that have senior discount days to buy something to return my body to what it once was, to smooth and redistribute flesh, to conceal and reshape.

So imagine my horror on a recent shopping  trip when the dressing room clerk plucked the Spanx out of the bouquet of try-on items in hand and waved them overhead.

“No. No. No.” She admonished, shaking her head to and fro rapidly for added emphasis. “You aren’t permitted  to try on undergarments in a store!”

She used words like exposed crotch, and hygiene and public health threat. Suddenly I felt like Borat in his man-thong.


Well, I wasn’t going to take everything off and put them on, I retorted. I was going to put them on over my own underwear and see how they worked with this rather clingy dress I just bought.

More nos from the dressing room monitor. More head shaking. More talk of dreaded diseases and H1N1 and health department crackdowns.

I know I’ve tried on these body shapers before at other stores. In fact, I clearly recall a dressing-room attendant at a very upscale shop helping me find one to wear with my wedding dress. I’ve tried on bathing suits in stores countless times.

I’m not a germophobe, so much of what this attendant was talking about flies under my radar. I’m also not a shopper. I do not enjoy it. Least of all do I like trying on clothes or having to return them if they do not fit properly.

I looked at those Spanx waving over my head like the flag of doom. I talked of the price tag. I suggested that it was a lot to spend on something if it didn’t fit.

The attendant offered a solution: Buy the underwear, try it on at home, then return it to the store for a refund.

Then — and get this –she said with great pleasure that if the underwear is returned to the store, employees will have to put on protective gloves, render the garment useless, and ceremoniously dispose of it.


Do they have a HazMat team on duty for underwear and bathing suit returns? I ‘d love to see that in action. Do they use big tongs and drop them in airtight biohazard drums? Do they set a granny panties fire behind the store?

I suppose this all makes sense. I know it does. But something about the way this moment played out seemed hysterical and over the top. And now I feel as if I’ve been living in a cave on this matter.  After conducting a bit of online research, it seems that this is a health code rule. It turns out that people are pigs and do horrible things in dressing rooms and to clothing.

There are a lot of Borats out there.

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