A not so “gleeful” week: Surviving the humiliation and horrors of hand, foot and mouth

By Elizabeth Fulcher – Horizon News & Feature Editor

A couple days ago, I was having a conversation with one of my good friends from home about the TV show “Glee.” Toward the end of the series, it got kind of far-fetched. Once the characters on the show graduated high school, within a month of college, two of them had leading roles on Broadway, one had a record deal, and one was a model. For me, “Glee” has gone far beyond far-fetched. In my first month of college? I got hand foot and mouth disease.

It started on a Sunday when I woke up with a sore throat. I didn’t think much of it since I’m in Bel Canto and I sing all of the time, so I went about my day as normal: Do homework, make pizza rolls, more homework. All of the sudden, though, my head started to hurt. I took a 30-minute nap and when I woke up my head was pounding so hard I couldn’t stand up. I had a fever so high that the tears streaming down my face felt like boiling water. Throughout the rest of Sunday and Monday, I stayed in bed, trying to sleep it off. Halfway through Tuesday, I was fine and all was good.

Jokes on me, though, because all was definitely not good.

I had heard earlier that day that there were two students on campus who had hand foot and mouth disease. My exact thoughts when I heard: “Dang that sucks. Glad I only had a headache and a fever.”

Let’s just say, that’s not what I was thinking three hours after that.

By KlatschmohnAcker via Wikimedia Commons
Hand foot and mouth disease is an illness that causes sores in and around the mouth and nose, and blister like sores on the hands and feet. It most commonly occurs in babies since they are typically crawling around on the floor, but anybody is prone to this highly contagious disease.

I was in my dorm room shortly after hearing about the cases of HFM when I thought to myself, “Dang, it feels like I have a blister on my foot.”

Right after I thought this, the realization hit me as if I had just walked into a brick wall. I quickly looked up “Early symptoms of HFM,” and I read the following: Early symptoms of hand foot and mouth disease include: sore throat, headache, fever, and blister like sores.

It was at that moment I just sat down and started to laugh. Honestly, I just laughed. Out of all the things to happen in my first month of college, I catch HFM. What a day it was.

Luckily,  I knew how to handle it. First thing to do: Clean and sanitize EVERYTHING. I also knew that I wasn’t very contagious yet since I had no open sores, just a few red tender spots on my hands and feet, as well as a few red spots forming on my face. I decided that I would still go to class tomorrow and wait this out until it started to present itself more.

I woke up the next morning in so much pain that I couldn’t even walk across my room to turn on the light. Both of my hands and feet were swollen and throbbing, as if a dozen tiny wooden splinters punctured my skin. 

I got used to the feeling of walking on razor blades, but then I walked over to my mirror and saw that the red spots on my face had gotten bigger and broke open to form a yellowish green scab.

Gross, I know.

I decided to head to the medical clinic where they told me exactly what I expected. I indeed had hand foot and mouth disease.

“You want to know what I can do for you?” the doctor asked. “Not a dang thing.”

Oh, great. Thank you, Michelle. She handed me a doctor’s note stating that I was to stay away from work and classes until Tuesday, and gave me a few papers telling me what all could happen when having HFM.

HFM will spread like wildfire. I, however, quarantined myself in my room for a week and sanitized everything I came near, so if you’re reading this and you have HFM yourself, you did not get it from me.

My pain only increased. The only shoes I could wear were slippers, and I still limped around as if I had just been shot in both feet. The next day, my face looked even worse and I was so ashamed and embarrassed, I wouldn’t leave my room unless I had to. My hands hurt so bad that I couldn’t open water bottles, boxes, and ziplock bags. It was hard to fall asleep at night because all of the spots on my hands feet and face would burn and itch. All I could do some days was lay my hands and feet against the cold brick wall beside my bed and hope to fall asleep before 4 a.m., but that didn’t usually happen.

All I could really do was lay in bed, watch movies and eat ice cream. One might think I had just gone through a bad breakup, but that was not the case. It’s just HFM.

Once my week of lockdown was over, I was a new person. It felt like I had died and then come back to life. I was so glad to finally be a part of society again, but I was still so embarrassed. When people asked me if I had HFM, I denied it, so if I told you I had the flu, I apologize and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. 

If you do end up getting HFM, it is not the end of the world, I promise. I know it is really inconvenient to miss classes, but all of my teachers were very understanding and helped me get caught up. Just make sure you take care of yourself and don’t spread it to others.

And if you are stuck in your room for a week, I would advise you: Don’t watch “Glee.” It will only mislead you.


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