Girl Talk: In Sickness And In Health

On Thursday night, I came down with the flu and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt fine at work that afternoon, but by the time I got home, my head throbbed, my throat swelled, my body ached, and every single ounce of energy has been sucked out of me. It literally took enormous willpower just to climb out of bed to go to the bathroom. Ugh.

Unfortunately, it only got worse on Friday morning. On top of the other super-fun symptoms, I had this strange experience of my forehead burning up while the rest of my body had the chills. At one point, I was shivering so strongly my teeth were chattering! When I took my temperature, it was a hundred and freaking five point three. (Brain damage starts happening at 107.6)

Being sick is never a pleasant experience. But I’m really glad that this time, my boyfriend was there to take care of me. About a month ago, I got food poisoning from some babaganoush at this lunch place near my office. I left work early and tried to make my way home, but I ended up barfing inside a New York City subway car. After I puked, I got out of the station and called my boyfriend, who came and took me back to his office. By this point it was the end of the workday and I wanted him to accompany me home in case I barfed in-transit again. But he wanted to attend a networking event, so he called our roommate — his best friend, Will — and asked him to go with me. Later that night, though, I barfed again — twice — on the bathroom floor and David walked in the door while our roommate very charitably mopped up. (I wasn’t exactly in a position to do that myself.) I could tell by the look on his face that he felt really bad he’d gone out that night. I could see he felt bad, and I didn’t want to make him feel worse, but secretly I was annoyed that he’d left me in our roommate’s care. I mean, nothing against Will, but the joys of food poisoning was not an experience I wanted to share with him.

When I fell ill on Thursday night, David told me he’d work from home on Friday so he could attend to my sorry ass. Unfortunately, I’m not sure he got much work done, between fetching me Advil, chicken noodle soup and ice cream from the supermarket, refilling my water glass, handing me damp washcloths, and enveloping me in a big, warm bear hug to try to stop my chills. After we found out my fever was so high, he even called his uncle, who is a doctor, for ideas on how to break it. I feel really grateful that he stayed with me all day because I was able to stay in bed to alternately rest and throb in pain. (Fortunately, lots and lots of Advil made the aches go away and broke my fever.) If I had had to be the one to go to the store and keep getting out of bed to replenish my liquids, I probably would have been more miserable. But the thing I really appreciate the most is that he had work-related dinner plans on Friday night that he canceled to keep playing nurse. It meant a lot to me that he didn’t leave me alone, zonked out on pseudo-ephedrine and lying in a damp, nasty pool of post-feverish sweat.

I don’t know why being taken care of when I’m sick means so much to me; maybe it’s because I grew up with a stay-at-home mom who was always there to take care of us when we were sick. I can remember kids from school who had two parents that worked and I always felt sorry for them when they were stuck in the nurse’s office all day because neither their mom nor their dad could get away. As an adult I can understand all the workplace flexibility-related issues with why it’s hard for parents to leave the office, but as a kid, it looked to me like those kids’ parents didn’t care about them very much.

I think I understand a little better that part of the marriage vows that say you will stay with a person “in sickness and in health.” It doesn’t just mean you’ll just stick by someone’s side if they get cancer or something; it means you’ll be the person who makes the chicken soup and doles out a bowl of ice cream for the sore throat. I know that in the rest of our lives together, it’s unrealistic that he’ll be able to drop everything to take care of me when I’m sick. But it really meant a lot to me that he knew I wanted and needed him there and he dropped everything to play nurse.

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