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Now that’s sick… by Francis Shrum

I hate being sick.

It starts with a little tickle in the throat, a stuffy nose, a sore neck, an achy feeling in the back, and it just goes downhill from there.

I’ve got this box of vitamins on top of the refrigerator, full of vitamin C, cod liver oil capsules, echinacea and multi-vitamins. Every morning my family gets “treated” during the cold and flu season.

A major milestone we use to determine whether a person is really sick is when they complain that their hair hurts.

Every year our family tiptoes through the wilderness of flu bugs. Some years we have more casualties than others. Some years are so bad that we refer to them in historical terms: “Remember that winter when …?”

One year we caught the granddaddy of all flu bugs. I was so sick that it was too much effort to watch, much less assimilate, what was happening on television. Then my two littlest ones caught it. They lay side by side on the bed for days, unmoving, staring with sightless eyes at the TV screen. The doc said we just had to wait it out. Every half hour or so I’d take their pulse, their temperature and force-feed them liquids. They lived.

Thankfully, we’ve never all had such a major illness at the same time. I shudder when I read about those folks in pioneer days when they caught typhoid, diphtheria or some such, and were all down at the same time. Sometimes they owed their very survival to a tiny tot who could still bring them a drink of water. The community knew to stay away from that house until the disease had been eradicated.

We don’t handle sickness in such a very logical manner anymore.

If you have kids in public school you know that if your kid misses more than three days due to illness, you must have a doctor’s excuse to get them back in. Everybody knows that it takes about a week to get over the common cold, and the doctor will probably tell you to “rest and drink plenty of liquids.” But this holds no water with the schools. Apparently, they don’t believe a mother is capable of diagnosing a cold or flu, so you have to go buy an excused-slip from a medical professional. This mentality also inspires the wholesale prescribing of antibiotics, which in turn creates super bugs resistant to treatment.

Meanwhile, we so-called adults drag our damaged bodies out of bed, fill ourselves with some kind of artificially life-giving medication, and weave our way through rush-hour traffic to our jobs, either out of a sense of duty or a sense of fear that some up-and-coming person is going to make the company realize that they really can get by without us.

With a system like this, we don’t even need bio-terrorism introduced by an enemy to decimate our populace. We do a pretty good job of it all on our own.

Write to Francis Shrum in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send an e-mail to