I don’t want to alarm you, dear mother, but I thought that you would want to know that I have been battling a case of food poisoning. The last place that we ate at on our field trip before coming home was probably the culprit. Out of the 8 of us who ate there, 3 are sick. Total, there are at least 5 people sick right now, the last that I checked. Here is my story. I hope that it doesn’t scare you. Food poisoning is very common and I think that I’m 75% better, and I’m sure that by tomorrow afternoon, I will be 100%.
So yesterday morning, while my room mate, Katie, was taking a bucket bath in the bathroom, I awoke to extreme bowl urgency. Without sparing a moment to find my glasses or put in my contacts, I scuttled up to the common bathroom at the top of the hill, connected to the dining room. I could barely get my pants down in time to…well…explode. I made it back down to my room and crawled into bed without thinking anything of it.
I had committed to walking all the way to CHIRAG, but before leaving, I told the girls that I was walking with that I would have to take it slow, as I was experience stomach and back cramps. But surprise surprise, guess who was at least three minutes ahead of everyone on the walk. Even cramps and the possibility of having diarrhea doesn’t slow my pace. Once getting to the classroom, however, I hit the wall. I knew that some thing was quite right with my body. I collapsed into a chair, and took the precaution of asking around the circle if any one had any toilet paper. CHIRAG’s bathroom facilities include a porcelain hole in the ground with a bucket of water to clean yourself with. It has been every one’s biggest fear of pooping there, let alone have explosive diarrhea. Squatting a trying not to pee on yourself is challenging enough (I have only peed on myself once). But unfortunately, that day, no one had brought any toilet paper.
I suffered through the first hour of class, doing anything that the plastic chair would allow to make myself comfortable. Three people were leading the class discussion, and I told myself, “When they get to asking the class questions, I will just gracefully excuse myself to the bathroom.” But by the time Alex had asked the first question, I was paralyzed with discomfort and pain. “I can’t move! What if I shit myself right now?” I thought. I was freezing cold and panicking. I had no idea what to do. There was no position that my body could make to take away the pain and fear that was building up inside of me. I was stuck and miserable. I put my head in my freezing white hands and laid them on my lap. Jenny, who was sitting next to me, whispered in my ear, “I have some Ibuprofen; would you like some?” I shook my head, and tried to tell her that I was fainting, but all that came out was, “ahhhhhhh.” And I was gone.
Apparently, I had been out for a few minutes before any attention was given to me. I guess what had happened was, I sat back up, placed my hand on my temple, and mumbled incoherently. As I grabbed Katie’s chair, which was beside mine, people noticed that I was a stark white and turning green. My professor was droning on when finally Anjali had yelled, “REBECCA!” (my professor’s name). I think that it was at that point that I threw up all over my pants and hands, which I woke up for, apologized, “I’m so sorry,” and passed out once more. Jenny had caught my head and she and my professor guided my body to the floor. At that point, David, another student, told me later, "I thought you were dead. I took one look at you, thought, 'That's what a dead person looks like,' and bolted out of the room."
I woke up to hear voices all around me and Rebecca rubbing my back and directing people what to do. People were scurrying all over the place, getting blankets, buckets, and more CHIRAG staff. The first thing that I said was, “I’m sorry for interrupting your presentation.” And everyone started laughing. Rebecca then said, “Don’t you apologize or I’ll hit you over the head for saying such things!” and I started to laugh.
When I was ready, Rebecca and Keith helped carry me down to the sick room, my pants on full display. Unfortunately, there were no extra pants laying around CHIRAG, so my professor helped change me into a bed sheet. I was shaking and my teeth were chattering loudly because I was so cold, but when Rebecca felt my forehead, she said that was burning up. I was reminded of you and your fevers and thought that it was great that I could now relate. I laid frozen for the next several hours.
As Rebecca helped tuck me in and reassured me that I would be alright, a member of CHIRAG came down to help. She spoke very little English, and insisted that she put a rickety old wired cage heater on my pillow, next to my head. This freaked Rebecca out, but the woman was set on putting this fire hazard close to my head. Finally, Rebecca expressed in Hindi that I did not want it on the bed. The thought of the room catching on fire while was sleeping alone in this room made Rebecca so nervous that she unplugged it after the woman left.
So there I laid for the rest of the day, unable to sleep because, for one, I was too cold, two, the bed was more like a board, and three, people kept on coming in and out every hour. After class, I was joined by another girl, Maresa, who had fallen ill (later we find out that she had gotten ecoli from the same restaurant that I had eaten at). Then Rebecca came back to wash my pants, which I’m willing to bet that nobody has ever had their professor wash their puke stained pants by hand. Jealous?
I was there for a total of four hours, making several trips to the bathroom. I told Maresa that wearing a thong was a bad choice, as once again, there was no toilet paper. Eventually my professors approached Maresa and I with the question of where to stay. We could stay there at CHIRAG in the sick room all night, or make the journey back to Sonapani. Maresa and I preferred that latter option, which made things a bit complicated. After lots of arranging, phone calls, scratching heads, my professors laid out the plan for us. We would first ride in a jeep and go see the doctor on the way home. Then, once we got as far as a vehicle could go on the trail to Sonapani, a man on a motorcycle would meet me and take me the rest of the way. The trail to Sonapani is steep and rocky, so Keith ran along side the motorcycle, and for the times that it was too rocky for me to stay on, Keith gave me a piggy back ride. I made it home in one piece.
I was put on bed rest with instructions to take a variety of pills at different times of the day with lots and lots of water. I thought that I was fine and over the worst. I laid in bed, only moving when I had to use the toilet, which was every 20 minutes. I talked to my room mate as she told her side of the story, filling me in on the grey parts that I was unconscious for. She said, “It was definitely the most exciting thing that happened all day.” She also told me how scary it was to see me that white.
A couple of hours later, the dinner bell rang, so as I was confined to the seat of the toilet, Katie left to eat dinner. I had been sitting there for a while making shadow puppets on the wall when suddenly I was overcome with the same sensation that I felt in class; expect for that I was burning up and either needed to puke or explode. I knew that I was probably going to faint, so with all of my strength, I lifted myself off from the toilet seat, to which simultaneously, the power went out. It was only a matter of time to plunge myself into bed, but our fucking bathroom door jams every time you close it, and in my last moments, I managed to shake the door open. I heard crashing and a loud bang. I don’t think that I was out for very long, because the massive pain from my head woke me up. I was confused. I thought that for sure that I had made it to the bed, but as my eyes peeled open, I saw that was on the stone floor in the door frame of the bathroom. My head throbbed and even thought the power was back on, everything was a blur.
I crawled into bed and wondered if I should notify somebody. I tried calling Rebecca and Katie, but my calling card apparently doesn’t work with local phone calls. “What the hell should I do? Rebecca would kill me if I went up the hill to the dinning hall, but I also don’t want to be scolded for not telling anybody cuz I think that this is probably a big deal.” So the best idea that I came up with was to waddle outside in the dark and yell for help. Maybe somebody might hear me. I only had to yell help for less than a minute before Jenny and Nikki, who were on their way to dinner, heard me. They confused my pathetic cries for help for Ashish’s seven year old daughter, but nonetheless, I was saved.
For the next hour or so, eight people had crowded around my bed, poking and prodding me, shinning lights into my eyes three times due to my loss of eye sight in my left eye, where I had smacked my head, and asking me a series of questions. People were running in and out of my room, getting water, oral rehydration salts, ice packs, bananas, thermometers, timers, a hot water bottle, thing, for my aching body, and calling the doctor. At one point, they got Brittany, who’s been sick in bed this past month with ecoli, out of bed to perform a thorough procedure on my entire body to check for brain damage. She’s a rock climbing instructor and deals with head traumas a lot. My professor gave Katie stricked instructions to get up whenever I got up in the night, and walk me to the toilet and back to bed. Rebecca even offered to sleep on the floor of my room, ready to jump when my bowls did, but we told her that that wouldn’t be necessary.
All throughout the night I was married to the toilet. I will spare you the details, as this is getting to be one long email. All that I will say is, while it could be worse, and everybody experiences food poising at one time or another while in India, being this sick sucks and I hate it. I have never been this sick before, and I prided myself on being one of the few people who avoided getting sick so far. While five other people have fallen ill since yesterday, I’ve been told that Rebecca is the most worried about me. She’s come by my room several times today to check on me, and scolded me for making the trip up the steep hill for lunch. “Chelsea, I know that you’re feeling lonely in your room and you just want to be up here with your friends, but you are putting yourself at great risk of fainting by being up here. I want you to stay in bed for the next few days.” I almost started crying. She served my a cup of rice, the first thing that I had to eat since breakfast the day before, and removed herself from the table. She said that she couldn’t bear to see my pale face go up and down the hill. Later she came in to my room and apologized for being so harsh.
So I’ve been in bed all day. I have had several visitors to keep me company, including Clair and Alex to read to me from David Sadaris’s, Me Talk Pretty One Day. While enduring this embarrassing misery, it is comforting to know that I am surrounded with love. People have been waiting on me hand and foot. But I still can’t help but daydream about what it would be like if I were home and with my mom. I didn’t want to tell you about this little episode until I was 100% better so you couldn’t worry. I know that seeing me faint in the past has scared you for life. I assure you that Rebecca and Keith are taking every measure they can to see that I am taken care of, and the only thing they require of me is to rest for a few days. They get really nervous when I’m anywhere but my bed. I am in safe hands.