Thursday, January 10, 2013


By this time last year we had been through so many boxes of masks we were reduced to using the leftover pedi masks with the teddy bears on them, but not a lot of actual flu.  Until Christmas Eve we had not seen a single positive flu swab when we had a 4 year old with pneumonia.  Flu positive and very sick.  Lots of:

"I have the flu"
"I might have the flu"
"I think I have the flu"
"I have been exposed to flu"
"I am sick, therefore I have the flu"
"Can I have a work in case I get the flu?"

None of these patients were sick enough to cease using their cell phones,  stop yelling at their unruly spawn, or had skipped a stop for coffee or a Happy Meal on the way in.  Their diagnoses?

Douchetard Mancold
Looking for a work note, duh.

All that changed two weeks ago when we tripled our usual number of patients, along with the rest of the US who are now experiencing overwhelming numbers of patients.  It is Flu-mageddon.  One particularly awful day was the kick-off event with the waiting room full of families wanting to be seen en masse for cough and cold along with our usual collection of Saturday afternoon back pain, dental pain and other narcotic seeking individuals.   Bobo, of course, blamed the nurses for not getting people out of the department quickly enough.  What a tool.  I delighted in sabotaging his door-to-doc times by triaging at the speed of sound, keeping every room filled, parking lab pending's in the hallway, and calling in another nurse along with keeping the entire day shift.  I'll show you passive aggressive; he was beside himself.   Lucky for him The Talker just showed up to bail him out.  I love the Talker, excellent team player.  Bobo take notice.  

There was an awful lot of "I don't feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel goooooooooooood!"  which made it tough to take care of the finger amputations, granny dumps, vomiting infants and the like who all needed a room at the same time.   

The Talker spent 20 minutes trying to explain (in English and at a grade 6 level of comprehension to a 22 year old man and his father who had signed in together with father-son Man Cold) that ANTIBIOTICS DO NOT CURE VIRUSES.  "Well", said the father indignantly, "why didn't they tell me that when I called to ask if you treat the flu?"

"People are absolutely incapable of taking responsibility for themselves", said the Talker shaking his head in disgust.  "I have been telling everyone to look on the CDC website,  I'm sure nobody has".  For  the Talker, that was an unprecedented and scathing commentary on the degradation of society as a whole.

Me: "Why should they, it's easier just to come here for nothing and have you explain it to them"

Here is the information, in case anyone cares, from the CDC website: (

What are the symptoms of the flu versus the symptoms of a cold?

In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more common and intense. Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations. 
(from CDC website

I'm thinking that the numbers might not be so overwhelming except whole families are checking in at the same time.  WTF?  This cannot be a phenomenon limited to our own small ER.  Usually it is a pair of adults and 2,3,4 kids all for the same thing: cough, runny nose.  NONE of these people are sick enough to go to the ER.  The kids have rarely even missed a day of school.  We have simply stopped doing flu swabs on most people and the pharmacies have run out of Tamiflu.  

One family was brought by the dad because his wife was at home sick.  The oldest kid was a teenager with cough for 2 weeks; the younger kid about 11 with cough for 1 week.  Dad "just didn't want to get the flu like everyone else".   Really?  All three immediately donned masks.  Thank you, coughers, for not exposing Ellen.

Our doc decided to flu swab the teenager along with a rapid strep test since he had won the prize for the longest symptoms.   "OK, bud, you're taking one for the team", I told him as I stuck the flu swab up his nose.  Both were negative.  They went home with cough medicine to share.  

Paranoid Dad: "How can I keep from getting sick?"
Me: "You've probably already been exposed, but good hand washing is always recommended"
Paranoid Dad: "Will I get it if I wear a mask?"
Me; "No telling.  Let me consult my Magic 8 Ball"

I really do have one.  "It is decidedly so"

Paranoid Dad: "Can I have a handful of masks to take home with me?"
Me: "No"

Go buy your own masks.
If we gave a "handful of masks" to everyone who wanted them, we would be out of masks in a day.  

In addition to the Magic 8 Ball,  I also have a Sarcastic Ball that Lisa gave me for Christmas:

 Not that I ever need much help to come up with a snappy retort.  Go here to play with the virtual one.

My next addition to the toy pile will be this:
Just like the "Easy" button!