It's a glorious day, I'm on holidays. I am supposed to be with friends in Melbourne tonight, but the only company I am going to have is my dog!
It's spring, the season of renewal and new growth, but, due to unseasonably high winds awash with pollens and dust, it's enough to trigger hayfever and sinusitus in combination, in the hardiest of individuals.
I should have read the warning signs last Sunday. It began with sneezing and a sore throat. My eyes drew back into my head, became itchy and red, enough to make me want to cry if I looked in the mirror.
Then came the loss of smell and taste. Senses I find powerful and miss when they temporarily leave me.
Then comes the sinus headache and complete loss of energy, as well as a need for a constant supply of tissues. Antibiotics become necessary as a secondary infection begins in the ear, nose and throat, menacing its way, to stubborn bronchitis.
Throat lozenges, echinacea, vitamin C and lots of water also help. Antihistamines don't seem to do much but make me feel dried out and hyperactive. The best medicine for me is rest and plenty of it.
I don't think that I am dying and presume I will be well again within a few days, but when the few days begins to stretch into a week I get dispondent. I miss the world. I worry about work and family responsibilities. I fear letting my friends down, or disappointing them.
Things could be way worse of course. I could be one of the unfortunate victims of ebola in West Africa. I could be confronting cancer or other terminal illnesses, like so many whose world can suddenly change overnight. This is just a seconadry infection; debilitating, inconveniant, sleep depriving and carbunctive!
In a Australia, where many workers take advantage of sick leave to make time for a day to replenish their spirits and do something they enjoy, those of us with less strong constitutions, dealing with chronic or recurring illnesses and struggling with antibiotics to which we are not allergic, often get viewed as hyperchondriacs or mallanderers.
Illness is a costly business. Not only can prolonged, chronic or recurring illness, be financially challenging, most people I know who have ever struggled with an illness or injury for beyond a week or so, find being ill can be isololating. If you live alone, it is still necessary to get meals, look after pets and go out and shop for food, visit health professionals and equip yourself with the remedies they prescribe. The longer you are confined to resting up or undertaking remedial therapy, the easier it is to find depression and lowered self esteem knocking on the door.
Recently a friend told me of a colleague who was patted on the back by their workmates, for being overcome by a powerful need to travel Australia and New Zealand, following a favourite performer's concerts. The colleague, a faithful employee for over thirty years had been denied long service or leave without pay for the purpose, despite applying in good faith. Understandably, their morale and that of much of the workplace was lowered as a result. In contrast, my friend had been extremely ill and confined, as far as possible to bed and was greeted with no consideration or sympathy upon her return to work when she was still struggling with limited energy. No provision is currently made to temporarily lighten the load of workers returning to work after a long and debilitating condition, or even extended bout of the flu or pneumonia. More often it's a case of an increased workload, pressure and responsibility whilst making up for "lost time". Not the best of conditions for recuperation!
Then there are the matyrs, who come to work despite being ill and often infectious. Such individuals have little concern for spreading their germs to other individulas whose immune systems may already be compromised. Allergies, age, pre-existing conditions, such as a weakened heart or immune system are not uncommon. Sick leave is there not only to provide for an ill person's recovery, but also to protect the rest of us from viral infections that can lead to fatal epidemics. Yes we can be immunised against conditions like measles, mumps and seasonal influenza thesedays, but swine flu and more recently ebola are sobering reminders that we are only human and that infectious and contageous microorganisms are in a state of contiinual mutation!
As a person who has had more than my own share of chronic illness and injury over the years and found it necessary to take leave without pay, when my sick leave ran out, I sadly, envy those individuals who have sufficient sick days up their sleeve to manage a day at the races, shopping or an extended long weekend with their families. Mental health, is at least as vital as physical health and all of us face jobs and lives where demands seem to be increasing, whilst we are expected to do more with less resources and income, at home and on the workfront.
I once enjoyed much cumulated sick-leave too, until I had to undergo surgery that required six weeks of prior to returning to work. Then came increasing days of carers leave as each of my parents became frail and infirm. I was juggling full time work and getting ever more run down, within this process. It's amazing how much an absence of 6 weeks cuts into even the most generous sick leave provisions. It only takes a few days at a time over a year of being sick, to wind up having no option but to take leave without pay if you are ill.
Never forget good health is a blessing. Mobility should never be taken for granted and that none of us is going to live, or even stay young, forever. Compassion, kindness and empathy are qualities that sometimes seem in very short supply when it comes to ill health.
It saddens me that the Abbott government is so out of touch with how deeply ill health can effect individuals on so many levels, especially if it is prolonged. The proposed Medicare co-payment taxes those who can least afford to have their income eroded, as well as providing a pathway to poverty for those who regularly need to consult with a GP, let alone a specialist. Then there's add ons like the cost of medications, maybe physiotherapy, expensive tests for accurate diagnosis.
It's bad enough being sick now!
Australians deserve compassion and support when it comes to access to and provision of health care. Sad is the day when humanitarian principles and policies are taken back to times before universal health care was estblished under Labor in the 1970s. The right to universal health care within Australia can no longer, like good health, be taken for granted!