A Sick Day

2 days ago, my runny and stuffy nose got so bad, that all the handkerchiefs I brought got wet in less than 10 minutes. A good of friend of mine told me, “Oh, you should go to Medical and have a full bed rest.” But I replied, “Oh, no, my postdoc is coming back from Stanford tomorrow and I have to run an XRD* data analysis with him in the morning; we made an appointment with the Center of Material Science Engineering expert.”

*X-Ray Diffraction. Debye rings. Bragg’s condition. Fun stuff, you should Google them if you have time! It’s one of many methods for characterization, and it’s like material’s fingerprints. So if you have an unknown material and do XRD on them, you can tell the composition of the material based on how the material reflects the X-Ray. Fun fun!

So, yesterday, I woke up early as usual. Went to campus, met my postdoc in the morning before heading to our appointment. He looked at me and said, “Wow, you look really really sick. Are you OK?” I replied shortly, “Yeah, I’m fine, probably will have a quick run to the Medical.”

He was okay with that, until 10 minutes later, pitying over me sneezing. At the end of our appointment, he told me, “Go to Medical. And get a lot of rest (yeah, he sounded like he was underlining those words). I am planning to do XPS at Center for Nanoscale Systems this afternoon, but don’t force yourself. Take a day off tomorrow. I need to work on my paper anyway.”

So, I did go to Medical. The last time I was there was last year, when they gave me a diarrhea medication for preparing me to go to Singapore. The visit before, I was given another diarrhea medication for going to Colombia. They didn’t know that I have a strong Indonesian stomach which can stand eating seblak pinggir jalan. Oh, and free medical check up. Came out normal; they were suspecting I was having a problem with my thyroid.

Anyway, that was also my first time in Urgent Care (UGD?), after 5 years being here. Quite impressive, eh? My first time feeling sick enough to be here. Before, I would endure it myself, and survive on eating oranges and drinking a lot of fluid. But this time, I have been sick for 6 days, so I was so tired of sneezing tirelessly everywhere.

The doctors were quite busy. Everyone gets sick around this time of the year. I had to wait in the exam room for good 20-25 minutes before somebody came in and checked on me.

Low blood pressure (as usual), but my flu wasn’t that bad. My lung was clear (that’s what the doctor said, I have no idea, maybe there wasn’t any mucus?). No (more) fever (I think I had one several days ago, but thanks Panadol). The conclusion: I have to rest, stay in my bed, instead of doing labwork and spreading viruses everywhere to my labmates. They prescribed me with 2 OTC (over-the-counter) medicines, but I only got one. I don’t want unnecessary medication in my body, plus it’s virus and not a bacteria (which would require me to take antibiotics), so I figured out that it should be fine. Nasal decongestant costed me ~$1 (thank you, $2700/year health insurance), and that was it. I went back to my office, grabbed my stuff and bag (and uneaten lunch) and went home.

Since then, I have been sleeping so much, because I do want to get better. ‘Spring break’ is ending in a couple of days (somebody told me before, grad student ain’t have spring break, which is sort of true from looking back at how much time I spent the past week in lab), and I don’t want to be sick starting the next week, when classes and research are going to be in full swing one more time. I am really glad that I am getting so much better from yesterday though, within 24 hours. Sleeping was definitely the key.

I got bored at some point. I didn’t want to check my e-mail, otherwise I would spend minutes and minutes looking at them and doing work. I put away my problem sets, my books. What’s left? A couple half-unread books, as well as some unwatched movies.

I finally finished The Stranger, a beautiful book written by Albert Camus, about a person trapped in the system, and getting punished for his indifference, which people regard as ‘different’. A good book, and you should read it if you have time. No, even if you don’t have time, you should read it anyway.

I finally watched A Separation, an Iranian movie about a couple getting divorced. The divorce itself is only at the surface, the problem roots so much deeper than that. There is a clash between modern vs. traditional worlds, woman’s role vs. man’s role, a gray area of laws, etc. Very beautiful movie which gets me thinking about how I was brought up, my culture, and my tradition.

Now that I feel so much better (the sign is clear: I start eating my pile of snacks again -orange wafers, Cheetos, and other unhealthy snacks- after leaving them untouched for the past week), I am ready to do work again.

Or not. Maybe tomorrow?

One last thing, having a sick day is actually not that bad. Being sick is a sign of body protesting that we are not treating them right. It forces us to get back into healthy habit, and get a lot of rest. It is the emergency system before we completely collapse. We should be thankful for that. If you are sick right now, get well soon, and get plenty of rest.

And find yourself an excuse to cook your most favorite homecooked food when you’re sick. In my case, it’s bubur ayam/ Indonesian chicken congee.
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