There’s a virus out there that starts with a sore throat. Some people realize they are sick, others shrug it off as allergies. Then the virus really attacks, making people angry, grumpy, and really, really sick… This could easily be the beginning of [insert name of zombie apocalypse movie], but it’s not. It’s influenza A, and even though this years flu shot is 60% effective against it, Howard contracted it as soon as he stepped off the plane in Lisbon.
Even though our Airbnb apartment is perfectly comfortable, it sucks being sick in a strange place. It also sucks being sick when you are excited to be in a new place and you want to see and do all the things. Howard was trooper though, he sucked it up and we went out a lot. Some days he just couldn’t do it though and had to stay in bed. I know what it’s like, because two weeks after he got sick, I did.
We went in a couple of pharmacies when Howard was at his worst. Being in Europe, pharmacist have the authority to prescribe many of the drugs that you need to see a doctor to get in the US. However both times we were given something homeopathic. While the thyme flavored cough drops were pleasant tasting, they did not provide any relief from the flu. Where’s the pre-surgery strength dose of phenobarbital we were expecting? Howard got that from a pharmacist in Amsterdam a long time ago. He had been really sick on the last day of vacation and needed to fly home. He doesn’t remember a thing after taking the pills, but somehow his dad got him on the plane. He woke up three days later in his bed at home.
Neither of us wanted something that strong though. What had Howard worried was the flu left him with an ear infection, and it was not going away. He was going to need some antibiotics, but after talking with the owner of the great little Nepalese restaurant near out apartment, we realized it wasn’t going to be that easy. She told us that the pharmacists in Portugal were really strict about what they would give out, and they had refused to give her antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription in the past.
After a sleepless night of coughing fits when I was at my worst, I was determined to try to get some relief. We went to one of the pharmacies by our house and I told the pharmacist, in my scratchy voice and between coughs, “If I was home, my doctor would give me this.” I handed her my phone with the drugs.com page for cough syrup with codeine on the screen. With out much hesitation, she gave me what I asked for. After seeing my success at getting real medicine, Howard pointed at his ear and said the flu left him with an ear infection and he needed Amoxicillin (he’s done a lot of research on proper use of antibiotics). She asked if he had taken it before and he had. I’m not sure if we were just lucky, or that we came off as knowing what we were talking about. Either way we left the pharmacy with real meds in hand.
Aside from flu meds, I also needed some more ibuprofen. I take it often because of my arthritis and always have a supply handy. I was running low before we left for Europe though. I really should have gone to Walmart and got one of the big cheap bottles, but I thought I would be able to find the same thing over here. Not so here in Portugal. All drugs have to be sold through a pharmacist. It’s some old law that helps keep the small, independent pharmacies in business I guess. There is one on just about every block here. The best I could find here was a small, expensive supply of ibuprofen. I will try to make it last until Greece. Every European country will have its own rules and practices for pharmacies. Hopefully we won’t need to visit another one for a long time.
Our overall plan for being in Europe is to work hard / play hard. On the days we are working we really have to focus and get things done so we can have more days off to go out and explore. Despite being sick, we’ve managed to do the play hard part but it’s been really hard to focus on work when your head is in a flu-ish fog. Howard struggled through a project for a third-party client only to realize it hadn’t been approved yet. In my flu-fog, I put my leftover gelato in the refrigerator instead of the freezer. I was really sad when I went back to finish it.
I’m thinking we’re going to survive though. Howard feels fine now and the antibiotics are fighting his ear infection. I ran out of the cough syrup a couple of nights ago and am still coughing, but it’s getting better. I’m glad we are in Lisbon for another month. We’ve saved some of the best things to do until we feel better. Plus we have our anniversary, Christmas, and New Years to celebrate. Then there’s work. We were contracted by the same company to make another educational game, like we did last winter, and it need to be done soon. Speaking of that, I guess I should get to work!