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The six week flu story

On January 23rd 2014 I got a mild headache. It wasn't much, but I could tell it was something. That was the beginning of a six week flu, which ended with losing my voice and hearing loss in one ear. I eventually got those senses back but I don't mind saying how scared I was during that time. Especially after reading numerous articles around the web that scared me into thinking the worst was going to happen.

I write a detailed description of that story knowing that others reading this probably have the flu and can prepare themselves for what might happen to them, know there is hope that you will be cured and maybe you can even prevent some of the more serious problems that occurred to me, happening to you.

To begin with, I am a 33 year old healthy man. I never usually get ill for more than a few days. I work with the public so have caught a fair share of things over the years but never do I recall being taken out like I had with this virus.

In the initial days I noticed I was sleeping a lot more. The number of hours increased each night until eventually I was in bed for eleven hours at a time. I was sweating a lot, more so at night. Flushes of feeling hot and cold transpired and a mild headache ensued. These are all common flu symptoms.
After a week, I took a bath and as soon as I got out the bath, I basically collapsed on the bed. I was conscience but every muscle in my body felt exhausted and I just lay there until eventually I forced myself to get up and get dressed. It was the first time my entire body felt depleted of all its energy. My condition seemed to worsen at night, and during the daylight I was more fuelled to get things done.

However then came the exception to what I just said - A few days later I had to work and during a forty minute drive between two venues, I was again feeling exhausted. I was just sat in my car driving but the urge to sleep was profound. This was after a night of eleven hours sleeping, in the middle of the day. I had to pull over, take a mere ten minutes (that I had spare) to recuperate before setting off again in search for a petrol station with a coffee machine. Upon getting home that night, I slept for another eleven hours.

I was taking the medicine 'day-nurse' to help the symptoms but Im not sure how well they worked. There is no cure to the virus and while Im not a doctor, I did read that it attacks the immune system first to slow down its defence. So in lieu of this, I followed other advice from web articles such as eating raw garlic, drinking lemon and ginger tea, reducing my sugar intake etc. It didn't make any difference what-so-ever to my health (that I noticed) but perhaps the act of doing something was the encouragement I needed to persevere.

The next week was spent in bed. I had lost my appetite and wasn't eating. I did force myself to eat small bites of food even when I wasn't hungry, as I knew it was important. I only vomited once, a very small amount. I had a few 'cup a soups' to keep my body functioning.
What I was doing was drinking a lot, and when I say a lot, I mean a lot. Like 4 litres a day. I would wake up in the night with a dry throat and need to drink again. I have a humidifier in the room and even that didn't help - I would still wake up with a dry throat, gasping for a drink.

After a few weeks, I started feeling healthy again and thought the worst was behind me. I went out for meals with friends and saw family. But then the next day a new problem started. Congestion of the nose and a weird taste in my mouth. The following day I felt a little better, but the day after a new symptom started.
Over the course of weeks 3 & 4 it seemed that a new problem was starting each day.
On 6th February a very chesty cough develops, I get a sore throat and a crokey voice. I had to work that day which includes me talking non-stop. I took with me a portable PA microphone and got through the day fine. At the end of the day I was talking okay.

The next day however, I woke up with no voice which would last for two weeks, and even now (8th March) has still not fully recovered . This is a condition commonly known as laryngitis and Im guessing that working that day on a sore throat was what set back the recovery time. But I had no choice. I am self employed and work in the entertainment industry where there is no-one else who can do what I do, and people are relying on me. I didn't think at the time that the problem was that bad either. However, losing my voice cost me 800 of work immediately, perhaps more since I was unable to answer the phone to take on new clients.

I decided to go see a doctor, but not having a voice meant I couldn't pick up the phone and book an appointment. I emailed them telling them my problem and they replied saying to call them, and I had to reply yet again telling them that was why I was emailing them! Eventually they gave me an appointment... in ten days time. Understand that they had no knowledge of what I was suffering from when trying to book the apointment, so if it was a serious illness, I could have died within those ten days.
So I decided to get dressed, and walk down to the doctors surgery personally with a pen and paper and 'encourage' an emergency appointment. I think the fact that I had to write down my side of the conversation got so frustrating to the receptionist that she eventually relented and let me in to see the emergency doctor that day.

The doctor prescribed me amoxicillin for the cough, in case a bacterial infection had developed alongside the virus. The course lasted a week. But that was it. She said there was nothing she could do and that I just had to 'ride it out'.

It took two weeks of resting in bed again for me to even start getting my low notes back. Even to this day (March 8th) I cant reach my high notes, needed in my profession.
For anyone going through this, the best thing to do is not even try to talk. Drink lots of warm drinks (tea, coffee, soup etc.) and don't try to whisper as apparently that can cause more harm to the problem. Beecham's Sore throat lozanders helped (available in pound / dollar stores) and if you really have to talk, check out a product called 'vocalzone' from the pharmacy which can get you through the day (but is probably not good for the long term recovery process).

On the 16th February my right ear 'pops' and hurts I don't think much of it at the time, but I deffinetly notice the pain. My voice is very crockey but trying to return. I still have a bad cough.
The next day, I wake up with no hearing in my right ear. There is also a constant ringing noise from it, which proves very annoying.

Knowing the problems I faced the last time I went to the doctors, I guessed this was just another symptom I had to 'ride through' and after reading online that its a common problem related to the flu, I stayed at home and watched Tv. Thankfully, my left ear still worked, although it popped occasionally which worried me but Im advised it was escaping air. My nose was still blocked, I still had the cough, sore throat and very poor voice.

One of the things I read online was that if you gently rub your finger and thumb next to the ear, and can hear the rubbing with that ear, then it means you can still hear from it and that most likely the hearing loss is temporarily. I tried this and could hear the rubbling (very muffled) but it gave me hope that it would return to normal eventually.

Ten days later and nothing had improved. Using what little voice I had left, I picked up the phone and put it next to my working ear and called the doctors to try and book an appointment. The doctor decided it was better to phone me back an hour later and so I described the loss of hearing problem.
She said it was pointless coming in, but recommended I get some steroid based nasal spray: 'Beconase Hayfever Nasal Spray'. If you going to be looking at getting some similar product, it has to be a 'steroid' based spray for it to have any effect (apparently). You squirt it up your nose twice a day.

Shortly after using it, the sore throat goes away, followed by the weird taste in my mouth that had been there since the beginning.

On the 6th March, in the middle of the day I start getting very short sharp pains from my right ear (the deaf one). I can tell that something is happening in there, and hope returns. I feel that 20% of my hearing is back.
The next day there are more pops and bursts of pain, followed by another 10% of hearing back. The ringing starts to change in tone and eventually quieten.
This process goes on for a few days and on the 10th March I wake up to feel my hearing has fully recovered.

I had to work the few days prior and while I had my voice and lower tones, I still couldn't reach any high tones. I write this article the day after and I can talk but Im resting my voice again so as to let it fully recover. I still cough occasionally but I know my body is working on the problem.

For the most part, I feel the worst is behind me but admittedly my body is still sorting out the damage the virus did to my body.

I read some articles and posts online that scared me more than anything else, but I believe they were written during the symptom period and the writer simply didn't wait for the virus to have run its course before making their posts, and didn't bother to amend their writings once they had recovered. Ive learnt that the internet diagnosis is not always helpful and can lead to more stress and panic attacks than it helps. Which is one of the reasons that I am writing this article, so that anyone going through what I went through has something to read that will give them hope.

I am young and healthy, and have taken good care of my health for my entire life, yet it still crippled me like nothing has ever before. It can effect anyone and everyone.

I few hints:

1. The fever stage will cause you to sweat a lot. So have lots of spare pyjamas at the ready and laundry soap for the washing.

2. Stock up on the medicine 'Day Nurse'. When you need to get through the day, it helps.

3. 'Sore throat Lozanders' and 'Vocalzones' are good products to have on standby if you need them.

4. Beconase Heyfever spray might be a good preventative for the more serious symptoms I had. It might have played a part in the recovery of my hearing as apparently the nose and ear are connected. So if you going through this problem, it wont hurt to try it and may help you get it back.

5. I did use other products such as 'breathe right' and 'sore throat mouth wash' but they didn't appear to help me. Eating raw garlic didn't appear to do anything either other than burn my tongue as I tried to eat it. I eventually learnt to eat it with a piece of bread (like a sandwich) so that it never touches the tongue. But it makes you smell more musky and I didn't see the benefits. However I read that its more effective with other illnesses, so Im not discounting it just yet.
I did try taking multi-vitamins but there are so many varieties that it was a minefield working out which one to take. I settled on multi-vitamins with minerals, and ended up getting muscle ache shortly after. It could have been a symptom of the flu, but after reading the vitamin bottle it did list the side effect on there and so I chose to stop taking them - and the muscle ache went away.

6. Doctors cant do much and booking an appointment with them is most often a waste of time. Consult your local pharmacist instead as they seem to be knowledgeable and more helpful.

7. Make sure you have a water bottle next to the bed, preferable a drinking container with a straw (makes it easier to get to in the night). I add a
juice to mine (peach cordial) as the sour taste in your mouth from the illness is not helped with water, but the cordial can help disguise it. Avoid fizzy drinks at night, it gives you hiccups and can occasionally fizz over the bedsheets.

8. I started losing my voice while I wasn't using it. On the day I noticed it going I had to work, which wont have helped. But it did start going before then. It was the virus that did it and so I doubt there was much I could have done to prevent it, but working that day may have lengthened the recovery time - I don't know. All I can suggest on this is keep drinking warm liquids and if you notice it going - do your best not to talk.
And while you can talk, make sure you change your answering machine message to tell people to email you.
I had lots of left messages from potential clients who I couldn't call back. A few I was able to text back, asking them to email me instead and they later turned into paying clients. So in the day you can talk, prepare for the weeks that you cant.

9. Stock up on some tv boxsets to watch, as you will spend most of your time in bed watching tv, so you might as well catch up on a few shows.

10. Get the flu jab next year! I know if your reading this article, its probably too late for you as it was for me, but next year lets get the jab!


I hope this story brings hope to some that you will recover. It was painful and scary at times and very costly in the wallet. I live alone so had to do everything myself and am self employed and work from home also, so it didn't help the business either. But I did recover and while it did set me back, I survived the ordeal. It might be seven weeks until Im back to my normal self, but the end of the tunnel is in sight, and I'm rolling towards it at full power, which is exactly what I want.

Steve





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