The December 2019 Flu Debate

In mid-December 2019, I experienced terrible flu symptoms. My fever was bordering on needing to visit an urgent care centre, my smartwatch recorded an average heart rate of just over 130 beats per minute (my resting average is 68 bpm), and I slept for nearly the entire day. I never experienced flu symptoms like this previously.

My colleagues brought food to my door. I remained in my room for three solid days, keeping myself hydrated. It took six weeks for me to recover. For three weeks, going up the two flights of stairs to my third floor room was exhausting. [Equivalent to four stories in modern construction]

The conversation has been had with the question "do you think it was COVID"?

My answer is, and remains a no.

I did not spread the virus, despite being in close quarters for extended periods of time with other people. COVID spreads much too easily, had I acquired it, I would have spread it.

Here's my December 2019 flu timeline.

I experienced a slight increase in my body temperature on the morning of November 30th, which subsided by 12 noon. I was travelling to Germany that day and had the temperature not subsided, I would've gone to a walk-in clinic to determine if I should still travel.

On December 2nd, I ran a midday fever and suffered nausea during lunch. I returned to the hotel, vomited, and slept the rest of the day sleeping.

For the remainder of my trip, I took over the counter medications to make it though the day. I slept in the evenings.

On December 4th, the pressures of many things resulted in a nightmare recollection of my being abused as a child - a memory I have suppressed for obvious reasons. 2:00 am and I could not fall back asleep.  The mental stress of this would deeply suppress my immune system.

December 7th, I was terribly nauseous for the entire transatlantic flight. I did have a cloth covering my head to keep out light to assist. This disruption to my sleep would further compromise my immune system.

A colleague and her family drive me from the airport to the gates of Massey College in the University of Toronto. A few people help me with my bags and getting me to my room.

December 10, I'm a bit tired this day, but it is manageable. I spend time with colleagues and many friends. None of them will develop any illness.

December 11, I wake up in terrible condition. I spend most of my day sleeping but do go to get my own meals.

December 12, 13, 14, 15. I am bedridden, trying to stay hydrated, and frequently checking my temperature. In the evening of the 13th and into the afternoon of the 14th, I grow concerned that I may need to go to an urgent care centre. I can feel my heart throbbing. I inform one of my colleagues that I may need a ride that evening. Thankfully, I feel slightly better around 7pm when my colleague delivers my dinner.

I remain in my suite on the 15th, I am exhausted but my resting heart rate is declining while still very elevated.

Monday, the 16th, I left my suite to go for breakfast and was shocked by just how fatigued I was. I had to rest after descending the steps and I walked slowly across the basement to the front of the College. Climbing the stairs to the meal hall was exhausting.  My colleagues and the students all could see I was not my usual self.

Thus would be the case for the entire week.

Still I pressed onward and tried to resume my schedule later in the week. This was made easier by the fact we were entering the Christmas shutdown.

I took longer walks. Stairs continued to be exhausting.

Saturday, the 21st, I went out for dinner. The dinner location was about 2 kilometres from the campus and I walked - thinking I was recovered.

The walk exhausted me. People at dinner noticed. Thankfully, the colleague who joined me for dinner took care of all the conversation.

It was not until mid-January that I could return to the gym, after my resting heart rate returned to normal.

In concluding it was not COVID, none of my colleagues on the trip to Germany became sick. I spent over three hours with one specific colleague - who had been on the Germany trip - on December 10. They would not become ill.

The most profound effect of the illness is it made me accept, as my retired family doctor said to me in our final appointment "you are not seventeen anymore".

This flu knocked me down and knocked sense into me.

It is why I took COVID seriously, it is why I got vaccinated as soon as I could - despite my phobia of needles, and it is why I am getting my flu shot this year.