When I am sick, not my sister, it is weird

Normally, when someone in my family has a health problem, it is my sister. Sometimes it’s my mom or dad. This time, it’s me – just shy of my 31st birthday, I managed to contract a virus most often identified in children (CDC page on parvovirus).

Lily frequently has creative play scenarios that she tries to drag us into involving Star Trek‘s sick bay. She likes to have conversations about one of my parents going to the doctor, because he or she is sick (invariably when they have, at most, been on the phone with one of Lily’s doctors). She didn’t quite seem to know what to say when my mother informed her that I was sick, last week, when we were all on speakerphone, besides asking me, a few times, “Are you sick?”

My parents seem to be pretty worried, which makes sense – the offspring that is supposedly medically okay, very far away, having a very bad infection, is worrisome. I mean, it’s kind of ridiculous: this virus made my entire body feel swollen and itchy with a rash that I could only describe as feeling sunburned, and now I have arthritis-like pain in unexpected joints (last night it was just one finger, of all places). But I’m starting to improve – sleeping better, the rash is mostly gone and can be calmed with over-the-counter drugs, and my doctor thinks I’ll be back on my feet pretty soon.

The other odd thing about my being sick is that my sister is often also sick when I am, despite us being hundreds or thousands of miles distant from each other. Frighteningly, there was a problem with her meds this past weekend and she experienced an accidental overdose. Thankfully, she vomited, napped, and was back to normal (as her neurologist assured everyone she would be), but it was super scary to my folks – and to my own virus-exhausted brain.

So: it’s weird, for me and for all of my family, when I’m sick. I think some part of all of our brains are just used to thinking of Lily as the one who isn’t well, even though since childhood I’ve always been the one to get infections, while Lily hasn’t. And while I’ve admittedly had some less than common infections, I’ve been pretty healthy – with the one or two noticeable infections per year I’ve heard is the norm for American adults. Interesting how growing up with a sibling with disabilities alters my expectations about that, though.


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