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   Date: 11/20/09 Bookmark and Share

Influenza Season 2009

Note: Following Thanksgiving break, the isolation guidelines for students with roommates will change. After students return to campus November 29, if they are instructed by a health professional to isolate, they may stay in their own rooms whether or not they have a roommate. This change allows the ill student—the individual who is most in need of rest—to stay put. If her roommate wishes to relocate during her recuperation, the well roommate will be able to get a room at Smith’s residence at 44 Green Street and maintain her regular schedule from the temporary location.

For students without a roommate, this is not a change. Meanwhile, students may purchase a thermometer from health services for $3.

Julie Colatrella, the student writer in College Relations, relates her recent experience in isolation with the flu.

Life at 44 Green Street, or How I Survived the Swine of ‘09

By Julie Colatrella ’12

Isolation. It’s a word that makes students shiver. The idea of being yanked away from society and thrown into a germ-ridden swine jail does not exactly have students lining up outside 44 Green Street begging to get in.

However, a collection of students wearing face masks—their badges of solidarity—can loudly declare they survived “The Swine of ’09.” After a recent week in isolation at 44 Green Street, I am proud to say I am among them.

Maybe it wasn’t the best idea for me to continue hanging around my friends after they had gotten the notorious cough. But I figured, hey, I had hand sanitizer and enough orange juice to power a basketball team—I was covered.

Needless to say, I wasn’t. When I woke up Saturday morning leaking from every opening on my face, I regretted my logic.

I dialed health services in a haze, prepared to do anything they ordered. They asked what my fever was. Having not obeyed the warnings to buy a thermometer before getting sick, I couldn’t answer them, so they told me I would have to “go into self-isolation” (what a nice euphemism)— call Public Safety for a ride to the dreaded 44 Green.

Too sick to care, I did as I was told. I packed a bag full of clean underwear and DVDs, grabbed my laptop and every painkiller in sight, and donned my face mask as I ducked into the back of the Public Safety car, my concerned housemates watching from a safe distance.

The house itself was a little intimidating. I expected to find Narnia behind each labyrinth-like turn. My room was separated from the other rooms, locked away behind a door, which was hidden behind a door, which was many feet from the bathrooms. It took a few tries before I learned my way around, but by the second day I had claimed it as my own.

Roommate-free for the first time in months, I appreciated the freedom to go about my laptop activities sans headphones, leave my dirty clothing scattered, and cough and sniffle as obnoxiously as I pleased. Having a single bathroom with a door instead of a stall wasn’t too shabby either, and I was grateful for waking in the mornings without a blaring alarm clock.

But as any “swiney” will tell you—and as Kathleen Zieja, director of dining services, confirms—the best part of 44 Green Street is the food.

For the first few hours, it’s not food you’re particularly interested in; individually wrapped cheese products, dry cookies and meat from the dining hall, none of which is considered palatable to the deadened taste buds of the swine victim. But toward the end of my stay at 44 Green, I came to recognize the kitchen as a beacon of heaven: Haagen Dasz ice cream and Easy Mac, oatmeal cookies and those cute little cereal boxes that function as their own bowls, packaged meals from the dining staff that appear as if delivered by elves in the night.

I appreciate Smith dining as much as the next student, but if I had to stuff my face without reservation, this was certainly the way to do it. I was glad when I finally broke out of my isolation, but whenever I find a fellow 44 Greener, it is always the food we reminisce about.

Still, even with the comfort food and appreciated alone time, Green Street was no vacation resort. Yes, it functioned as the ultimate excuse not to do my work, but only because I was too delirious to comprehend anything other than old reruns of Kenan and Kel via YouTube.

A week later, I am still not completely caught up on what I now refer to with a wave of my hand as “all that work I can’t even think about right now.” But my professors have been more than supportive.

All in all, isolation at 44 Green isn’t the worst thing that could happen to a sick Smithie. True, you can’t hang around your friends, and Mom isn’t there with her famous matzoh ball soup, but if the school didn’t force us to stay in bed by locking us into one, we, as notorious over-achievers, probably wouldn’t know how to take a break from our work and focus on healing ourselves.

My only advice to the healthy ones out there: Buy a thermometer before you get sick. That Kraft Mac may be good, but it is certainly not worth the hours spent trying to catch up on work afterwards.

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