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15 February 2011

I have been sick for the past week. Really sick. More sick than I remember being for a long time. In fact, I think the only symptoms I haven’t experienced are rash and overactive bladder. This illness was so strong it deserved a name — a diagnosis, something to comfort myself with. “Ah, it was pneumonia all along” or, “Oh, just the swine flu, then? Great. Get me that prescription!” Then I would feel that much better for knowing what it was, that much better for having gone to the doctor (because, you see! this illness is not in my head, I am not exaggerating my symptoms as I stumble to the bathroom). But, most importantly, I would feel that much better for having a prescription in my hand for a medicine that would magically kill all the evil in my body while I lie on the sofa and watch “What Not to Wear.”  I would be better in two days! It would almost seem like a vacation.

I decided to go to the after hour’s clinic on Saturday because I was fairly certain I would be hospitalized for complications due to a severe bronchial infection if I waited until Monday. After I explained my long list of symptoms through my weak voice and phlegm-filled coughing the doctor said empathetically, “Oh! That does sound bad,” and sent me off to get a blood test.

A few minutes later as the doctor sat with his nose nearly touching his computer screen he confirmed that we had our results;  my much longed-for diagnosis.

“Nummer treti-en.”

Number 31?! Was this a secret code word for N1H1 or SARS or H5N1 or . . .

He waited a moment to let the fullness of that number register with me and then said firmly, “Influensa.”

“What flu?” I asked, puzzled.

“A very powerful flu.”

The flu. The normal winter flu. The normal flu?! How can a normal seasonal flu knock me flat for five days? Where was my immune system – wintering in Florida? This was ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous. Ear pain, chest pain, back pain, muscle aches, fever, chills, dry-heaves, greenish phlegm, blood-filled snot . . . the flu?

My only thought:  when I am 60 and get the flu I will not survive! Had I lived in the Victorian era I would not have lived past the age of 12!

The doctor was kind. He seemed to sense my deep disappointment with my diagnosis, and so he gave me a consolation prescription – the kind that doctors give when they feel their patients deserve some sort of parting gift, if for no other reason than for having waited two hours to see him. I got a prescription for cough medicine.

I thanked him and  gathered my tissue box, book and water bottle, thinking about my future at home on the sofa.

On my way out a nurse patted my arm in a grandmotherly fashion and offered some final words of what I can only assume she meant as professional medical advice: “You are so sick because you are not Norwegian.”

I guess I will just have to try harder next flu season.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Annegreet permalink
    15 February 2011 13:54

    Haha, oh sorry I have to laugh, but all your trials and tribulations are so well described. And I can see how the 40C fever and the bottle of cough medicine kicked in when you wrote this blog! One thing though that you have to remind yourself of Jena dear: Norway is the best country to live in. In the world. This is paradise. It does not get better than this. You just have to try to be more Norwegian! Pass the brown cheese please!

    • jenaconti permalink
      15 February 2011 14:31

      oh thank you, Anne! I am so glad I have friends who can make me laugh!

  2. 18 April 2011 11:30

    And if you had been in the US, you could have gotten a flu shot at the grocery store, the grocery store, the mall, the pharmacy, your kid’s school (not to mention the doctor’s office). . . but in Norway? You practically have to beat down the door of the doctor’s office to get the flu shot.

    • jenaconti permalink
      19 April 2011 19:39

      Emily: I did not even think of asking for a flu shot in the fall! I guess this means I have lived in Norway too long. I think this winter was enough to immunize me against _anything_ that should come my way!

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