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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

These Four Walls

I love winter.  The snow, the pretty, serene scenes.  There is snowmobiling, snow shoeing, and a general softness to the landscape.  That's not what it looks like this winter, though.  Since the new year we have experienced nothing, but rain.  Cold, nasty rain.  Its worn down the fresh snow that fell for Christmas and reduced it to a wet pile of brownish mush.  The landscape looks like late March, except the air doesn't have the sweetness of spring approaching.  Its still the middle of winter... just crappy, cloudy, and awful.

This weather has forced me to be inside.  The gray days have made me feel extra sluggish and the affects seem to be accumulating.  After recovering from the flu I have not yet found my "get up and go" this year.  I still feel knocked down and the four walls of my home seem to be closing in.  

Go outside! You say.  Go to a community event!  You suggest.  Why not go to a museum or library or anything? You ask.  

The answer....  honestly.... I just don't feel like it.  

This season has sucked all my will and energy away. I don't want to spend money going to museums or other indoor activities.   I don't want to face the stress of socializing or getting myself and Emily presentable to go somewhere more significant than obtaining basic groceries.  (any doubts I am a true introvert?)  There is nothing to take photos of or anywhere to walk, play, or snowmobile with this nasty landscape.  

So, I have spent almost all of my off time in the last two weeks inside my home.  I've watched my share of movies, played with Emily, and generally laid around doing nothing.  Now I find that even my motivation to clean and do chores is fleeting.  My general emotional compass is starting to point towards a complete void.

Maybe its seasonal affective disorder?  ....the nurse in me can't help, but diagnose myself. 

And even stranger there are A LOT of exciting things going on in my life right now... and I can't even disclose some of them with anyone (yet).   But, despite all the excitement, I don't feel the giddy-ness that I should.  I just feel tired. 

We all get in these funks.  I know life's emotions occillate from highs to lows and back again and I just need to pull myself out of this cycle, be excited, and find some sort of enjoyment to this blah of a season before the walls of my home swallow me whole.

I am sure we all feel like this once and a while, right?  Especially this time of year.  The important thing is that we should be able to talk about it, because when you feel isolated (even when you aren't) its even more isolating to be silent. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

I Got the Flu and Why I Still Support the Shot

The last week has been a very long and unhealthy one.  My New Years and the days after were spent curled up on my couch or hacking from a chest rattling cough.  It came on suddenly, without much warning, and within 24 hours had meet so unwell that I rushed to the doctors office as soon as they opened.  Twelve minutes later I was swabbed and diagnosed with influenza. 

Yup, the big, awful flu.  How could that happen?  I had been a responsible adult and vaccinated myself this fall!  Every year I get the flu vaccine, especially being a nurse.  In my line of work infectious diseases are a huge inherent risk so its prudent to take precautions, from hand washing frequently, to seasonal vaccinations. 

But, if I got the flu, especially one where I was sick for several days,  why would I still be a proponent of the flu shot?  Why?  Simply put, because people can still die from the flu (yes die) if they aren't vaccinated.  I've seen it happen.  In my career I have seen even the healthy and young die in a matter of days from the regular old flu.  Its not something to be taken lightly. 

Besides the fear of death that I harbor there are two other really good reasons for the flu vaccine.  Even if you still get the flu odds are it will be much less intense had you not gotten the vaccination at all.  Had I not gotten the vaccination this year there is a good chance I would have ended up in the hospital, or worse.  The other reason is for those who can't take the vaccine or are immunocompromised - ie: most of my patients.  How immunity works is that once you are inoculated with a vaccine your body develops antibodies in resistance to that specific illness. This means your body can't harbor those diseases and pass them on to others just as much as it means you won't get sick with that disease.  So, think of it this way, your vaccine is not just protecting yourself, but protecting every single person you come in to contact with - from newborn babies to the elderly. 

There are literally dozens of strains of flu all over the world. The vaccine is comprised of five or six of the "most popular" strains found in our region.  While it is impossible to nail down exactly which one or two strains will reek the most havoc there are numerous studies done each year to try and make a match as close as possible.  So, if you are vaccinated you at least have a shield of protection against a handful of influenza strains.  Even though I was unlucky and became infected odds are I've also already come into contact (in fact I know I have) with other strains of influenza and not become ill.  This is what the vaccine does.  Without it I would have had the flu a heck of a lot more times than just once --  I'd be rounding out the alphabet of influenza ( influenza A, B, H1N1...get it?)

So, please consider that the flu vaccine is so much more than a "it might work it might not" shot.  Its so much more than that to your body and to those around you!  Also, don't think the government wants you sick or wants to inject you with something that will make you sick....  sick people do not work, they don't shop, spend money, or produce anything.  In fact, sick people cost money to care for and are a drain on the system.  Its imperative not only to yourself as an individual, but also society that we stay healthy -- despite whatever conspiracy theories are out there. 

If you do find yourself suddenly ill please do the following
  1. STAY HOME - this means no work, school, grocery store, post office, etc.  Have a friend or family member run errands for you if you can.  The flu is very contagious days prior and days after symptoms appear.  You need to be fever free for 24 hours before returning to work, etc. 
  2. Go to the Doctor - this may contradict #1, but they have masks and are a place where illness is expected.  Visiting the doctor will ensure that you receive treatment for the flu (medicine can be administered within 48hrs of symptom onset) and that ancillary symptoms are treated (like cough syrup, nebulizers, etc).
  3. GET SWABBED - the only way to know which strain of influenza, or that it is indeed influenza, is to have a nasal swab done.  This is ultra important so the CDC and state health offices have an accurate account of how many are infected, with what strain, where, etc. 
I hope that perhaps even one person reading this has considered going to get a flu vaccine if you haven't yet.  It is not to late!  You can still get vaccines well up into the spring for seasonal influenza.