My whole life, I’ve considered my immune system invincible. At the age of 2, I came down with pneumonia, but ever since that day, I’ve been a petite, antibody-wielding, virus-slaying warrior. I pretty much never had to use my allotted school absences for illness; they instead functioned as days for beating Thanksgiving traffic or for sleeping in post-Super Bowl (Go Ravens!). My senior year, I didn’t take any sick days, which meant I could… er… totally show up on time and wholeheartedly attend school every single day. Yes, absolutely.
I was the one who somehow always eluded whatever awful plague was circulating. Aside from a couple of broken bones from sports and concussions from (I’m embarrassed to say this) not sports, I was healthy as a horse. On more than one occasion, doctors have dictated my blood test results, only to punctuate the meaningless-to-me numbers by asking what exactly I was concerned about.
Well, I’m sad to say, college life has taken its toll on my health. Since late September, I’ve pretty much been in a constant state of illness, one crazy diagnosis after another. When I haven’t been suffering through the flu, a sinus infection, or an upper respiratory infection, I’ve been nursing a cool little cold. Oh, and I had some weird sort-of-pink-eye thing. Oh, and I was in the hospital because I swallowed some glass (disclaimer: not at Hopkins! At home! Thanksgiving dinner was a booby trap! You will not swallow glass here, I promise) and my insides got a bit scraped up.
I kind of consider myself the college sickness pro now. I’ve converted from being “that girl who avoided Swine Flu/Strep Throat/Every Sickness Ever” to “that girl in the hall who is always coughing/feverish/rocking a janky swollen eye” (though I prefer the name One Eyed Betty). I’ll be totally honest: dorms are a perfect breeding ground for sickness. Throw a bunch of sleep-deprived adolescents into a tiny area and some crazy strain is bound to develop. This isn’t unique to Hopkins. But in my case, the sickness was a result of me not taking proper care of myself.
Whenever I began to feel a bit crummy, I wouldn’t really change my habits. I’d instead assume that my formerly Teflon-strength immune system would just destroy it. Let me tell you, this is not so. I’m gonna get a bit preachy, but this is all because I’m filled with total remorse at how poorly I gauged my ability to take care of myself. Drink your OJ. Invest in Emergen-C or Airborne. And seriously, get some sleep.
Dealing with sickness is probably the hardest thing I’ve faced with since “growing up” or whatever. I don’t have a mom here to nag me to go to bed early or to remind me to keep up on my dosage. College is all about taking responsibility for yourself, and that includes health.
I’ve learned a valuable lesson from being sick: life doesn’t stop. It’s really easy to wake up, realize that you feel awful, and turn off your alarm and duck under the covers. But that’s just not the way the real world works, and I don’t want to be the one to miss a minute just because I don’t feel my best. I’ve learned how to push through and conquer—I took a midterm (that I got an A on!) with a 100 degree fever! It’s okay to surrender to illness and admit that the situation really, really sucks. It’s okay to whine to friends about feeling yucky. But for me, I never want it to be the reason that I check out, and I certainly never want to play the victim. And on a softer note, I’ve actually learned how to actually nag myself to fill and take prescriptions on time and to consult my doctor when I have a question. I’m feeling pretty adult.
Everyone will get sick in college; it’s part of the experience, just like a final you’re unprepared for or a night made late purely because of watching funny YouTube videos with hallmates. But luckily, Hopkins is literally the best place in the world to be in times of sickness. Aside from that whole number one med school thing, I have amazing friends and hallmates to look after me. Someone’s always willing to lend a cough drop or even just check up on how I’m feeling. Both the health center and Union Memorial are just a short walk away. The school offers flu shots (yeah, I didn’t get one… surprise! I got the flu) and the FFC always has tea and honey. There are so many great resources in times of sickness… take advantage of them.
Finally, finally, it looks like I’m on the up and up (knock on wood). So, here’s to being healthy.