Taking a walk on the Norwalk

Michael Johansen
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No matter how much I wanted to, no matter how much I dreamed for it to happen, I could not bring myself to vomit.
I had some friendly, graphic advice on how to stick my fingers down my throat to induce the gag reflex. I was assured that emptying my stomach would make me feel a whole lot better, at least for a little while. I believed the assurance, but it wasn't enough. Call it a silly quirk of mine, but I just don't enjoy throwing up. The bucket I had all ready for the act remained nearby, but unused. I chose instead to simply lie on the couch and groan pitifully.
As a journalist, there are some stories I like to cover and some I don't. Germans are tearing down the Berlin Wall and are soon to unite a country that has been split apart since the Second World War? I'll be there.
A historic leader dies and the whole Quebecois nation mourns? I'll witness that.
A young man sets off to follow his grandfather's footsteps across 300 kilometres of Labrador wilderness? I'll definitely cover it.
A biologist works alone to rehabilitate a rare and delicate species of butterfly? I want to see that.
Schools are starting to look empty as dozens and dozens of Labrador children get sick with the norovirus? I'll give it a pass, if you don't mind.
Sure, it's an important story and someone should cover it. When a quarter of a school's student roster is forced to stay home because the girls and boys are laid up with a highly contagious gastric flu that is attacking both their stomachs and small intestines, then the public should know.
The norovirus, once called the Norwalk virus, is known largely for its appearances in schools and on cruise ships and is a particular nuisance in isolated communities like those found in Labrador, where there's lots of indoor interaction between people in the middle of winter.
An outbreak is very difficult to control, since by the time it's identified it has already spread far beyond the initial hosts. All you can do is isolate the sufferers until at least 48 hours after the symptoms disappear and hope for the best.
As I said, I wasn't so keen on covering this story. In fact, I thought it would be a good idea to avoid stories about schools altogether and, also, to only use the telephone if I wanted to talk with any of my friends who have children.
I also continued my public-health-approved habit of washing my hands as often as possible. Unfortunately, the story tracked me down instead - and it brought the flu with it.
I would not recommend getting the norovirus to anyone. You can't eat. You can hardly drink. You can't go for walks. You can't do any work. You can't read, play games or surf the Internet. All you can do is sleep (if lucky) or watch television.
However, since I find myself in the thick of the story, I can do no less than my job. So I must report that this virus is a real pain in the gut - and in a few other places as well.
I must also report that there's nothing worth watching on TV in the middle of the day, unless you enjoy circus-like courtroom shows, soapy melodramas, loud game shows or films made by directors who like nausea-inducing camera angles - not, however, nausea-inducing enough.
Luckily, I have one more thing to report - something of interest especially to those who still have the virus in their future, but haven't yet felt its squeezing grip. This flu is strong, but it has a vulnerability. The worst symptoms are supposed to last a couple of days, but if you overwhelm them with crushing, mind-numbing boredom, you might get them gone after 24 hours. I don't know if it will work for everyone, but it seemed to work for me.

Michael Johansen is a writer living in Labrador.

Geographic location: Norwalk, Labrador, Berlin Wall

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