Saturday, March 11, 2006

Dealing with Influenza

I've missed a few posts, it seems. Sorry, but I've been busy.
In my other identity as a nurse in a retirement home, I've been dealing with a flu outbreak - a variant of the Norwalk virus.
For this of you who still think that the flu is something like those commercials you see on TV, where Mom gives her sad little tot a spoonful of whatever product is being touted, here's a synopsis of my day.

- 83 year old woman, diabetic, hasn't kept anything down for over a day. Blood sugar now around 2. Semi-conscious, tongue lolling, struggling weakly while we rub her face with a cold towel and yell at her to wake up and take some of the liquid glucose we're trying to get into her before she bottoms out and dies.
- I give meds to 60 people. I then check blood sugars and take temperatures. Then I give out more medications. Then I start all over. I give out lots of Imodium and Gatorade, the first to stop the flow, and the second to replace the fluids and electrolytes.
- 77 year old woman, too tired from her last three trips to the bathroom, lies in a pool of her own diarrhea. She is mortified as a man strips off her nightgown, but the worker needs help, and we still have to strip the bed before we can go on.
- I also have to check the dressings on the five or six people who fell on the way to the bathroom. When you're 80, your skin tears like tissue paper. I smile my way through a five-minute-per-person procedure, hoping to get done in time for the next round.
- The nursing staff is down to four, to cover three 8 hour shifts per day, every day. I swig gatorade to keep going, and tell anyone who'll listen that when this is over I'm coming to work in my Superman jersey. Cape and all.
- More people coming down with it. Vomiting and diarrhea - it flows from both ends. We have to wear gowns and gloves. Ever try doing something wearing plastic gloves? The fingers are just a little too long, so there's a bubble of air at the end - just enough to throw off your dexterity.
- I have very little sense of smell. I try not to mention it to people - around here, it generates too much envy. However, even I can smell this place now. I pity the others.

When the bird flu gets here, it will be like this, only people will likely die, too.
I go back tomorrow. Have a nice day.

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