**For the purposes of this blog, the word “episode” will henceforth be understood to mean “crapping my pants“
I spent Independence Day in the beautiful and historic city of Charleston, South Carolina—where, incidentally, the water temperature was a perfect 85 degrees.
In this city—where George Washington sat in the second pew of the church on the corner of such-and-such street, where 2 men who signed the Declaration of Independence were laid to rest in the cemetery around the corner from Meeting Street, named after the secret church “meetings” that took place hidden from the watchful eye of Church of England, across the bay from Fort Sumter, at which the first shots of the Civil War were received, in the first state to secede from the Union, where the entire movie The Notebook and parts of The Patriot were filmed—in this city, on the Fourth of July, the actual day of our celebration of our Independence in an actual original colony, I sat curled up on an overstuffed chair in the lobby of the French Quarter Inn.
Twenty-four hours earlier, my friends and I (four adults and a baby) drove 2 and-a-half hours to the coast to splurge on one indulgent night and two days—including a Fourth of July celebration on the harbor—in this luxurious hotel in the heart of Charleston.We booked a suite with a balcony and enjoyed complementary champagne and lady fingers upon check-in, wine and cheese daily at 4, milk and cookies at 9, a pillow menu, and a gourmet breakfast the next morning on the patio.
The first thing we did, of course, was put on our complementary robes and take pictures of ourselves sipping wine on the balcony.We had this amazing view of the market below and the bay and bridge in the distance.We could also see the breakfast patio to the left and carriage tours directly in front, but we spent little time in the room, as we were anxious to get to the beach and eat some fresh, long-awaited seafood on the pier.
As mentioned above, the beach was perfect and the meal was great.We made it back to the hotel just in time for fresh-out-of-the oven chocolate-chip cookies and the Kathy Griffin marathon.We also popped open our bottle of champagne and tried to enjoy a glass, but the quality of the champagne really didn’t fit my taste, as I am used to the $3 bottles from Cap ‘n Cork and this was classy champagne.I took about 2 swigs and called it a night.
At 8 in the morning, I woke up with a terrible stomachache and chalked it up to the 4 cookies I had eaten the night before. But when I stood up, it became quickly apparent that something more than cookies was moving through my system, and, in the shower, I had my first “episode”.Not a problem, necessarily, since I was already in the bathroom, but it happened again as I was getting out of the shower, and again while I was brushing my teeth.
I eased out of the bathroom, and asked, hesitantly—mostly embarrassed—if anyone else had gotten sick.Two friends shrugged, and the third looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language.I felt woozy, almost like I had been drugged and asked, jokingly, which one of my friends had slipped me a rufie the night before.Nothing was clear or sharp and I could feel the energy of the morning draining out of me, literally, but no one else had any symptoms, and I was determined to move forward with the day.
We got dressed and went to the patio for the gourmet breakfast. Confident I had just experienced some strange bout of IBS, I drank half a cup of coffee and ate 2 grapefruit wedges before we left for the market.Halfway through the second block, though, just past the booth with all the $10 Tahitian pearl rings—which I wanted badly—I felt I was going to be sick.I asked for the hotel key and ran for the room.I did not make it back, and had a very unfortunate NOT funny fourth “episode” on the sidewalk in front of the hotel lobby.
For 2 hours, I sat, and eventually sprawled, on the marbled tile floor in our spectacular bathroom, and had a total of 8 “episodes”—apparently known, to everyone except our group, as some form of food poisoning.
Unfortunately, check-out time was noon, and it was 11:45.Our plan had been to check out of the hotel, spend the day sightseeing in the city, end with the Fourth of July celebration on the harbor, and make the two-hour drive home afterward.As my friends knocked on the door to get into our room, I rolled over and got up, totally dizzy, slightly disoriented, with a migraine building by the minute.I told them I was sick.I could tell they didn’t fully grasp how sick, or what kind of sick, and didn’t know what to say or do, so they packed their bags and headed for the car.
I stopped at the front desk and asked if there was any way I could stay in the room longer, that I was really sick and I’d pay any price.The nice desk attendant apologized and explained, since it was the Fourth of July and all, someone would be checking into our room at 3pm and housekeeping needed to get into the room shortly to clean and restock.
I understood.I asked if there were any other rooms before realizing, no matter how sick I was, I could not afford a $300 room for an afternoon or even another whole night.A plane ticket home would have been cheaper.I thanked him and pulled my luggage to the car.
I was too groggy and nauseated to remember much right after checking-out, but I do remember my friends asking me what I wanted them to do, and without clarity of thought or a better plan, I told them to just drop me off at a park so I could lay down. They did.They pulled over at this little street with a park at the end, and I focused on walking toward the tree with the shade underneath, stopping periodically to dry-heave into the bushes, like a cat with a hairball.
I spread the beach towel under the tree and laid on my stomach, shivering in the 90 degree heat, in an achy, nauseated, feverish state for about thirty minutes, when fire ants started getting my arm.
With my other hand, I flipped open my phone and called my mom, bawling and rambling incoherently about “episodes” and achiness and miracles and fire ants, and she told me to get up and to get to a Redi-med or a Medcheck, or, at the very least, a hospital.
I kept telling her I was in Charleston and that it was a historic town and that they didn’t have things like Medchecks or hospitals, as if the town was actually still in the 1600’s and I was transported there through time and dropped off.
I told her I couldn’t move and that it hurt my ears and eyes to talk.
She told me I had to get up.
It went like that for 5 or 6 minutes: I cried about the historic town and fire ants, and she kept yelling at me to get up and find a hospital.
She asked for the phone numbers of my friends, and I told her no, because they would think I was a baby.I told her I didn’t know how to find their numbers and couldn’t open my eyes long enough to flip through the address book.She told me she was going to hang up, find their numbers and tell them to get me some help.She also told me to at least move my arm so the fire ants would get off.
Lucky for her, when I hung up, I rolled over and my friends were walking toward me.I sat up and told them I needed an urgent care facility.They looked at me like I was crazy and had the same reaction I did.We were in historic Charleston, who knew about urgent care facilities?They suggested I take some Dramamine.
I got up and followed them through the park, totally exhausted and defeated, yelling at my mom, who called back to say she couldn’t reach anyone and wanted me to hand the phone over, while listening with the other ear to one or two of my friends mention something about Ambien and champagne, which spun me into a new fit, because the last thing I wanted to hear when I was completely, utterly miserable, not to mention delusional and irritable and panic-stricken, is how maybe it was my own fault, or worse: maybe it was my period.Double especially when I knew, at times, my friends think I’m dramatic and excessive and exaggerative, which I know I am at times, for fun.But not right then.Right then I knew I was just really sick.
They kept saying they didn’t know what to do, and I could only really focus on keeping upright, walking and breathing in through my nose.
They went to lunch, and I walked back to the hotel.I asked the desk attendant to help me find a doctor or a pharmacy, to maybe find some anti-nausea medicine or Imodium.He pointed me to the hotel gift shop, where they sold two-packs each of Ibuprofen, Imodium and Pepto, all for $2.25 a piece, and tried to explain how to get to a pharmacy.But he said it was too far to walk, and I said I didn’t have a car.
That’s when, for lack of any better solution and too exhausted to problem solve anymore, I curled up on the overstuffed chair in the lobby of the French Quarter Inn, and slept through Independence Day. George Washington hung across from me in a portrait, and periodically, I opened my eyes to find cleaning ladies and desk attendants studying me to figure out if I was homeless or just a tired guest.
At 4, my friends brought me a bottle of water and a pack of Dramamine, which I didn’t dare take.They asked if I was going to come watch the fireworks in the park with them or stay in the hotel lobby.Since the hotel staff had changed in those three hours, and I was pretty sure no one there knew me as a guest, I decided to follow them to the park, with a detour, for them, at Ben & Jerry’s. It killed me.Not only had I not eaten since dinner the night before, I watched my friends eat big, drippy Ben & Jerry’s Ice cream cones which made me both nauseated and devastatingly envious at the same time.
I did follow everyone to the park, where I laid, again, on the blanket for the majority of the 6 hours between the time we got there and the time the fireworks started, unable to interact with anyone or watch the activity or fireworks, because every time I sat up, I felt like I was going to pass out or throw-up.At some point I began drinking sips of water and sprite.I believe that’s the only reason I was able to hold my head up and walk to the car, or even make the 2 hour ride home conscious.
I had a good night’s sleep in my friend’s comfy bed that night, and the next day rode 12 hours back to Fort Wayne, then slept for another 12 hours.
On Friday I went to the doctor and found that I lost 8 lbs since last week when I was there, most of which she said was water loss from the last 72 hours.
(Now let me put this into perspective: I paid $39.99 a month to lose weight through Weight Watchers and lost a total of 3 lbs in five months. Apparently, a good “episode” or two will shed almost 3 times that amount that in 2 days. Take that, WW.)
Anyway, she asked some questions, took my blood pressure and heart rate and did a urine test.She said I had gotten food poisoning, probably from the swordfish I ate the night before, and with those first 8 “episodes” in two hours, lost a ton of water volume.
(Note to anyone still reading this: apparently 8 “episodes” in a 2 hour period is a medical emergency.She said I should have gone to the hospital.Who knew?I mean, besides my mom.)
Anyway, I am on a strict liquid regimen of water and Gatorade for another 5 days, and if I have not yet had a solid, um, “episode” by Friday, which is when I go in for Belize immunizations, she will sample for E. coli.She asked me if I wanted a note for my friends.I told her the receipt would validate.
Moral: for those of you who know me well, I have been on a kick lately of thinking I don’t want to get married.I don’t know why, I have just felt strangely independent and ambitious lately, and didn’t want to be slowed down by a husband or family. But in those moments on the blanket in the park, or the floor of the bathroom, or the lobby of the hotel, I thought, a husband would take charge. A husband would drive me home.A husband would find me a hospital or a hotel room in this city, or at least sit with me in the lobby, like my first and favorite president and stand-in husband, George Washington. Husbands and wives take care of each other.In this pack, I was a lone swimmer, and for a day, I wondered if the only way to survive sometimes is to be a pair.Do you think that’s true?