The Brave Little Flu Bug

Do you remember the fairy tale of the Brave Little Tailor, who killed seven flies with one blow and stitched himself a belt to commemorate it? I am half-tempted to knit a belt that reads “Nine with one blow” as a reminder of the events of last week, when fully half of the staff of my library were felled within a few hours of each other by a heinous foe.

It seemed like such a normal Thursday. Everyone was at work, grazing happily at the leftovers of the previous day’s potluck in honor of our graduating student workers. The only thing out of the ordinary was one of our librarians leaving an hour or two early, feeling generally unwell and perhaps slightly nauseous. Shortly thereafter, I began to feel a bit odd myself, but chalked it up to empathy or a touch of hypochondria. I left to walk home at my usual time, and realized immediately that something was indeed amiss. I reached home half an hour later, having taking twice as long as usual to walk my half-mile route. I sat down on the bed to take off my shoes, and succumbed to a sudden urge to just rest my head a moment. Several minutes later, wracked by a sudden chill, I scrambled into my pajamas, swept my work clothes unceremoniously off the bed, and with the last of my strength, climbed under the covers.

An hour later, I rolled over and realized my mouth was filling up with saliva, an ominous sign. I raced to the bathroom sink, and—will let your imagination take over from there. Needless to say, 5 or 6 bouts of nausea later, topped with numerous rounds of additional “plumbing” issues and a raging foot cramp, and I was reduced to a shaking, whimpering, dehydrated husk, very nearly too exhausted even to make a pitcher of Kool-Aid, certainly too weak to descend into the basement for our emergency supply of Gatorade (whose caps I have trouble opening even at my most energetic). I watched old movies on AMC for hours—I vaguely recall The Man in the Iron Mask and Highlander—because the DVD player seemed so very far away from the couch.

Fortunately, the worse of the scourge was over by 2am. On Friday, I felt like I had been suckerpunched in the gut. I timidly sipped Kool-Aid, avoiding food, anxiously examining each stomach burble for returning nausea. Finally, at 8:00pm, weighing my chances of a relapse against the likelihood that my newly raging headache was blood sugar-related, I gave in and ordered a small cheese pizza, which held me over for the entire weekend to come. By Sunday I was vastly improved, if still exhausted and nursing a stomach that mimicked deep sea sounds every time I ate or drank.

I came to work Monday very curious to know whether the librarian who left early on Thursday had in fact been afflicted by the same plague. As you have likely guessed from my opening paragraph, not only had she and I both been ill, seven others among the staff, nearly all reference librarians, were also struck down; the processing and cataloging staff were remarkable unscathed. We gathered like veterans, comparing notes: everyone fell ill with the same symptoms between 5pm and midnight on Thursday, and was able—if shakily—to return to work Monday. In the end, we decided that we had all contracted not food poisoning, but a virulent strain of 24-hour stomach flu, of whose existence on campus we had heard mere rumor the previous week. It was the only instance during Jeremy’s stay in NYC in which I would have dearly loved to be cared for. However, even as I complained weakly to Jeremy over the phone that he was so far away, I was also extremely glad that he was out of harm’s way on the opposite coast: I wouldn’t wish this pestilence on anyone.

For my next, and much belated post, I’m going to stick with the Brave Little Tailor theme, and kill seven topics with one blow. Check back soon for this mighty feat. (In the meantime, I think I am going to go take a nap; writing can be strenuous!)


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