One of the lesser joys of working with children is the potential for catching things from them. Until recently, this has been – in general – coughs and colds, mostly easy to shake off, but this last week has changed the record.
Last Tuesday, I had a headache. I put this down to working on the computer all afternoon, concentrating on the end of year accounts and getting my reports up to date, ready for the evening meeting with my Management Committee, and the actual meeting itself – never the most stress-free of occasions! Paracetamol (and a small bar of free-trade chocolate!) made me feel better, and carried me through to 9.00 pm and my eventual supper.
Overnight, I felt horrible. Woke at around 1.30 am, couldn’t stop shivering, my feet were freezing, although I was quite warm otherwise, so at around 3.00 am I threw my dressing gown across the bottom of the bed. This seemed to solve the ‘ice-block on the end of the leg’ problem and I dropped off to sleep, only to wake at around 6.00 am absolutely roasting! And I mean boiling. Well, I put this all down to being a woman of ‘a certain age’, and headed back into work, to go over the accounts with our treasurer and figure out why things weren’t coming up in the right columns in the computer printouts. We sorted it out, and felt rather pleased with ourselves, and I headed off to get ready to travel down to Mum’s for the Easter break in a small haze of achievement. Still felt ‘heady’ but put it down to the lack of sleep, and thought – ah well, it’ll be OK after a decent night tonight and then we’ll be off on holiday and I’ll be fine. Had a shower before bed and was slightly askance to find a few spots here and there – put this down to excessive sweating, and possibly a change of hair conditioner.
As we drove South on Thursday, with the dog mumping and grumping in the foot-well as usual, I noticed one or two more spots appearing on my arms. Odd, but it could still be a minor allergic reaction, so I thought no more of it.
Friday morning, things were very different. I looked in the bathroom mirror, and realised I was turning rapidly into a Dalmatian. This was NOT an allergy, but a definite spotty outbreak. We consulted the family encyclopedia. A virus – measles, rubella or chickenpox seemed the most likely. I felt OK, apart from being concerned I would frighten passers-by, but it would be useful to know what it was I had, and how long I might have had it, and who I might have infected on the way and now needed to tell…
Process of elimination on symptoms brought us down to – oh joy – chickenpox. As a mate of mine who caught it a couple of years back said – ‘I’m covered in unsightly bobbles!’ Every time I looked, there were more – my head felt like it had a bad case of sunburn, and my skin like someone had planted a crop of lentils just beneath the surface. And then highlighted the subsequent lumps with red paint. And then stuck little dabs of custard on the top of the lumps…
So the holiday has been spent quarantined. Infectious until tomorrow. Can’t do all the things we planned to do – no trip to IKEA, no trips to more garden centres, no taking the rubbish to the tip…hey, maybe there’s an upside to this after all!
Perhaps not. It’s been itchy, sore in places, and for one who is no oil painting to begin with, the join-the-dots facial embellishment is not a terribly successful look. But apart from that first night, I’ve felt fine. I haven’t even lost my appetite – in fact the major gripe has been frustration! I’ve been trying to find out what the ‘join-the-dots’ puzzle actually makes when done, but unless it’s a map of the far side of the moon, craters and all, I’m flummoxed. It occurs to me to wonder – if they’d all joined up, what would have happened then? Would I have turned into a chicken? Why is it called chickenpox after all, if not?
But it’s going away, fading and drying up. Somewhere in Aberdeenshire there’s a parent who’s been sat up with a spot-ridden child, the statutory bottle of calamine lotion, and far more worries than we’ve had. But, looking at the possible complications, far fewer potential major side effects. We used to take these things in our stride – measles, mumps, chickenpox, and the rest - we used to deliberately try to get our kids infected early in life, when the risks are lower. I know this was the case with me – I just didn’t ‘catch’ the darn thing when I was supposed to, though we thought at the time I had. (Moral of the tale – one spot doth not a pox make!) Nowadays, we go straight for the inoculation. I’m not sure which is the better move, myself. Being left to catch everything has resulted in me having a resilient system that fights infection, and this has been an exercise in patience more than anything else.
Now I need to know – was the one apparent (measly) measle I had back in 1960 the real thing, or is that still lurking out there too, waiting for me?