Sunday, October 22, 2006

Getting Sick

People deal with getting sick in various ways. For the purpose of this entry, I will limit myself to minor, common illnesses of a limited nature, particularly how they relate to work attendance. I will not touch upon anything of a serious and/or life-threatening nature.

On one extreme, we have people who go to the doctor at the slightest sign of the sniffles and on the other, there are those who would drag themselves into work on their one good appendage even if the other three were broken. I fall somewhere in the middle, perhaps erring on the side of caution.

Even when I have had health insurance, I am not one who makes a habit of going to the doctor for every little thing. Perhaps it's "white coat syndrome" or perhaps its the cheapskate in me, but I reserve visiting the doctor to absolute necessity; for things that will not go away on their own within a few days.

However, I'm most definitely not the type to drag myself into work when I'm sick. If I've got a fever, have gastrointestinal problems (one end or both), feel dizzy, if I've had insomnia to the point of getting less than two or three hours of sleep, or a bad cold, especially in the germy stage, I'll stay home. It does an employer no good if a sick employee infects other employees or if they spend most of the day running back and forth to the bathroom, not to mention that it slows the recovery time.

Some places I've worked at supported this approach -- the police department had a generous sick leave policy of 18 paid sick days a year, built up at a day and a half a month. Even when one had run out of paid days, it was possible to use unpaid ones, as the attitude was, "If you're sick, stay home. Don't come to work and make everyone else sick, too."

Other employers, however, pretty much have expected us to come in no matter how sick or contagious we were. I've found that the more menial the job, the more this is true. It's ironic, because it's much easier to tolerate working at a higher level of sickness in an office job, where one can sit down and be near a bathroom, than it is when one is doing manual labor without immediate bathroom access.

I've known some really gung-go, diehard types who will come to work, no matter what. On the police department, I knew a jailer who worked third shift who once came to work so sick with the flu, that he had to lay down on the floor with the phone there beside him because sitting in a chair made him too dizzy. To me, that's completely nuts. He was not only prolonging his recovery time, he was also creating a security risk, as he'd not really be able to respond quickly with any effectiveness if there had been a problem in the jail.

I do what I have to do when I'm feeling really bad, pay or no pay. I figure that if I take one day to rest, I'll be much less likely to have to take several days after getting even sicker after pushing myself to go to work when I'm sick. In jobs with no health insurance, I've had to raise the sickness bar a bit higher than I'd ideally be comfortable with, but there's no way I'm going to work if I'm throwing up or in danger of embarrassing myself if I can't get to a bathroom without a couple of minutes.

In this, I'm reminded of what my father always said in relation on how to prioritize what is really important: "If you've got your health, you've got everything."


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