"Real People Sick": Even More Unpredictable Than Asthma!

The term Real People Sick is tossed around on germ-invaded occasions by my friends in the Diabetes Online Community. My research leads me to conclude that I can credit my friend Kerri Sparling with coining this term (yes, we are Kerri-squared. Or #KerriPower. One time I was mistaken for her at an ePatient dinner and I could not have been more pleased because Kerri is wicked awesome, to again swipe her terminology). Though I don’t have diabetes, Real People Sick fits my asthma world, too. And of course, it is not to say that we are not Real People with chronic disease—we are, clearly, but this is not my point: my point is, I said Real People Sick, and you probably knew exactly what I meant.

A degree of Real People Sick

After a terrible night of sleep, I woke up this morning feeling a degree of Real People Sick. Not even a Real People Sick compounded by asthma, like a cold or anything, but rather a semi-mild headache with nausea—sick without asthma sometimes feels weird in itself. I finally got out of bed, took my morning handful of inhalers and Concerta and added an Advil to the mix to hopefully kill the headache and curb the nausea, more to hit the nausea than the pain honestly. I ate a handful of croutons (yes?) and a handful of shredded parmesan cheese (sure?) and felt slightly better, though still tired and what might be described as generally unwell. Not because these were exactly good choices, but because that—and chocolate milk—is what sounded like I might actually be interested in eating. I sat down in the kitchen with my phone and read awhile, hoping to start feeling better and actually get productive.

Despite that generally asthma does not make sense, when you deal with something like asthma in your body everyday, there’s something that is at least familiar, habitual. I’ve been at the asthma thing long enough to know what to do when I need to get back to baseline, or what to do if that’s not working. Real People Sick is, for people with and without chronic disease, an interruption. The mechanics of dealing with the implications of random illness on our asthma (or diabetes) are engrained: dealing with the actual unexpected mild illness or issue (since I think this is a more straight up headache) itself, is not. Actually, in my opinion, Real People Sick is more frustrating than asthma, actually, despite it has far less impact in the big picture.


Preparation is a big part of that. We aren’t prepared for Real People Sick like we are for our asthma. This morning I had little to base my decisions, expectations upon. Advil was the only obvious choice. Then what?

Food, which initially helped but not long after made me sick—which also initially helped, although it meant that the Advil I’d taken was likely no longer in me. I dug through the bathroom drawer for Tylenol in the event the Advil survived, and came up dry, though I did find Gravol (Canadian for Dramamine) Natural Source Ginger tablets, and took one of these tablets which was accidentally purchased in 2013, and took one. Given the unexpected nature of Real People Sick, I then discovered it to be two years expired. A post-Google told me that I would be fine (and I will not further delve into my expired-medicine habits…). A reasonable amount of time later, I took another Advil—you know, at the point I was trying accupressure on myself?—and learned I could have taken more ginger tablets (and then did).

The lack of a concrete thing to do sucked, even if I knew I’d probably feel 100% better the next day (which I did. I’m totally fine now). That isn’t an assurance with asthma. However, for asthma, I am prepared. I have an arsenal of supplies; a plan I implement with barely a thought until I get to the point where contemplating prednisone is my only remaining option. If I woke up with asthma symptoms, boom: rescue inhaler, wait 15 minutes or so, take the other meds spaced out as appropriate, bump things up if I’m not feeling better in an hour or so or if I’m already feeling really rough. After time, asthma management is like a formula.

Real People Sick, however, is less-charted territory. No wonder people without chronic illness tend to be so whiny when they get sick ;)

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