In light of a recent cold, I thought I would propose two different ways people might cope with an illness.  I’m not sure if it applies to you but I hope you enjoy the read.

Sickie 1:

The Eustachian tube was blocked the night before and drained the next morning.  The soreness in the throat started less than three hours later.  By the evening, the virus had spread and began removing the outer mucosal layers leading to severe pain.

The next morning, balance was off and the idea of moving further than a few feet was akin to climbing a mountain.  Productivity was down to zero and for the next few days, nothing would get done.  The only hope was to get better so that work can continue and the normal lifestyle can resume.

Sleep is never easy to come by. The circadian rhythm is affected as the immune system works without rest. Four hours was all I could manage.

Thankfully, the next day, the infection spread to the upper respiratory tract.  The balance was back, the throat no longer hurt, the fog was gone. There were still many days left to heal but productivity could continue.  It wouldn’t be easy and the hours as well as breath would be shorter but at least something would get done.

After all, no bug was going to prevent productivity.

Sickie 2:

There was no real warning.  In the morning, I felt like a regular human being with a little pressure in my ear.  Then, I sneezed and whatever blocked my hearing went away.  I never thought I would regret it.

By noon, I felt horrible.  By the evening, I didn’t want to move.  The throat was on fire before I could do anything.  I was really looking forward to a good meal but my appetite died with each painful swallow.  I had to face it: I’d been taken over by a bug, a virus, an annoyance, really.

The second day was far worse than the first.  My balance was off and the nausea that came with it forced me off food for almost the entire day.  I couldn’t work although I promised I’d be back within a day or two.  Yet without a good night’s sleep, I would never get back to normal.

The next morning after only a few hours, I woke up feeling better!  My throat no longer hurt and my sinuses were actually clear.  I thought maybe, just maybe, I might have beaten off the infection and could get back to normal.  Then I took a deep breath and almost immediately found myself in the fetal position, coughing and wheezing for nearly 20 seconds.  My joy turned into frustration.  The infection had moved to my lungs.  It would be hard to breathe but since I had my senses back, I knew I could go back to work.

After all, no bug was going to keep me down.

These are two of probably a million different ways people react when they get sick.  The thing I find the most intriguing is that in many cases, work seems to come first.  We can learn all about the pathogenesis of a bug (Sickie 1) or we can follow along the signs and symptoms (Sickie 2) of the cold but inevitably, we tend to focus on work productivity instead of the real workload: getting well.

The reason I bring this up is to help bring light to one of the major complaints that I keep hearing on Twitter and other media:  “Why don’t people who are sick stay at home?”  Turns out that even if we know that we live in a society where health comes first, our first world mentality continues to pressure us into believing that work will always be number one.

I’m no different.  I’ve suffered a few times this year and each time, I figure that if it isn’t knocking me down, it’s not stopping me from working.  We’ve all heard of working vacations, maybe it’s time to acknowledge and accept the fact that we have working sick days as well.

So, here’s what I wonder…we keep telling people to stay home when they are sick and to get better before worrying about productivity.  But in the grand scheme of things, are we really caring for that person or are we just going through the motions in the hope that we ourselves don’t succumb not only to the illness, but the drop in our own productivity and the need for the working sick day?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.