Be prepared; know the flu bedside ritual

Published 8:41 am Thursday, November 20, 2008

Well, it happened.

Out of nowhere the flu hit my family. It actually punched my family right in the stomach.

First my wife could not talk, which normally is not a bad thing for a couple of days, but it left her with this really high, squeaking, funny-pitched voice, sort of like Peter Brady when he was reaching puberty. I kept waiting for Bonnie to start singing “When It’s Time to Change” all off key like Peter did back in the day.

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My daughter thought that my wife’s voice was funny until, guess what? Yup.

“Dad, I am throwing up, and I need your help.”

I rushed into the bathroom to help her. When your child is in her teens, helping is really just holding a cold washcloth on her forehead and on the back of the neck until the moment of badness, as I will call it, subsides.

The next step is getting them back into bed and setting up the flu bedside ritual. This ritual is handed down from generation to generation.

It starts with:

1. Making sure they are comfortable in the bed.

2. Do they have all the necessities: Sprite or 7-Up, chicken soup, soda crackers, cough drops?

3. Do they want the TV on or off? (This is mostly the last few generations of children) or do they have the clicker?

4. Do they want the lights on or off?

5. Do they want the dog to lie with them or not?

Then the last, most important thing on this list, is, do they have a bucket, garbage can or some sort of device that they can be sick in if a moment of badness arrives and they do not have time to get to the bathroom? It is funny because most parents will also put down a bunch of old towels or newspapers around the bucket and some will put some water in the base as well.

OK, well, I think my daughter is OK when all of a sudden I hear my wife yell to me from our other bathroom — man, the flu travels fast. OK, now the family has it coming and going, and I am off to the races.

I have Tayler set up, and now I will have Bonnie set up using the same above ritual in our room. Once Bonnie is situated, Tayler yells, “Daddy!” and I am back to her room helping her out again. This goes back and forth for a couple of hours until they finally both fall asleep.

Once they are asleep, I go into overdrive. Whenever there is sickness in my house, I turn into disinfectant guy. Between bleach, Lysol and Purell I wipe and clean everything in my home. I wash and re-wash all the towels, bedding, blankets, clothes that have touched or came close to touching Bonnie and Tayler. I wash the bathrooms in between usings and throw away every tissue that has come close to hitting the floor or cabinets.

It is weird, but I get so crazy about not getting the flu myself that I fight all strains with an overindulgence of cleaning products. By the time I am finished there is a Purell hand sanitizer in each room and one connected to each of our dog’s collars.

The other odd thing during the flu is how many times you end up running to the store.

The first trip is to get a vaporizer, because the flu sometimes starts as a cold and sore throat. You also on the first trip get orange juice, Sprite, tissue and, of course, toilet paper.

You think you are ready and then the flu switches it up on you and goes into your loved one’s B&B regions (butt and belly).

This switch brings on Trip No. 2 to the store. You now need to get chicken soup, more Sprite, Gatorade, soda crackers, paper plates and paper cups (these two because you are so tired of doing dishes by the second or third day that the cups and plates are really just saving your sanity). Trip No. 3 is always because you forgot to get Purell, Lysol or some other crazy disinfectant as well as this week’s People magazine or Better Homes & Gardens. (Oh, and more laundry detergent.)

So after all this cleaning and running to the store and laundry that you do for your sick family, you now get your just reward: to sleep in the den or guest room or on the couch because you cannot take a chance on getting sick yourself. So you stay away from your family — unless they need you — in your fortress of solitude that you have made and disinfected for yourself.

So when the flu bug comes a knockin’, get ready, because your family needs you and you might someday need them.

You just pray it doesn’t happen all at the same time.

Tribune Publisher Scott Schmeltzer’s column appears every Thursday.