The Picture of Health

The Picture of Health


My skull hurts.

It’s March 15 in Northern Illinois, it’s nearly 80 outside, and I have the worst case of the flu that I can ever remember having.

I’ve been flat on my back for two days, except when I drag myself into my car, drive the six minutes to the barn, and feed my horses. We only recently moved there, so I don’t have anyone to fill in for me. The elder woman whos property it is is too unsteady on her feet to help, and I don’t think she’d want to even if she could. Sad.

But a beautiful neighbor, 15-year-old Ashley, walked my Elika this afternoon. She’d walked her for three days last summer when I was tied up at a horse fair, talking about Reiki, about Animal Communicatio. I’d wished Elika could come with me, but of course she couldn’t. Ashley was a godsend. A lovely girl, home schooled, who smashed all of my bigoted perceptions about the home-schooled. It’s good to be reminded that we can be wrong. I relish that.

Today is Thursday. This bug hit me on Monday night. I was working on my taxes, getting the numbers together so I could hand them off to my accountant, and I felt a tickle in my chest. Uh-oh, I thought. What the heck is that?

By morning, I knew. I was drenched in sweat, every muscle in my body ached, and I had a wracking cough. On the front page of the Chicago Tribune, a story warned of a nasty flu bug that had hit the area: fever, chills, muscle spasms (muscle spasms?), wracking cough. They said it could last up to a week.

I never pay attention to stories like that, with their drama. I figured I’d be fine in a day or two. I was a perplexed that I’d even gotten sick to begin with, though. I rarely get sick. And when I do, when I feel something coming on, like a tickle in the chest, I go to bed and sleep it off. Not this time.

Then I remembered. Two years ago, as the result of an accident with one of my horses, a freak accident—it absolutely was not his fault—I ended up with five broken ribs and a fractured spleen. The ribs healed. The spleen had to go.

The surgeon assured me that adults don’t need their spleens. He was a nice guy, and he’d saved my life (if my spleen had ruptured, I could have bled to death in a matter of minutes), but I wasn’t buying this. I didn’t imagine  that the Divine just inserted extra body parts into us for the heck of it. Then he said that if I ever got a sore throat, I should immediately go to the doctor for a throat culture because when you didn’t have a spleen, sore throats could quickly turn into Strep.

This didn’t make sense to me either. What was so special about sore throats? You either needed your spleen or you didn’t. And how could a simple sore throat turn into Strep? Wasn’t that a specific bacteria? I may not have heard him correctly, of course. I was drugged to the nines after begin sliced open—30 staples—and I already told you about the broken ribs.

The acupuncturist I went to for help reducing the swelling in my optic nerves (my head hit a wall hard enough to knock me out; I hadn’t been wearing a helmet because I wasn’t riding) told me the spleen is part of the immune system.

So yesterday, lying in sweat—and yes, I got those muscle spasms; as I lay on the couch, my legs were jumping four or five inches in the air; I kid you not—not even able to open the window and get a cool March breeze because we’ve messed up the weather so much it’s July in March, I figured that, while I’d been able to continue fighting off infections even after I’d lost my spleen, when exposed to a super bug, I didn’t really have a fighting chance.

I’d gotten sick in December, too, upper respiratory. I thought it was due to stress, and breathing a huge amount of sand dust in a cruddy riding arena. But now I realized that I’d been exposed to hacking, sneezing, nose-blowing people both in December and for the past couple of weeks. What had happened? I’d joined a church!  A church!

So what’s the moral of this story? I’m too sick to know for sure. Here are a couple:

Please, when you’re sick, STAY HOME. Don’t spread your viruses around, some of us have compromised immune systems, and even if we didn’t for heaven’s sake use some common sense.

And when you’re well, give thanks, every single day for your good health.


 I hope you will be moved to share your thoughts.

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6 Replies to “The Picture of Health”

  1. Hi Pam,

    Wow–that is one nasty virus that’s running riot in your system right now. Sending you lots of Reiki and healing energy. I hope you start to feel better soon.

    It “should” be common sense to stay home if you’re sick, but we live in a culture with this crazy idea that staying home because you have a cold or the flu is “wimpy” and not a good enough reason to stay home and rest, or we have employers that are too cheap to provide their employees with sick pay, so people drag themselves into work (often using public transit), coughing, wheezing and sneezing, and spreading the virus to others. Nowhere in this crazy thinking is there even a smidgen of thought that generously spreading our viruses around is inconsiderate of others and dangerous for those with compromised immune systems.
    I’m often astounded at the number of people who don’t know that they should cough or sneeze into a kleenex or their arm (just above the elbow), and not into their hands.

    Eighty degrees in the middle of March?! Wow, that is crazy weather–and definitely a disconcerting indication of climate change. We’ve had a cold, wet, windy March in my corner of the world, and while I’d love to see some blue skies and temperatures above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, I’d be worried about 80 degree weather in March, too.

    Take care and I hope you’re feeling better soon.

    1. Thank you, Sue. I agree with your assessment. As I'[m self-employed and work from home, I’m not subjected to the sick hordes very often. As this blog is titled “Healing is Possible,” I’m hoping that my experience will encourage people to think about others in the community. Not only is healing possible. illness is also preventable.

      Mark Slouka’s 2004 essay “Quitting the Paint Factory,” which I coincidentally just reread yesterday, talks about our obsession with “doing.” The essay is in praise of idleness, and explains why, without it, our communities and our very democracy is in danger.

      It’s a brilliant piece.

      In any event, thank you for your well wishes. I am going to consult some traditional healers and see if there is a way to at least somewhat compensate for my missing spleen. I would sure hate to die of influenza.

      I’d let everyone know what I find out.

  2. I am so sorry to read this Pam. I hope you will bounce back soon. I remember reading about Diamond V Yeast awhile back, manufactured in Cedar Rapids IA I believe. The people who work in the factory are remarkably healthy and there seems to be a connection to the product. I believe most feed stores carry it or can get it, and there is a human product called Epicor containing it, which is supposed to be immune system supportive. In the meantime, if you have any APF (a very handy thing for an animal lover to have), it is safe for humans too, being a blend of adaptogenic herbs. I think the website is

    1. Thank you, Jeanie. I will check this out. It’s funny, I’ve always been the healthiest person I know. I just don’t get sick. Sure wish I could get that spleen back . . .

  3. Hi Pam, I’m sure you gonna be fine now. You went through quite a bit of stress with the moving of your horses etc. The immune system takes a while to recover. Eat lots of greens, proteins and stuff that agrees with your sytem to build you up to an acceptable level. You are precious to the souls around you, both humans and animals. Keep going! LOL. Ingrid (South Africa)

    1. Thank you, Ingrid.

      I am humbled by everyone’s concern for me. I’m hoping, though, that the message of being mindful about our impact on others came through.

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