Influenza – I spoke too soon.

It’s my turn. I cared for the boys, washed my hands frequently, stayed out of range of their coughing as much as I could — and it wasn’t enough. I’m on my second day home today. Chuck is back at work, but Amigo is still suffering.

In the category of Simple Pleasures, also known as For What it’s Worth, there are some reasons to feel (almost) good these days.

We have a new couch – with dual recliners on the ends. With this set-up, two of us can lean back and relax with the tissue box between us. No one fights over the couch because we can both stretch out.

Spring weather might return late in the week. Right now, none of us want to step outside into the cold air for fear of setting off a coughing fit.

I did the shopping last weekend, and I stocked up on chicken noodle soup. I’ve also thrown together crock pot meals to tempt our meager appetites while not spending precious energy in the kitchen.

Positives aside, I need a nap. After that, I need chicken soup.

 

The Dreaded Influenza A

Most of my family members faithfully get the flu vaccine each year. Chuck doesn’t. For some reason, he doesn’t seem to be as vulnerable to the annual flu virus. This year, flu season is different.

Flu season this year came later than usual. Here it is April – April! – not November, not January, and both Chuck and Amigo are down with diagnoses of Influenza A. Chuck ended up in the emergency room a few days ago, struggling to breathe. After a chest x-ray, a nebulizer breathing treatment, and a flu test, the official word was Influenza A. Flu. The upper respiratory virus from hell.

Amigo got his a few days later. We were a little bummed; he’d been ill with some sort of virus for about two weeks, and I thought maybe that was his flu. He gets the shot every year, and that might have mitigated the severity somewhat. No such luck; he is currently curled up on the couch with pillows and blankets and a humidifier on high. Well, the humidifier is on the floor nearby. He’s not curled up with it. Yet.

Chuck most likely came in contact with the virus Tuesday night. His symptoms started in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Tuesday night he was out late covering Ted Cruz’ primary election event in Milwaukee. Governor Walker was there, too. Can I blame Cruz and Walker for my dear hubby getting sick? Maybe not, but I do like to blame the governor for anything and everything possible.

Meanwhile, he brought home the bug and got quite sick, too. I’ve been taking care of him the best I can, treating the symptoms and cooking up comfort foods.

Amigo’s symptoms turned up overnight Friday. His diagnosis was confirmed over the phone with the nurse on call. Once again, we’re treating the symptoms. Chuck was too late for the famous Tamiflu. Amigo couldn’t get an appointment within the magic first 24 hours, and the nurse told me many doctors are hesitating to prescribe it these days. There is some doubt as to its true effectiveness.

Meanwhile, I’m still healthy and knocking on wood and washing my hands and trying not to breathe near either of my guys. If I make it past this week…well, let’s not chance anything.

Readers, I’m feeding the sick ones (and myself) chicken soup and other sources of fluid and nutrition. Advice is welcome – for treating their symptoms and keeping myself flu-free. Add your prescriptions for comfort in the comments.

Stormy Weather

I think I’ve used that title in the past. It’s Wisconsin, folks. We get blizzards, tornadoes, ice storms, floods. We don’t see earthquakes – not very often, anyway.

Consider the current disasters. Zika virus is carried by mosquitoes, those annoying pests. According to the local newscast, no worries here! The tropical mosquitoes can’t take the cold and unpredictable weather. We get a different breed of mosquitoes here. Frankly, this Zika virus is scary. I’m no longer of child-bearing age or condition, but my friends, my coworkers, my neighbors – I don’t have to be personally at risk to care and to worry. Let’s say what I heard was correct: our northern mosquito doesn’t carry the virus. I’m going to add a word: yet. Viruses mutate. Mosquitoes probably mutate, too.

I think I’ll stock up on mosquito repellent.

Then there’s the ever present risk of a major snowstorm. This one is real. We’re used to it, we know how to plan for it, and we take pride in coping with the situation. There may be a big storm next week. A major weather event. After the latest Snow-mageddon on the east coast,  forecasters are calling this one “Our Turn.” If it’s really going to be a Major Storm, I’ll do my usual prep. Grocery store: bunny food, milk, eggs, bread. In fact, if we have bunny food, I can make or fake the rest. Well, maybe not eggs. But I have powdered milk, bread flour and yeast, and jars of homemade jam to go with anybody’s peanut butter. If I have bunny food for Buttercup, we’ll be good.

If there’s risk of a power outage, we’ll make sure that anything that needs charging has a full charge. We’ll replenish the firewood in case we need heat. I’ll visit an ATM ahead of time in case we need cash. We’re good at this Prep for Snow routine. So whatever’s coming, we’ll be ready.

We’ll be ready, that is, as long as I stock up on bunny food.

Any other disasters looming? We’re tough, we northerners. Mosquito repellent, bunny food, and we’re good. Bring it on.

Water.

I often feel fortunate to live in the Great Lakes basin where fresh water is plentiful and treating it for human consumption is relatively cheap. I’m more water-conscious than many, with my rain barrels and the way I reuse dishwashing water and cooking water to water my herbs and flowers. I still have moments where I’ll be running the shower to let it warm up and I think how lucky I am to live here. I could save the water in a big bucket and use it well, but I don’t have to. I’m not forced to value every drop.

When I’m hearing about droughts in California or Texas, I’m grateful to live in a climate where rain and snow are the norm. Rain fills my rain barrels in the summer while it nourishes the soil, and snow insulates the perennial plants all winter long before it melts and – you guessed it – soaks the soil and replenishes the water table.

It’s so easy to take water for granted. Turn on the tap, and it’s on. Stick a glass under the faucet; get a drink. Should be an automatic, right?

If you live in Flint, Michigan, wrong.

Flint is in the Great Lakes basin, too. Michigan, like my home state Wisconsin, is smack dab in the middle of this climate of rain and snow. And yet the good people of Flint are facing – have been facing – a water disaster of major proportions. And I think to myself, how could this happen?

To make a long story short, the city of Flint changed their municipal water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River in an effort to save money. Lacking a crucial chemical treatment, Flint River began corroding pipelines and sending iron deposits, among other minerals, into the homes and schools and businesses of Flint. Along with the discoloration and rust from iron came a silent enemy: lead. Excessive lead in a child’s bloodstream can cause brain damage and nerve damage that will last a lifetime. Flint pediatricians noticed a trend of rising lead levels in their patients. Flint residents noticed poor taste and major discoloration in their tap water. I said I’d make it short: Flint leaders and state officials brushed off concerns. Thousands of Flint residents, including children, have been exposed to toxic levels of lead.

Details are all over the web and the national news sources. At this time, the question is less “How could this happen?” and more “How could the Powers That Be ignore a crisis of this magnitude?”

I still feel fortunate to live in the Great Lakes region, where water can be plentiful and the climate keeps it so. But I have to wonder: if this happened in Flint, could it happen here?

Learning from Dystopian Fiction

Things I’ve learned from reading the popular genre of dystopian fiction:

  • Honey doesn’t spoil.
  • Food and medicine shortages are likely.
  • Dried milk powder also lasts forever – or for a really long time.
  • Goats are worth their weight in gold.
  • Rain barrels – or a Rain Containment System – can be lifesaving.
  • A wood burning fireplace or stove is priceless.
  • Generators only have value while fuel is available.
  • Communication may be precious – or impossible.
  • Day lily bulbs may be edible (does anyone know if this is true?)
  • Chickens are more than pets.
  • Barter keeps the pantry stocked.
  • Feminine supplies can be trade bait.
  • Electricity and running water may be luxuries.
  • Friendship and trust continue to be worth more than money.

I’ve noticed that no matter what the cause or the premise of the disaster, hunger becomes the focus. Whether the moon is knocked out of orbit or a pandemic plague spreads or a war changes everything, survivors will worry about feeding themselves and their families. Rationing food, stashing food packages, even stealing food becomes a main thread in almost every apocalyptic novel or series I’ve read. There is the short term goal: get everything you can into the house and lock it up or hide it well. Then there is the long term goal: plant a garden. Raise chickens or goats. Preserve everything possible. As plots evolve, the characters move from short term to long term survival tactics.

You might notice I haven’t mentioned anything about government, local or otherwise. With communication sporadic or down completely, any form of government would be more difficult to maintain. But that’s more than a blog post; it’s a whole book!

Readers, have you read any dystopian fiction lately? What was it? What did you think?

There’s a Storm Coming In – not quite an encore

It’s literal and it’s figurative. There’s a storm brewing in my state.

Skies are clouding over and the temperature is dropping. The radar shows lots of green (rain) with patches of yellow and red representing the stronger storms within. The forecast predicts thunderstorms overnight and through tomorrow.

That’s the literal storm.

On the figurative side we have a storm of ideology, a flood of hard feelings, and the thundering sound of voters wanting their voices heard. There’s a yard sign here and a bumper sticker there, with patches of letters to the editor representing the strong emotions within. And this, the figurative storm, continues.

I first posted this in spring of 2012 as we headed toward a recall election – the recall that Scott Walker survived. in the all-too-long lead up to the 2016 presidential election, winds are swirling and the storm is gathering strength.

I prepare for literal storms with a fire in the fireplace and my tiny seedlings under cover in the mini-greenhouse. We unplug the computers to prevent trouble in the event of power surges.

Preparation for an election storm isn’t quite so easy. We can unplug the landline the day before the election to avoid the thundering sound of the Get Out the Vote phone calls. I’m always  on edge all day on Election Tuesday, awaiting results that carry as much meaning for me personally and professionally as the meaning and messages that are national in nature.

After this storm passes, the winds of change will pick up. The perfect storm of anger, disillusionment, and disbelief fighting with self-righteousness and misinformation threatens to blow up into a cyclone of another kind. The resulting funnel cloud will…well, let’s not think about it.

We’re already experiencing a dark and stormy period in Wisconsin history. It’s beyond frightening to imagine that storm spreading to the nation.

Readers, we’re all in its path. How do you hunker down and prepare for a storm that’s political in nature? Leave a comment.

And again, the pharmacy

Dear Pharmacy that Shall Not be Named;

Once again, it’s the system, not the people. The staff was as bothered by the mix-up as we were. The exact same mix-up had happened at least once in the past. It wasn’t new.

I overheard someone checking into the computer saying, “It looks like both were ordered, but only one printed out.” So you’re saying it was the call-in system that messed up? Okay, I’ll take that explanation. But now let’s look at a true fix: how to prevent this from happening a third time or even more.

This is the toughest kind of problem to solve: the problem that doesn’t start with a human. Since it seems to be a systems error, there will have to be a solution that changes the system. In this case, someone at the top will need to call someone in IT and say, “Can you modify this code?”

Yeah, you’re right. I doubt it, too. And the Pharmacy That Shall Not be Named was doing so well. I haven’t written a Pharmacy post in ages. Their customer service has improved greatly. Now, the challenge rests with the folks who run the system. Pharmacy That Shall Not Be Named, can you fix the system? We’ll wait in suspense for the answer.

Measles?

I searched my archives for measles or immunizations, and the only related topic I found was flu. I get a flu shot every year. Amigo gets one every year. La Petite, now that she has medical coverage (Thanks, Mr. President!), gets her vaccine, too.

It’s not influenza that’s on people’s minds today. It’s an illness that was thought to be eradicated in the United States: measles.

I remember getting a mumps shot when my friend Julie had mumps. The vaccine was a new one; it wasn’t routine yet. It must have worked; no mumps for me. I remember getting a rubella vaccine when I was at the hospital after giving birth to La Petite. Routine blood tests showed I wasn’t immune, and I got the shot before going home. But measles? No memory of the illness or the shot.

People born before 1957 are considered immune because they were most likely exposed when they were young. I’m a 1960 baby boomer. Where does that leave me?

I did what a lot of baby boomers do: I emailed my mother.

According to Petunia, I may have had a mild case of measles when I was very young. She followed up by saying she remembered getting me a measles vaccine, but doesn’t have a written record.

So around and ’round and ’round I go. Do I need the shot? Nobody knows. While I dilly dally about getting a lab test to find out yea or nay, the city health department is setting up a vaccine clinic early one morning next week. I might just give in, get up, and go. It can’t hurt. Well, it could hurt… never mind.

 

Flu Family History

I was searching and sorting and purging a pile of papers and I found this, a predecessor to Monday’s post. It’s on a scrap of yellow legal pad, so it probably rose from the ashes of a school staff meeting or staff development. This piece wasn’t for the CDC. In fact, I’m pretty sure I wrote it pre-blog. To make it current, it would need almost no changes.

You know the flu has taken over when:

  • Chicken soup and cinnamon toast make a meal.
  • The phone rings and the teenager doesn’t move.
  • The blind family member identifies people by their coughs rather than their voices.
  • The dishwasher is full of glasses and bowls because no one is eating real meals.
  • Each sick person carries around his/her own box of tissue.
  • Suddenly the supply of Tylenol and ibuprofen in the medicine cabinet looks woefully under stocked.

The above list was written with a sense of – well, something close to gallows humor, if I remember correctly. Since that year, all of us have stayed up to date on flu shots. Get your own flu vaccine, people. It’s not too late.

Flu, flu

We lost track of a family with two children in our school. How does a school lose track of an entire family? You see, it’s like this. We get in touch with every student and learning coach at least twice a month. We communicate in between those calls by email. We hadn’t heard from this family in a week, the learning coach hadn’t logged in for two weeks, and the students hadn’t logged in for several days and were lagging about nine days behind in their work. We left voice mails when they didn’t answer the phone. We sent emails that got no reply. Then we started to worry. Were they okay?  They didn’t live in the safest of neighborhoods. Should we send the police out for a welfare check?

When we reached their emergency contact, we found out that the entire family was down and out, and I mean really, really down and out, with this year’s strain of influenza.

It’s not over, people. That flu bug that’s been making its way through the nation is still hitting, and it’s not holding back. The Center for Disease Control is asking bloggers to pass the word: flu season is not over. It’s not too late to prepare to prevent yourself from being a victim.

Step one: Get vaccinated. Call around; if you can’t go to a doctor’s office, check with nearby pharmacies. Call the local health department and ask their advice. The current vaccine is still available.

Step two: Take common sense precautions. Every day preventive acts can help keep those germs away. Avoid sick people. Stay home if you’re sick – the office can and will run without you. Cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze or cough.

Step three; If your doctor prescribes antiviral drugs, take them. It’s worth it. They will shorten the duration of your flu, and they can lessen the symptoms.

My story above? It’s not over, either. Flu season continues to affect people across my state and across the country. This family is struggling to get to a telephone, much less log on and actively continue schooling. If the students don’t recover soon…let’s just say I’m worried. Very worried.

I’ll do what I can to support my students and their families. Readers, pass the word. It’s your job to protect yourself with a flu shot. Take care. I mean it.