A Germaphobe’s Guide to the Holidays

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I love everything about the holidays. The music. The food. The carbs. The festive spirit that makes even the dumbest Hallmark movie seem quaint and charming. While I eschew The Hallmark Channel for the other 11 months of the year, for these few weeks, I tolerate the weak plot lines, terrible acting, and the tons of synthetic snow they import from China. I suspend my cynicism and convince myself that this stuff is A-OK— you know, just like Matt Lauer did with his overactive penis.

Anyway, while this season heralds many wonderful things (the extended holiday selection at Starbucks being one of my particular favorites), not everything about this time of year is so great. Yes, I’m talking about all the cold & flu viral cooties that float around faster than Hallmark’s plastic snowflakes. For the average person, this is only a minor annoyance. Perhaps some sniffles here and there, and odd sick day from work. Nothing that Tylenol Cold and a shot of whiskey can’t handle.

But, for someone with spinal muscular atrophy, like me, a minor cold can turn into fucking Armageddon. Like the kind with Bruce Willis and that damn asteroid. Or the kind that wipes out all the dinosaurs on Earth—except for Barney… and Larry King.

So, to call me a germaphobe would be a vast understatement. It would be like calling Einstein merely ‘clever’ or saying that Donald Trump just ‘somewhat likes’ using hairspray.

I am a full-fledged germ freak. If I hear someone cough or sneeze, my ears suddenly morph into the radar of a Navy submarine. I quickly determine the distance between me and the sick person, and if I need to undertake any evasive maneuvers like Sean Connery in The Hunt for Red October. I will burrow into the ocean floor if need be. Don’t think I won’t.

If they’ve done something especially stupid, like cough directly into their own hand (instead of the crook of their elbow), I’ll glare at them maliciously while I catalogue every surface that they touch with their virus-ridden hand.

Yes, I really am that bad.

And, yes, it really is stupid to cough or sneeze into your own hand. You should always cover your face with your arm, instead. Less chance of spreading the virus to others.

Anyway, given the respiratory weakness of those with SMA, it is very difficult for us to keep our lungs clear. It is harder for us to cough. Harder for us to blow our nose. So, the drainage that might only be an annoyance to you, can become dangerous to a person like me. It can settle in our chest and potentially cause serious issues.

If I do get sick, I have to be very diligent. I vigorously use my respiratory devices (BiPAP, nebulizer, and CoughAssist) to prevent any complications. Under the best of circumstances, it can take me at least 10 days to 2 weeks to get over a mild cold. More serious illnesses can knock me out for even longer.

As happy and joyful as the holiday season is for me, it can be difficult, too. To the average person, an invite to a holiday cocktail party is immediately accepted. After all, who doesn’t like eggnog and a free selection of crackers and salami?

But, for me, deciding to attend the party would be a gamble. Like playing Russian Roulette or marrying a Kennedy. As much as I love eggnog (which, I do!), I must weigh that against the fact that at least one or two dipshits will probably attend the party even though they are sick and should stay home. Do I want to risk that they won’t sneeze near the salami? Do they know how to properly wash their hands?? What if they actually try to hug me???

Oh, the horror.

This kind of analysis runs through my head with every holiday invite that I receive. Before accepting anything, I quickly consult my calendar to make sure I have nothing important to do for the following two weeks after the event on the off-chance that some fuckhead gets me sick.

You can imagine why it might be easier for me to sit at home this time of year and watch badly-written Hallmark movies, instead. Fake snowstorms are far more palatable than hacking up part of a lung.

Nonetheless, it also isn’t healthy for a person to hide away in their house like the Unabomber. So, I try to venture out from time to time… armed with plenty of Purell, of course.

But, if I turn down an invite to your holiday event, please don’t take it personally. This doesn’t mean that I don’t like you, or that I hate salami… or eggnog. It just might mean that I’m worried your other guests might be carriers of the bubonic plague or some other horrible disease.

So, yeah… nothing personal.

Happy Holidays to you all!

xoears2

#januarying

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When the Romans weren’t busy building aqueducts and drinking lots of wine, they took time out to create a unifying calendar system. After all, it’s impossible to run an empire if everyone can’t agree on something as basic as what day is Wednesday. Can you imagine the chaos? It would’ve been like the U.S. Congress, only more Italian.

January is named after the Latin word for door— ianua. Since the month is the door into the new year, the Romans thought Ianuarius was a fitting name. While I’m not inclined to disagree with the dead guys that created the calendar, I must say that I don’t think that January is the most forgiving of months.

I have several reasons for this assessment. First of all, if you’re like me, your body is still recovering from the holiday food onslaught which seems to begin earlier each year. While I eagerly inhale a pumpkin spice muffin in October, by the end of December, my colon makes me drop the damn sugar cookie and back away from the cheese ball. And it really doesn’t take no for an answer. Just like Donald Trump.

I’m sure you feel that post-holiday sluggishness, too. That knot that forms in your stomach when you force down that last stuffed mushroom off the plate. But, you have to eat it, right? It looks lonely on the platter all by itself.

These cold and dreary January days don’t inspire feats of achievement, either. You may tell yourself to go to the gym, but you’re more likely to sit on your ass and watch The Bachelor while wearing the ugly Christmas pajamas your in-laws gave you. No need to hide it, I know you want to see how many girls Nick Viall can shag before the season is over.

Yes, January inspires laziness. Last week it was rainy and gloomy— like much of this month has been— and I decided to drink milk that was three days beyond its expiration date just so I could avoid going to the store. (Don’t worry, I did smell the milk first.)

But, for me, the biggest challenge of the month is of the cold and flu variety. I find it distressing to know that there are enough cooties floating around in January to fill the Hindenburg. It’s not unusual to find me shirking away from hugs and kisses during this time, and cleaning my cell phone with rubbing alcohol and a Q-Tip.

I realize I sound obsessive-compulsive. But, if you only had one functional lung, you’d be just as freaked out as I am. A little cold can quickly turn into pneumonia for the elderly, or disabled folks like me. So, think about that when you venture out into public when you are sick. You never know how far your germs may reach.

And on that uplifting note, have a happy January. But, for goodness sake, wash your hands!