On Their Own

Elysse Madonna sniffles and clears her throat as she attempts to speak, “I feel like I’ve been sick forever. Once I’m almost over the Flu, someone else who has it gives it back to me. It just never stops.” Madonna, a freshman at Bloomsburg University, is referring to an epidemic that has attacked  a large portion of Bloomsburg University’s 8,500 students: the Influenza outbreak.

Many students share Madonna’s frustrated feelings about the lingering sickness. The pesky virus can cause  multiple symptoms to erupt at the same time, spur frequent trips to the crowded Health Center, and temporarily disabled so many college students from the daily routine.

A sore throat or a throbbing headache is bad enough. Combine these common cold symptoms with, a raging fever of at least 100 degrees, painful sinus congestion, body aches, a hoarse cough, an incessant runny nose, dizziness and nausea, and one has successfully described the crippling Influenza virus.

“My fever and dizziness were so bad, I could barely stand and hold up my own body weight,” says Rachel Yanchek, a freshman, who contracted the virus in early February. “My body felt so heavy, kind of like there were weights attached to my arms and legs,” she continues.

Though Yanchek’s body aches and fever debilitated her the most personally, others were more affected by other symptoms of the Flu. Jeremy Rhen, also a freshman attending the University, felt that his severe sinus congestion had the worst effect on his health. “It was so bad, not being able to breathe. It led to me losing a lot of sleep and waking up extremely frustrated,” said Rhen.

Another freshman, Elisabeth Walter, said that being sick while away from home for the first time helped make the experience even worst. “I had pain everywhere and my fever was so high. I called my mom all the time, asking her what I could do to feel better. It was not a fun time at all.”

All of the harsh symptoms experienced by the interviewees were experienced by countless other students all over campus. The question is, what can they do in an effort to become healthy again and to rid their bodies of the sickness?

There are said to be many cures for illnesses such as the common cold and the influenza virus, but which ones did the students at Bloomsburg University find most helpful? “I drank a lot of fluids, especially tea, and slept as much as I could and I think that helped a lot,” says Madonna when asked how she took care of herself while sick. Rhen, who took a more medicated approach to weeding out the sickness in his body, went to the Health Center where he was given decongestants and medication for a pink eye infection. Yanchek, who also took a trip to the Health Center, tried to feel healthier as naturally as possible. She states, “I tried to eat really healthy, nutrient-rich foods and drank orange juice. I also slept for a whole day.”

Though medication eased the effects of the Flu virus for many, the most efficient remedies seemed to be plenty of  rest and increased fluid intake. Yet, many students stayed sick longer than they would have if they had been at home. Leave it to college campuses to spread germs like wildfire.

“I felt like everyone I knew was sick, or becoming sick, or just getting over having the Flu,” said Rhen. Madonna shared his insight. “Being cooped up in my dorm room was the reason I stayed sick so long. I couldn’t escape the germs, they were everywhere,” she said. The constant interaction and close living quarters among healthy and sick students in dorms and apartments may have aided in prolonging the illness across campus. The blistering winter winds and snow, which certainly didn’t help, made for a lengthy Flu season for so many students, professors, and workers at Bloomsburg University. When Mom and Dad are far away, who did the students call upon for help and the best healing methods?

Walter says she could not have gotten better if it were not for the help and care from her neighbor, Elysse Madonna. “She made sure I didn’t pass out in the shower one night, brought me damp washcloths to bring my fever down and always checked up on me,” Walter says of Madonna’s helpful efforts. “She really is just the best neighbor and she genuinely cared and wanted me to feel better. I’m really thankful for that,” said Walter. Other students, like Rhen, took a more humorous approach to the Flu outbreak, and tried to find the irony in every case. “We would all just point fingers and say ‘Dude, you did this to me,’ to all of our friends. It was kind of a way of lightening the mood and it helped us forget about how bad we felt for the time being,” said Rhen. Therefore, it was possibly the tight-knit friendships amongst the Bloomsburg students that played the biggest recovery role during the outbreak.

Yet, with recovery came make-up assignments in class, notes to copy from others, missed tests and quizzes, and irretrievable class time that was lost. Not everyone that was infected with the Influenza virus fell behind in their classes, but some found it increasingly difficult to pay attention and focus while they were ill. “I had no motivation to study at all, even though I managed to go to all my classes. I felt like it would have been more worthwhile just to sleep the day away,” says Madonna. Yanchek, whose situation was similar, found it hard to force herself out of bed for her 8 a.m. classes every Monday and Wednesday. She said, “Waking up in the mornings was brutal. I just wanted to sleep and I could barely stay awake in class.” These students chose to stay active in their educations by attending class, when the only places they wanted to be were their beds.

Loss of sleep should no longer be an issue for students upon their return back to classes after a week-long Spring break retreat. The crucial rest and relaxation healed many over the short respite, and the Influenza virus has almost completely exited the campus. Yet, hopefully the students will be better prepared for next year when the contagious illness will undoubtedly rear its ugly head once more. Ample sleep, the good company and care of friends, and lots of orange juice should put this insistent virus back in its place.

For more information on how to avoid becoming infected by the view, take a look at some helpful advice at collegetips.com

(Title photo by Davide Taviani through creative commons)

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