Norovirus – the winter nightmare

Kids and adults alike are dropping like flies with this “stomach bug”. It’s nothing new, but we do have a less commonly known name for this “stomach bug” or “stomach flu” – Norovirus. Like the name suggests, it is a virus – not the flu or a bug. As recently as 2016, it was believed by doctors that only 100 particles were required to infect a person; we now know that the number may actually be less – around 18. Norovirus is the “best of both worlds” (sarcasm) with vomiting and diarrhea – which makes gastroenteritis the main presentation. Gastro = voms and enteritis = poop. Put those two together and we get gastroenteritis. People that fall ill with this virus are contagious for much longer than many other viruses, meaning the common “24 hours after last fever/vomit episode” placed in most schools is not working well. A person is contagious from the onset of symptoms to up to three days after symptoms are completely gone. This highly contagious virus is also resistant to most common household disinfectants, meaning unless you are using bleach or a hospital grade disinfectant – you may not be killing the virus.  Norovirus, if not properly dealt with, can live on surfaces for up to a week, meaning the chances of recontamination and spreading are high. Between the close corridors we share to keep warm in the winter to this virus’s long “shelf life” and ability to infect efficiently, each person’s chance of catching it is very high during the winter, but it can be caught anytime throughout the year. So, what can we do?

  • Stop using that lemon scented cleaner and break out the bleach, at least during the winter.
  • Wash hands regularly and use hand sanitizer when soap is not available. Try to be sure you are washing  your hands once for every two times you use a hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer is not the “magic soap” we think it is.
  • If someone in your home is sick, clean EVERYTHING. Just because the surface wasn’t vomited on, doesn’t mean there aren’t 18 particles with the ability to infect. This is the time to buy extra paper towels, too. Don’t try to use your microfiber cloths for this one.
  • STAY HOME if you are sick. Aim for 3 days to “de-contagious” yourself before going to work or school, especially if you will be around children. This isn’t always possible, but do your best.
  • Clean with a solution of up to 25 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water, per the CDC’s recommendation.

May the odds be ever in your favor.


7 Things I Learned While Dealing With Chronic Pain

I am certain that I never did grow in grace one-half so much anywhere as I have upon the bed of pain. – Charles Spurgeon

“This is the worst headache of my life. “

Wait. What did I just say?

Anyone with any medical knowledge knows that these words are a red flag.

My veins were popping out of my head and neck. My heart rate skyrocketed. My body hurt all over. I couldn’t see. I am not one to get nervous during a medical emergency, I can stay calm and care for others when those around me need me. No problem. When it was myself, it was a whole different story. I was helpless, I couldn’t care for myself the way I would care for someone else.

Off to Urgent Care we went. Then to the ER. Then to another ER. Then to Chick-Fil-A, but that’s irrelevant to the story.

The weeks following this episode were filled with appointments and scans. Several doctors and dozens of NPs and PA-Cs, even a massage therapist, out of desperation. Everyone around me had an opinion. If one more person compared this to their half-sister’s cousin’s migraines, I was going to explode.

Tons of experiments, minimal answers.

I am finally on the mend and I am not going to go into the terribly long and obnoxious diagnosis and healing process, but instead I will go into what I learned in the months that I dealt with chronic pain.

  1. I learned that it is okay to take a break. Ask for a break. Take care of yourself so that you can better take care of others. This is true with and without chronic pain.
  2. I learned that it is okay for a patient to tell you their pain level is a 10. In their mind, it very well may be. Stop the stupid medical humor memes about patients saying their pain level is a 10/10.
  3. I learned more empathy. No explanation needed.
  4. I learned that people cannot read your mind, your pain level, or your stress level. Be open. You DO NOT have to be okay all the time. It’s okay not to be okay. (Jessie J reference) Most of the people around me have been so supportive and understanding when I needed a morning off or I needed to leave early to go to another appointment or when I forgot about a meeting (or two).
  5. I learned to be humble enough to accept that I can’t figure it all out on my own. I am so guilty of self-diagnosing. I have to say, 90% of the time, I’m pretty darn accurate. I have even convinced a doctor to give me antibiotics over the phone. (Shall not be named.) Before this episode that landed me in the ER, I was convinced I could fix my daily headaches by eating healthier, sleeping more, ect. I was convinced there was nothing really wrong with me. I was wrong.
  6. I learned that pain is temporary. Don’t make permanent decisions on temporary feelings. I am so thankful for the forgiveness of those around me. (Looking at you, mom.) There were some times that I could not even think clearly, and I was a bear. That is putting it nicely.
  7. Most importantly, I learned to prioritize. When dealing with chronic pain, I learned to be functional while still in pain. However, it was not always 100% possible. There was no way I could do everything I wanted, or even needed, to do. I learned to prioritize. This made the workaholic in me cry. This made me cry in real life. (Crying did not help the headaches, btw) I felt like I let people down. Like I missed opportunities. But looking back, I would not change a thing. No one fired me. No one failed me. It all ended up okay.

To anyone dealing with chronic pain – you are not alone. Get a second opinion, get a third, fourth, and fifth. Don’t take no for an answer. Don’t give up. Research for yourself. Trust your gut. Pray, and know that I am praying for you.