Warning: While I try to avoid being a potty-mouth, this post does contain some potty talk.
“I think Grandma just threw up a little.”
Not what we wanted to hear as the entire family was arriving for Christmas Day Family Palooza at my sister’s home. Grandma said she felt fine, but this family of germaphobes erred on the side of caution. Grandma was taken home immediately and after some sanitizing, Christmas continued without incident.
December 26th, we all felt fine. Whew! We capped off the busy day with a big pot of my sister’s delicious vegetable soup. We had resolved to get back to eating healthy after a week of indulging. This colorful soup was chock full of fiber and chunky vegetables; exactly what we needed! I went to bed around midnight.
We were staying with my sister’s family. My husband had already gone to bed, and his alarm was set for 4:30 a.m. to catch a flight back to the West Coast. A few minutes after I climbed into bed, without a word, he got up to use the bathroom. When he returned, he announced: “Oh man, I have bad diarrhea!” (As if there is a “good” diarrhea?)
You might imagine, no announcement had actually been necessary. Believe me, I had put #2 and #2 together and figured it out on my own. I asked if he thought he’d be able to make his flight, or if I should get online and change it. He said he’d be fine.
An hour later, I was stunned when the first powerful wave of nausea hit me. I will never be able to stick-my-finger-down-my-throat-and-get-it-over-with. I fight it with lots of deep breathing and a “mind over matter” approach. However, I quickly realized there was no stopping this matter. Panic set in, because the en suite guest bath was occupied by my husband.
I told him I needed to use the bathroom, and soon realized that in addition to the toilet…I needed a basin for tossing my Christmas Cookies. My only basin option was a wicker wastebasket. I begged my husband to go downstairs and quickly grab a piece of Gladware or a bowl, and yelled, “DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING!!”
I quarantined us to the guest room. It was a dire situation. We had to share the toilet, but thankfully, my spouse with the iron stomach, didn’t need to share my basin. For the next five hours, we danced a delirious, diarrhea do-si-do. This was a violent, bring-you-to-your-knees gastro-intestinal bug. There is nothing as humbling and dehumanizing as the experience of having no control over your bodily functions.
I deeply regretted eating vegetable soup. At one point, I spotted a green bean on the bathroom floor. My lack of equilibrium prevented me from disposing of it. Feverish delirium prevented me from being grossed out by it. Instead, I could only ponder exactly how it got…… over there. Clearly, I had reached the deepest depths of disgusting behavior.
Incredibly, my rotavirus roommate rebounded, and responded to his alarm clock. He was positive the worst was behind him (as it were) and left for the airport. I was delirious. I laid in bed praying for daylight. I was sure that in the history of mankind, no one had ever been as thirsty as I was at that moment. I was too dizzy to help myself. I also feared I would contaminate the house.
I sent my sister a text: I have the stomach flu. Can U bring me a pop? No response.
I texted again. No response.
I hastily played a low-point Scrabble word on my ipad. This was no time to maximize points. She is competitive and I was sure the alert would rouse her from her slumber. No response.
Finally, I heard the text alert on my phone. It was not a text from my sister, but one from my older brother, celebrated during Jubilee Week: I’m not driving into town today. I’ve been up all night with the stomach flu. He was at his lake cottage, over an hour away. I empathized and felt bad that he was isolated. Empathy turned to envy when I realized he was able to rehydrate – fully stocked from Summer with all the soda pop and Gatorade he could possibly need.
Then I received a text from my niece down the hall, which said: I have diarrhea. Mom has the stomach flu & diarrhea.
My sister hadn’t been ignoring me, she was suffering the same fate. For the next 48 hours, my sister, my niece and I were like vile, caged animals. Drinks were left outside our bedroom doors by the three healthy members of my sister’s family. There was no actual human contact. We communicated via text messages.
With five of us infected, we realized we had a real life version of Outbreak. My niece did some reconnaissance work, sending a mass text to all family members. The troops reported in gradually. Every few hours, the casualty count climbed higher. Within 48 hours, the final body count stood at 15 fallen family members. Multiple households were infected.
Days later, once everyone was healthy and the Hazmat clean-up was complete, we traded war stories. What had been the flaw in our battle plan? A thorough analysis took place. Hands had been washed. Paper guest towels had been in the powder room. The Chex Mix bowl had a scoop, and we had been on the lookout for our tiniest and most adorable little double-dippers and chip-sorters. How had we let the enemy infiltrate us?
We had failed to secure the borders. The little viral terrorists had gained entry by stowing away in Grandma. She didn’t realize she had been hijacked by the Rotavirus. Or was it Norovirus? These guys are stealthier than Al Qaeda operatives. They are highly contagious and characterized by a rapid onset. Once they gained a foothold, we were under siege and defenseless. They swept through the ranks efficiently and swiftly via Christmas hugs & kisses.
I share the graphic, embarrassing and shameful details of the Family Pa-flu-za as my own personal PSA. A reminder that it can happen to anyone: even a bunch of germaphobes, neat-nicks, and clean freaks.
So if you think you, or someone in your family may be coming down with something during this Holiday party season, skip the festivities. Keep the borders secure. It might not be easy, but you’ll be giving your friends and family the ultimate gift: Health.
Unless, like Emily in The Devil Wears Prada you’re “one stomach flu away from your goal weight.”
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
Now go wash your hands.