Back in college, everyone drank way too much alcohol, leading to the inevitable purging in front of the porcelain god. When it was bad enough that we couldn’t make it into work that day, we used the standard excuse: “I had some kind of stomach flu”. This was code for “I had way too much to drink last night, and I am still paying for it” and everyone knew it.
Had any of us experienced the real “stomach flu”, we might not have been so cavalier in throwing the phrase around. This week, I had the dubious pleasure of catching the real “stomach flu”, and after spending four-plus hours in the Emergency Room flat on my back with an I.V. sticking out of my arm, I’ve gained a whole new level of respect for this “stomach flu”.
In fact, “stomach flu” doesn’t really begin to explain the extent to which this nasty bug can wreck havoc on your system. When even plain water gets forcefully expelled, and the yellowish bile that is your stomach acid is all that’s coming out and you’re still trying to vomit up more, you need stronger language, scientific language, language with lots of syllables. Gastroenteritis is the right language here. What did gastroenteritis feel like? Kind of like Mother Nature had grabbed me by the balls, flipped me upside down, and shook me until I’d released all the contents of my stomach, shook me some more until vital bodily fluids had likewise been expelled, and then kept shaking me, simply because, apparently, she liked the sound I made.
It all began Monday night. Since my girlfriend’s plane was delayed a day, I picked her up on Monday afternoon instead of Sunday evening, and we grabbed an early dinner at an Indian restaurant a few blocks from her house. Immediately after I finished eating, I felt a knot in the top of my stomach, just below the breastbone. I knew something was wrong, but it felt like I’d just eaten too much, or too fast. I figured I’d be spending too much time in the toilet that night.
We got home, and the feeling didn’t get any worse, but it didn’t go away either. We went through our activities, finally going to sleep about midnight. I awoke about 3AM with a desperate urge to evacuate my bowels, and then, a few minutes later, started to vomit.
I still had no idea what I was in for.
I spent all of Tuesday vomiting. Everything I tried to eat or drink eventually found its way back up, including Pepto Bismol and plain water. It had gotten so bad that even with nothing on my stomach, I was vomiting, meaning I was bringing up stomach bile.
As you might imagine, that’s neither a pretty sight nor a good thing for your body to be doing.
About 9PM I started thinking that I might want to go to the E.R. since I wasn’t keeping food or liquid down, and my body would start dehydrating. About 10PM I called my health insurance’s nurse hotline, described my symptoms and answered a bunch of questions, and was told “based on what you’ve told me, you should go to an emergency room”.
In all honestly, that’s not what I was expecting to hear.
So about 10:30PM, Ying drove me to the E.R. which is conveniently located about five minutes from my house. A 30 minute wait and I was in to see a doctor. A few forms, and the charging of my co-pay (nothing happened until they had my credit card in hand…) and suddenly I was getting poked in my arm and hooked into an I.V. drip.
They say there’s a first time for everything, and this was one of those times. Never had I been connected to an I.V. drip, and never did I think it would happen. I associate that with sick people, and I just don’t get that kind of sick.
When it was all over, I’d had three liters of fluid pumped into me (the body gets chilled when this is happening, since the fluid is not warmed), had my blood drawn for testing, and received a third needle in my rear to calm the nausea I was feeling. And, at 3:30AM I walked out of the E.R., with a couple of prescriptions to fill. (Ying found a 24 hour Walgreens to fill the prescription.)
I returned home, took the prescription, and passed out in bed. I awoke several hours later, and Ying, who was an angel of mercy during this, went out and grabbed the few staples I was allowed to eat, including bread and apple juice. I lived on this diet for another day, and by the end of the third day I finally felt like I was at about 90%.
(Ying really was great throughout this, by-the-way. She stayed with me the first day, took me to the E.R., spent the next day with me, did some grocery shopping and even managed to do some cleaning around the house. I’m very lucky to have her.)
By Friday I was eating normal food (though very cautiously), and Saturday night I had my first large meal in almost a week. I’m still not back to “normal”, however, as I still cringe at the slightest stomach rumble or twinge. It’ll take a while before eating isn’t given a second thought.