Saturday, May 2, 2009
I turned 33 earlier this week, and its probably a week that I'll not forget in a long time. It is the week of the swine flu, or as not to insult our piggy friends, we'll refer to it as the H1N1 virus. Many thanks to a lot of people; my wife who cooked a couple of wonderful dishes and baked a calorie-laden treat; my kids who made my day special as they always do (see crafts in photo); colleagues who treated me to a nice lunch; friends and relatives who called, emailed, and sent greetings through Friendster or Facebook. Of course, to a loving Creator who loves me so much, that He was willing to pay for the penalty of my sins as I could never ever do it on my own accord. It is a week to mark my turning a year older - it is also a week of great thanksgiving.
As I told my a friend as we were heading out for lunch, it is the end of the 1st third of my life. That means I intend to live until 99 years old. The "intend" part is great, the "doing" piece is the challenge. Genes are on my side though - all my grandparents lived to their late 70s and beyond. That despite my paternal grandfather having a heart condition, and my paternal grandmother having asthma that she unwillingly passed to me. My dad however, died prematurely at 48. He was a jolly man who had a great appetite for life and for food. Sadly though, his love for food caused him to have a skewed BMI that led to an early fatal cardiac arrest. Right now, I'm doing my best to keep my body mass index lower - I need to lose 20 pounds more to get back to the normal range. Not easy to do, mind you. But again, it's all part of the "doing".
Such reflections always keep me busy during my birthdays. This week's news on the H1N1 virus kept me alert and tuned in to the online news. You see, the virus is a great reminder of our own mortality. The day of my birthday, the US had its first H1N1 death - a Mexican toddler visiting Texas. The same day, an elementary school closed in Chicago, followed by a couple more schools elsewhere in the state. I was watching the news while working out and a neighbor who was in the same gym looked at me and rolled his eyes - it's bound to happen, he remarked, referring to the arrival of the virus in our state. There's 35,000 annual deaths in the US due to regular flu, and there are a quarter of a million hospitalizations. To have one confirmed case in a metropolitan of almost 4 million is normal. The numbers are in fact, bound to go up.
I remember the SARS scare earlier in this decade. I was doing the Manila - Paris route regularly during that time. I loved Cathay Pacific so much (really - great service and frequent flyer miles program) that I stuck to them rather than try another airline. That meant I had to pass by Hong Kong each time. Not a problem. I had my mask purchased at a Manila drug store, and plenty of ascorbic acid - the generic type. Here I was, a husband and dad to a young wife and 2 very young children - passing through a death zone, and having no fear at all. Then again, what were the odds of getting the virus? HKIA at that time would have been one of the cleanest places in the world, what with the regular scrubbing and disinfecting of the airport by the vigilant Chinese. There was a particular perk too, the planes were never a quarter full that even in the cabin, I could stretch out my legs, occupy five or six seats, and doze off while actually lying down. Who needed first class?
As of this writing, the H1N1 virus has landed in Asia with the first case being that of a Mexican tourist arriving sick in Hong Kong. It's probably the best place in Asia where it can happen. Hong Kong's efficiency is unparalleled given their prior experience and their resources. True enough, a hotel with 300+ guests was quarantined, and the 250+ passengers and crew that used the same plane as the Mexican tourist were contacted immediately. Even the taxi drivers that drove the tourist from the airport to the hotel were located. Much ado about nothing? I don't think so. Prevention is better than cure, and with Hong Kong's proximity to our beloved country, who knows how many Filipino lives would be spared due to Hong Kong's vigilance?
On Thursday evening, my wife and I were playing a form of charades with our 2 younger children when I felt a lump in my throat and general body weakening. I went to bed having chills, and woke up the next morning not feeling a 100% well. I tried to work from home but somehow, the remote connection at the client site wasn't working. I couldn't call in sick - had a couple of can't miss deadlines so I went to work. I managed to finish the day, but felt more sick later in the evening. I was coughing and sneezing as well. I couldn't join the family at the dinner table, and missed a planned visit to the pool with the boys.
This morning, I went looking for a mask at Walgreens. I had to drive my wife and the kids to some activities, and had to at least prevent them from catching whatever virus I had. I looked for 10 minutes around the store for a mask. I could have gone another 10 minutes searching, but I decided to use my common sense and ask the clerk instead. I was informed that mask supplies were pulled out from all Walgreens stores in anticipation of a huge demand due to the current H1N1 virus situation.
I couldn't believe it! What if I had the H1N1 virus and was passing it out to everyone I'm in contact with just because I didn't have a mask? Or, what if I had the normal flu, and was going to pass them to my family because I didn't have a mask, and their resistance would go down? And what if our bodies encountered the H1N1 virus while our resistance were down? I guess it made no sense ranting at the store clerk so I just picked a box of over-the-counter flu relief medication, and a bag of spicy Mexican chicharon and drove back home. A question was slowly raised in my mind after I consumed more than half of the chicharon. What if the chicharon had some H1N1 virus in it? Aaah, the curse of a flu-weakened mind.
So, here I am, a few days into my 34th year with flu-like symptoms and nourished with a couple hundred of chicaron calories. I'll be limiting my exposure to the kids during this weekend, and might even miss that Pacquaio match at a friend's place later this evening. It's not the way I envisioned my birthday weekend to be but hey, it could be much worse. I'll take it with gladness and joy in my heart.
Do join me as I sing this song - Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday dear Sagada Igorot, Happy Birthday to me!