To start, it’s worth noting that I have been considering GI problems since we decided to make a two week trip to Peru. I’ve read up on the water conditions in Peru; we’ve purchased a purification wand; and I’m ready to start brushing my teeth with bottled water, avoid fresh veggies and drink only what I’ve sterilized or purchased come this Thursday, when we arrive in Peru. I’ve been to India twice and Africa once, I’m no stranger to travel issues that involve stomach bugs; so I was already on board with precaution preparations. I was not however prepared to get the mother of all stomach bugs here in New England. Of course with the Norwalk Virus (the likely culprit), I should have considered the ironic fact that we would actually be in Norwalk, CT for a little while.
Shazam! Faster than you could say hand me a bucket, I was doubled over in both directions. Doubled. Over. This bug (a friendly little word for something much worse) was not fooling around. When it hit, it hit with a fury and all of my good intentions and plans to avoid S. American yuckiness
congealed (that word brings back horrific memories) morphed into a good and proper N. American sucker punch to the gut. Suffice it to say that N. America gives it’s southern bug brother a serious marathon run for its money. I was pretty sure I might die, and Smart Guy was pretty sure an ambulance should be called. I refused the trip to a hospital on the mere fact that I would not be seen in that state by anyone… I’d rather die in a lousy Doubletree room. The pain was unreal, the destruction was truly impressive. I cried. I wailed. I apologized out lout, uselessly, to the baby I cuddled and each cousin I hugged. I called out to God and Jesus, totally ironic as this whole thing started at a Bat Mitzvah.
Right, a Bat Mitzvah. The weekend, in fact, started so nicely. My sister in law and I spent Friday running around shopping for last minute items for the big event and the throng of guests that would be at her house throughout the weekend. We laughed a lot, as we always do, we whined about having so much to do, we did a lot of things… but we did not worry about touching grocery carts or other objects that infected people might be touching. We did not wash our hands as much as we might have had we known what was coming. We were in mission mode and getting things done. We got a good thunder storm in, and a trip to Stew Leonard’s (in Ripleys!). We were busy getting things done. Washing hands was not one of those things.
And so we were happy when everything was falling into place on Saturday. The party went off without a hitch. My sister in law is a detail gal and every detail was perfect. Beautiful balloon arrangements that matched the tables, that matched the kippahs, that matched pretty much everything, perfectly. The venue was in Norwalk, CT right on the water and it was a gorgeous, sunny day. A lot of our family was there and we all sat around eating (and drinking) by the Sound, as the day passed perfectly. Somewhere in the latter part of the day, I started to not feel so great. I figured it was grapefruit cocktails too early in the day and stopped drinking; turned to water only for the rest of the day. I stopped eating chocolate cupcakes and other yummy stuff. I didn’t think I was sick, only that my stomach was off a little from the travel and all the work of the week before. And because I didn’t think I was sick, I held babies, I hugged everyone, I danced close, and kissed people goodbye. This would haunt me in my doubled over state a few hours later.
We continued the day back at the house with more food (namely lasagna, a food I will not eat for a long while) and fireflies; my vacation seemed almost perfect on day two! Thunder and fireflies, two of my favorite things… family and the ocean, perfection. So when my stomach started grumbling, just before we headed to the hotel I couldn’t quite imagine things going bad. Really bad. But bad they were about an two hours later, and bad they stayed for many hours more. Very, very bad. I am sure that I haven’t been that sick in many years and hope to not be that sick ever again. I certainly feel that I’ve paid the stomach Gods and should be spared any discomfort in S. America.
The next morning when I was still barely able to stand, I had to rally enough to check out of the hotel, where I was plastered to the very fluffy pile of pillows on my bed, to attend the post Bat Mitzvah brunch. I was dying to eat bagels and lox right right about then. As we drove over, I got word that my sister in law had spent the night bowing to the same porcelain gods as me, and was out for the count at the house. When we arrived I made a bee line for her room. Misery needs company in such situations. I grabbed a pile of blankets and pillows and settled on the floor (For the record, my SIL offered a space next to her on the bed, but misery doesn’t need that much company). Combined, we’d lost 8 lbs, split pretty much down the middle on the scale. We lay there in our Typhoid Mary den of misery watching Pride and Prejudice, the one with Keira Knightly and oohing and ahhing to all sweepingly romantic scenes, as the party thumped on below us. As I lay there listening to aunts and uncles, nieces, nephews, friends and strangers laugh and the younger kids squeal, strange thoughts passed through my foggy and wearied brain:
None of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills would lie on the floor if they were sick. Pink Agendist wouldn’t lie on the floor either (unless, maybe there were some kind of Gucci pillows all around him). I bet it was the artichoke and goat cheese balls. I wish I was by the sea. I’m not training for the Inca trail, it’s going to be a bitch. Mr. Darcy does have beautiful eyes. I hate lasagna. Hate. Lasagna. I miss my mom. I miss my mother in law. I wonder if they have capers with the lox…
By late in the day the two of us made our way down stairs, trading floors and beds for the sofa. The guests had gone and the house was quiet. Others had cleaned up and the idea of food was far from the agenda anyway. About that time we settled downstairs, Smart Guy started saying that he didn’t feel so well, he felt hot. “I have myalgias,” he informed my 15 year old nephew. Nephew glanced at me for translation. Aches and pains, reassured him. Despite his hifalutin’ medical jargon, SIL and I felt the right amount of pity for our potential comrade and said the appropriate compassionate things: “poor guy, how’s your stomach?” We coo’ed and nodded knowingly. We knew the worst was still to come. Admittedly, I knew what was coming though, as Smart Guy doesn’t do sick well and this was sick. When my brother in law decided to take Middle Man, my nephew and Little Man for clam pizza at Peppes (cruel on so many levels) and a movie and left us all lying prone in front of the TV, I selfishly thought Damn, I can’t clean up after someone right now. Then Smart Guy took a turn for the worse.
He insisted that he felt very hot, but had none of the horrific stomach stuff that we were united by. We were starting to feel a tiny bit less badly for him, if truth be told. But we were on the mend and he was going down, so we got him water, and blankets, and more water, and Tylenol, and just about everything he asked for in his limp, possibly dying voice. When he became convinced that he needed to know his temperature my SIL went to search for a thermometer. For the record, again, SIL and I were moving slowly at best and just eating toast (our first food in more than 24 hrs). All she could find was a some strange strip that you hold on your forehead and it tell you your temperature in colors. When Smart Guy let me hold it there (he was too weak) it read 104. I wasn’t sure as the mood colors weren’t totally lit up. I asked my SIL to check as well and we both agreed that it was at least in the 102 box and appeared to be in the 104 range. Oops. Maybe he was in fact sick? “Shit. That’s not good,” he told us.
Within a few minutes he had his iPhone out and started researching causes. Given his recent Yellow Fever shot, he came to the rapid conclusion that this was a rare but serious reaction to his Yellow Fever vaccination, the week before. “Oh man, this only happens to 1/250,000” Yes, that’s why it’s especially unlikely, was as snarky as I could be in my weakened condition. SIL gave me her signature eye brow raise, as we silently considered the situation. “I might need to go to the hospital.” SIL and I looked at each other nervously. Neither of us was driving anywhere, and the guy was wailing in a bathroom, so our compassion was drying up… but, what if this fever meant something. 104 was worth noticing, but his forehead just didn’t feel that warm. You really don’t feel that warm honey. “I’m burning up,” he said listlessly. It should be noted that is general composure wilted noticeably when he heard the number 104. “Check my temperature again.” I put the strip to his forehead again and the 104 box lit up clearly. Um, well, it’s definitely 104 now. SIL looked at it and said, “Yep, it’s all the way over to right in colors.”
Smart Guy wilted further and then glanced at his iPhone again. “Multiple organ failure and then death is possible,” he shared with us. SIL switched to Jon Stewart and I’m sure she was trying to figure out (like I was) whether the rest of the family would hold it against us if we didn’t get him to the hospital in time. We were skeptical, but also aware that 104 in an adult is very serious, and maybe we were being stupid just sitting there. “Jaundice is a clear sign of this, are my eyes yellow?” Smart Guy pulled his lower lids down so that we could check his eye balls and SIL and I dissolved into pee your pants fits of laughter that caused our stomaches to revolt into fresh spasms of pain, making us laugh and cry at the same time. Smart Guy did not find it funny. I can understand that no one wants to die to the sound of laughter, but we could not stop.
As soon as SIL could compose herself she went to look for a real thermometer. I was not racing to the hospital on the word of a glorified mood ring. I have prided myself for years on knowing the temperature of my kids and spouses with the touch of my hand. The fact that a strip of plastic read purple did not seem reasonable. SIL came back with a real thermometer and Smart Guy limply held it under his tongue. A minute later it informed us that his temperature was in fact 101.2. He didn’t believe it and checked it again, immediately while SIL and I settled back onto the couch, confident that we would not be driving anywhere and our comrade was no longer part of the outbreak. Fever vs chills, sweats and illness that brings significant weight loss is not, I repeat, not equal. “You know these things (thermometers) can be off by as much as .5 to .7,” he informed us. So, your temperature might be in the 100.5 range as well? He glared at me and sank back on this pillows. Honey, be happy. You’re going to survive Yellow Fever.
This morning I awoke to the sound of violent thunder. The house seemed to shake for nearly an hour. I lay in bed smiling, not ready to get up but so happy to hear the sound. I love thunder. Love it. To lie in bed and listen to it only makes my soul sing. I wanted to sleep longer, but didn’t want to miss the show. Yet, as much as I wanted to go sit on the covered porch and listen and watch more closely, I wasn’t quite ready for that. Smart Guy woke a little while later and announced, “I think we’re through the worst of it.” Uh, you did’t have the worst of it hon. He ignored me at first and then turned and said, “I’m not going to argue about this.” I’m not arguing; I’m discussing, I replied, borrowing his favorite line. Look I’ll give you the fever. I’ve had fevers before; it sucks. But, you were hot for a while on a comfy sofa, while your sister and I were pretty damned sick for much of a night. The two don’t equal each other. Smart Guy headed to the shower with a look of disgust, that I probably deserved.
Upstairs we all agreed that we all felt a lot better, not quite well. Jumping in a car and driving 4 hrs to our Vermont reunion was not high on list of things we were dying to do, but we packed none the less. Smart Guy tried cooking a bagel over and over, each time forgetting he’d put it in the toaster and informing us all that he was suffering from “mental lapses” from his fever the day before. Better than the myalgias, we all snickered.
It was slow going, but the two cars got packed and we all headed out. We listened to pod casts, sang along to indie folk music and joked about the visit so far. There are no shortage of stories when this tribe convenes. We stopped in Northampton, MA for lunch. As hard as it would have been to pass on Captain Jack’s Fried Clams, I admit to some relief that it was closed. As a transplanted New Englander, I never pass on real fried clams, but I’m not sure that it would make the first real meal in two days. We settled for Noodles, one of the many hip places to eat in this super cool Western MA town where Principessa went to college. Driving through town without her, knowing we wouldn’t be here much anymore, was bitter sweet. As we all ate lunch the thunder returned. So far, all things considered, it’s still been a pretty good adventure so far. We survived Yellow Fever, Norwalk, and there were some fireflies and thunder for bonus points. On to Vermont and in three days we land in Peru. What a strange strange trip it’s been… So far.
Do you think men handle illness better or worse then women? Do your summer adventures include travel or nesting at home? Jump in and share your thoughts.
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