We're all familiar with that sensation. The slightly scratchy throat. The dysphagia that can make it easier to drool than to swallow your own saliva. And THE VOICE, that sexy baritone quality that makes you think you can be a voice character for the next Lion King. Ya, I have THE VOICE. And it also means I am in the early stages of a mild flu that has been going around here lately.
Unfortunately the sexy voice disappears all too quickly. That is replaced by the not so sexy rhinorrhea and persistent hacking cough that can make it torture to work in the operating room. There are few things more disgusting than mucus running down your nose under your mask and you're too busy to get a tissue to clear it. Assuming you can find a box of Kleenex in the OR to begin with. And don't get me started on the nastiness of sneezing into a mask. It often occurs during a period when I don't have the chance to run out the OR to get a fresh mask. Therefore I have to live with rebreathing the viruses and mucus that are splattered all over the inside of my contaminated one.
People may ask why I don't just take time off when I have a cold. Well for several reasons. Most anesthesia groups are pretty tightly staffed. There is not much slack in manning OR's. It's not like another anesthesiologist can do two rooms simultaneously to make up for my absence. Somebody may have to work after a grueling call night to make sure all the rooms are properly staffed if one person calls in sick. Taking time off also burdens others when it comes to the call schedule. There are few things more annoying to your colleagues than somebody who is supposed to be on call who phones in sick. That means another person will have to take call for him and the favor is rarely returned, especially if you're the kind of person who rarely gets sick or who has the fortitude to work through the night with a fever of 102. Lastly, for purely selfish reasons, I don't take time off when I'm ill because I don't get paid if I'm sick. Our group doesn't offer paid sick leave. If I'm not here doing cases, my financial situation deteriorates a few weeks down the road when my reimbursements suffer.
So here I am, with a sexy scratchy voice and the onset of a flu. Hopefully it will be relatively short-lived this time. But just in case, I better head on down to Costco and get a giant bag of Halls cough drops.