Friday, May 9, 2014

Attack of the NORO VIRUS

Dun Dun Duuuun. 

You might have picked up by now that I work at an assisted living home. If you've never been to one, it's basically set up as an apartment complex with a dozen extra common areas, a library, game room, fireplace/sitting room, activity room and common kitchen area. Most importantly, a dining room, where three times a day, every single resident gathers together to eat. 

This leads to one simple fact, if one person gets sick ... everyone gets sick. As caregivers, we are used to this. And we take steps to lessen the impact. Meal trays, disinfectant, gloves and masks. But then the Noro Virus made my workplace it's playground. 

In all the years I have worked in this field, I have never ever seen anything like this. On day one, one person got sick. On day two, four more got sick. This is normal and this is when we start isolating the people close to the sick people and keeping an eye out. But by day three, five employees were sick and ten residents were sick. We went into full quarantine where the dining room closed and everyone was confined to their apartments. And the staff moves from masks and gloves to masks, gloves, protective single use gowns and paper booties. 

This is very rare but it does happen. This gives us a chance to identify the people who become ill before they have the chance to spread it around further. We keep them in their apartments and the infection dies out. Usually the quarantine only lasts a couple days and since it only happens every few years, the residents mostly view it as exciting. Meals are brought to me? Who else caught it now? Can I sneak downstairs without the staff finding me???

The employees view it as hell but suck it up. 

However, this time was different. By day four, the sick list rose up to thirty people and it kept climbing. Over ten people had to go to the emergency room and one lovely gentleman died. And even with all our precautions, people kept getting sick!! 

The hospital finally confirmed that it was the Noro Virus. The tests take 48 hours to confirm and by then, it was everywhere. Bad Ol Noro is highly contagious through vomit and feces and one of the residents was unfortunate enough to vomit in the dining room on day two. That is why our normal containment strategy did not work. 

We have been in quarantine for a whole week now and no one new has gotten sick for two days but it has been a nightmare. 

And I am exhausted. As a staff member, we had to figure out how to deliver all three meals to 80 plus residents. All of whom want a different thing. Some of them need help eating. One by one. 

As a caregiver, well .... The Noro Virus causes severe vomiting and diarrhea. Who's job is it to clean all that up? Yup. Mine. I've been wiping bottoms, striping beds and cleaning up puke from before sun up to sun down. Pretty much all of us caregivers have been pulling double shifts and we still can't keep up. 

I only come home to sleep for about 5 hours and then I'm back at work. And in only 24 short hours, my lovely and amazing fiancĂ© is graduating with three degrees. Oh and approximately 45 people are coming to my house for a BBQ. 

I should probably go to the store or clean my house or something. I have no food, no decorations, and no beds made for the ten people staying the night. 

But I did manage to order the cake and balloons! Go me!

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