The Flu Files: One ER Physician Gets the Flu and Tells Us His Story

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Hot tea for colds, pills and handkerchiefs on table on bright background

Dr. Marco Coppola is an emergency physician at The Colony ER Hospital. He’s been practicing medicine for over 30 years. He is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine and is a Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). Dr. Coppola is a U.S. Army Colonel and Commander of the 3rd Battalion of the Texas Medical Brigade. To help us all learn more about this year’s flu season, Dr. Coppola wrote a first person account of his own flu experience when he contracted it earlier this year. His light-hearted memoir will shed some light on how to tell if you or your family member might be coming down with the flu as well.

Week One – Flu Takes Hold

Monday, 0700 hours:  Another shift done.  Another 10 or so patients with confirmed flu.  I feel fine.  I am not worried about getting the flu because I got the flu shot and, of course, I am just immune to illness (or so I like to think).  I’ve been seeing sickness, germs, bacteria,  andviruses for the last 30 years and I just don’t get sick. Well, there was that one time when I had food poisoning, but otherwise I am invincible.

Wednesday, 1700 hours:  I spent the day cleaning out the garage and lifting heavy boxes.  I have that achy feeling in my muscles like I’ve just worked out. I feel this is normal from all the heavy lifting I’ve been doing. I don’t think too much of it, but, the seed of doubt has been planted. I know people are complaining about awful body aches with this year’s flu.

Thursday, 0700:  Today, I am sore.  My muscles are killing me!  I feel like I want to stay in bed, but, I have a meeting at work. Off I go.

1100 hours:  Concern sets in. What is going on? I have a cough and I feel like I’ve been run over by a Mack truck, followed by a Greyhound Bus.  It is IMPOSSIBLE that I have the flu, but  I’ll check at work.

1300 hours:  Thankfully the flu test was negative.  See?  Invincible. I can withstand anything. But, why am I so sore?

2100 hours:  I can’t keep warm.  I’m freezing!  It IS cold outside…but not inside!  Stacy, my wife, is laughing at me because I am going to bed with a hoodie. But, I. am. so. cold.

Friday 0545 hours:  Wakey wakey!  Time for work!  But I feel horrible.  I just need to repeat my mantra: I don’t have the flu. I don’t have the flu. After all, the test yesterday proved it. Maybe I have the “man flu?”

1300 hours:  David, the radiology tech at The Colony ER Hospital, tests me for the flu with a nasal swab. It only takes a few seconds. Because we’re colleagues and friends, he mentions I don’t look so great. Not surprised to hear. Not even a minute passes by that the flu test, which usually takes ten minutes for a result, turns positive.  IT CAN’T BE!  I CANNOT have the flu.  How is that possible?  I call another doctor to take over my shift and he calls in a prescription for Tamiflu.  I GOTTA GET HOME.  I feel like I have a fever.

2100 hours:  I have a fever now, and the drive home wasn’t exactly smooth.  I couldn’t get warm.  When I got home, all I wanted to do was sleep.  I took a nap and when I awoke, there was a bell by the bedside.  I pick it up, it rings, and momentarily, Stacy appears at the door.  She tells me I am quarantined and asks if I want any chicken soup.  That sounds good.  Nothing too solid, just warm salted water with chicken and overcooked pasta.  But it was delicious.  On my night stand were bottles of water, Tylenol, and ibuprofen.

Sunday 0900 hours:  Its Saturday…no…wait…IT’S SUNDAY!  What on earth?  What did I do yesterday?  I walk out to the kitchen and Stacy tells me to get back in bed and use the bell.  She later tells me that I literally slept all day yesterday, just awake long enough to eat. I am feeling better today, but I’m still achy and feverish. By now, my 7-year-old son, Antonio, has a fever. It stinks knowing you’ve probably passed the flu along to your kids, but, it happens. I call in some Tamiflu for him.

Week 2 – Light at the End of the Tunnel

Monday 0800 hours:  I’m better, but not 100% yet. I will just take it easy today. I can’t believe that it took me a full week to recover. But, it makes sense and goes along with all the notices that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has sent to us physicians.  Yes, this IS a bad flu season and no, doctors and nurses are not immune.  I got better simply because I listened to my own advice, the advice I have given to patients when THEY have the flu: rest, fluids, Tylenol and ibuprofen for the fever and aches, Tamiflu, and stay away from people and wash your hands A LOT.

Nutex Health, Inc supports you and your family’s health. You can depend on The Colony Emergency Room Hospital or any one of our concierge-level, freestanding emergency facilities to deliver the emergency care you deserve, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.