Friday, April 3, 2015

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me the News

The most poetical thing in the world is not being sick.~ G.K. Chesterton

Poetry in my life has been noticeably missing in action the past few days because, oh, boy, have I been sick. And I don't get sick.

After a fine start to my Tuesday, breakfast and a walk, it was barely after 1:00 when a hammer came down and I was suddenly sick as a dog.  No warning, no gradual feelings of illness, just one moment fine and the next gone.

I spent all of Tuesday in a haze of vomiting and sleeping, not even able to keep water down. By the time I got up on Wednesday, I'd lost six pounds and was still retching. Something was seriously wrong here.

By mid-afternoon, I had the sense to message the friends with whom I had dinner plans scheduled, explaining my dilemma. Despite their relative youth to mine, their response was quick and authoritative: "We are totally MOM-ing you, Karen. Go to the doctor!"

The problem with that was when I called the doctor and they found out I'd already been vomiting for 27 hours and couldn't even keep water down, I was instructed to get myself to the emergency room. Which I did and promptly barfed in front of a room full of waiting patients. Pretty.

I wish I could say they identified my ills quickly and I was out shortly, but life doesn't work that way. X-rays, blood work, EKG, urinalysis, you name it, they tried to figure it out, along the way dosing me with a smorgasbord of anti-nausea drugs, painkillers and enough liquids intravenously to rehydrate a man twice my size.

In fact at one point, my extremely tall doctor came in, glanced at the near-empty bag of solution dripping into my scrawny arm and marveled, "Wow, you must have been completely dried out to suck down that much liquid so quickly."

You think? As someone who normally takes in over a gallon of water a day and it had already been way more than a day, I expect my body was being the water glutton that it is.

When it was time for the shift switch, my doctor came in to check on me and tell me who his successor would be. "His name is Dr. Li." Looking at the 6'5" man standing in front of me and taking an educated guess with a name such as Li, I quipped, I bet he'll be shorter than you.

"He is, but so is everyone. That doesn't make him special, though." So he left me with a smile.

What I wanted more than anything was water or even a Coke because it had been so long since I'd been able to drink. But when I finally cajoled my nurse into letting me try a little ginger ale, I was rewarded with more retching. So much for that.

By 11:00 p.m., I was finally released from the emergency unit and sent to the observation unit, which was far calmer and had just as many good ant-nausea drugs. The night and next day were a blur of vomiting, drug-induced napping and periodic attempts at more ginger ale, each time only setting me off again.

"You look pretty awful," one female doctor told me after examining me. Tell me something I couldn't have guessed, doc.

And then, with the same abrupt manner it had descended, I felt the veil of food poisoning (because that's what they'd decided after ruling out every possible physical cause) begin to lift. My fifth attempt at ginger ale stayed down.

When my nurse asked what I wanted to try next, I told her I'd take whatever she had. I ate it all. Peanut butter and Ritz crackers, Lorna Doone short bread. Strawberry jello. Graham crackers. A bowl of chicken soup.

It felt miraculous that it all stayed down. Once I proved that it had, my discharge papers were brought to me and a signature was all it took to release me to the world after what felt like much longer than it had actually been.

Walking outside, I had to think about whether it was night or morning. About how something as innocuous as chicken salad eaten in an out-of-town bistro had caused me to lose two days of my life. About what a fortunate thing it is that I almost never get sick.

That there's so much poetry in feeling as great as I do nearly every day of my life.


  1. OH NO!

    I am so sorry - but so glad you got yourself to the ER before you were a completely deflated balloon.

    Sounds like classic food poisoning - but of the worst variety.

    Terribly terribly sad for your experiences... very very glad they are behind you.

    with love and gratitude that it wasn't worse,