Confession: I am a bit of a hypochondriac.
Well, actually more than a bit. I am a full-blown neurotic germaphobe who, when confronted with any signs of illness, obsessively Googles until locating the absolute worst-case scenario out there.
Best example: My husband once walked into the living room with the laptop and asked incredulously, “Are you the one who’s been Googling tongue cancer?”
I blushed. He laughed himself into a stupor.
Enter swine flu.
I’ve been paranoid about flu for years, long before the feds started fretting over birds and predicting our next pandemic. In fact, my flu phobia first surfaced in 2003, when that year’s strain hit children especially hard. I was a new mom and therefore prone to panicking over any possible illness that could harm my baby.
During the peak of that flu season, my photojournalist husband was sent to Arkansas Children’s Hospital to photograph the flu ward. While he was there, a nurse asked if he had any children at home.
“Yes,” he said. “A new baby.”
The nurse scowled and all but pushed him out the door.
“What are you doing here?” she scolded. “You go home right now, put those clothes in the washer and take a shower before you get anywhere near that baby.”
Hubs slunk out the door, went home and followed orders. I followed him around the house, armed with Lysol and an arsenal of lectures.
We avoided flu that year, thankfully.
But when I was pregnant with our second child, it struck.
I had gotten a flu shot — after haunting the doctor’s office for weeks in anticipation of the vaccine arrivals — but apparently it wasn’t enough to shield me that year.
I ended up in the hospital, where doctors tried to alleviate my symptoms and stop my fever-induced contractions.
“Normally, since you’re so close to your due date, we’d go ahead and let you have this baby,” one physician said. “But believe me, you don’t want to give birth when you’re this sick.”
My son arrived just a few days later, while I was still recovering. Not an ideal time to have a baby, let me tell you.
So yeah, I was afraid of flu long before concerns about avian strains surfaced. When they did, I promptly downloaded the government’s emergency response plan, and stocked up on bottled water, canned goods and Lysol. Little did I know that our feathered so-called friends would not be the cause of my next flu freakout.
Thus far, doctors are saying that most swine flu cases have proved to be milder than those involving seasonal flu. And really, other than hand-washing and disinfecting, there’s little I can do, not with two kids in school and daycare.
So each time I get another note announcing another confirmed case, I take a couple of deep breaths and resist the urge to Google.
I do, however, reserve the right to hoard surgical masks. And I still — *cough* — may possibly still have a dogeared copy of the government’s emergency response plan. Just don’t tell my husband.