Last Saturday began as any normal day: I woke up feeling well-rested for the first time all week, slipped on my running gear, and enjoyed my heart pumping healthily in rhythm with my feet pounding pavement for the next five miles. Came home, showered, ate breakfast. Was on my way to a rehearsal an hour later, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. On the Northwood bus. I needed to get off. right. now. It was that swallowy feeling that happens…right…before…and you keep swallowing…and it’s getting harder to swallow, heavier, thicker…
I made it to Pierpont, and then lost my breakfast. Thank God the bathroom is right inside the building. I would have never made it. The odors of Panda Express inspired me on my way.
My rehearsal was cancelled because one of the other girls in the rehearsal had been in a car accident that morning…(another story entirely. She was okay, the car wasn’t…) I bought three bottles of ginger ale, called in sick to work, and waited an agonizing and cold twenty minutes for the next bus back home. Barely made it home before I had to visit “EARL!” on the big white telephone again.
I was completely restless. Just when I thought I may be able to lie down for more than five minutes, my stomach began auditioning for the circus again, right inside me. Twists, turns, backflips. I threw up twelve more times that afternoon.
My boyfriend came over a couple hours later to check on me. “How about some ice cubes?” he asked. Seemed easy enough. Nope. Ice cubes made me throw up. Sips of water made me throw up. My stomach was completely tired and empty, and yet I was still throwing up. Six more hours went by before I was completely dehydrated, dizzy even from the three steps to the bathroom. I simply could not function like this any longer. I called my doctor, who said I needed to go to the emergency room.
The hardest part was getting into the car. My stomach felt like it was splitting in half, and standing up was only encouraging it. My boyfriend put together an overnight bag for me and assured me that the hardest part of this whole thing would be getting to the car, and that he would take care of the rest. “You can do it Hoff,” he said over and over, until I finally held his hand and got down the steps and out into the freezing cold with my barf bowl in front of me like a shield.
I threw up in the waiting room, and I threw up on the way to the room. I was the pathetic girl with crazy eyes, wild unbrushed hair, and a purple bowl, being wheeled around in a wheelchair by her poor boyfriend.
I finally got into a triage room after twenty minutes of waiting, and the nurse was a complete bitch. She took one look at me, and the first thing she said to me was, “If you have the stomach flu, you don’t come to the ER. You stay at home, get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, and then feel better after a couple days. You dragged your poor boyfriend here for no reason.” I tried to explain to her in my feeble voice that this was not just any stomach flu, that this was something much more evil than that, completely wiping out my mind, body, and soul. She rolled her eyes. When I kept throwing up, she finally took my blood pressure. “Oh my God,” she called out to the other nurse in the hall. “Get her into a room.”
They drew my blood, ran a few tests, pumped me with bags of Saline and doses of Zofran through an IV. My boyfriend sat by me and held my hand, trying to make fun of an old NCIS re-run on TV and make me laugh. I could not relax, but I felt sleepy and hyper at the same time. I laughed uncontrollably in delirium, and then cried hysterically in fear. Back and forth, I was in a state of pure mania and pain that was too severe to feel anymore. I was sent home seven hours later in a rather numb state, still able to only drink tiny sips of water.
The night and the two days that followed my trip to the hospital were very long and completely restless. I had a fever and the chills on top of all of my stomach problems, and I could not sleep or eat for fifty-five hours straight. My head pounded. It was an epic battle. I lay in my bed, staring at the ceiling, feeling like I was going to die. My stomach churned threateningly and relentlessly; my muscles weakened quickly. I had to call my roommate on her phone in the middle of the night, one room away, because I almost passed out. I had a choice: drink some coke and throw it back up, or pass out.
I officially forgot what “normal” felt like. Not until Day 3 of Recovery could I move enough to even get out of bed on my own. And even then, it took five minutes of small step-by-step muscle motions. You lay in bed long enough, and your muscles completely lose their mobility and strength. Add severe hunger and sleep deprivation to the mix, and you’ve got some serious recovering ahead of you.
Today is Sunday, eight days after the sudden attack. I am finally just beginning to feel slightly like myself again and ate an entire slice of pizza today! Quite possibly the best slice of pizza I’ve ever tasted in my life. That was definitely the sickest I have ever been in my life, and this entire week has felt like a trip to hell and back. I have been rehabilitating, rejuvenating, and trying to make sense of what happened to me. After falling that uncontrollably, (and deathly) ill, it’s impossible to go right back to my normal routine without some amount of reflection. If I had been able to lose 12 pounds in a week one month ago, I would have rejoiced. But two days ago when I saw that suddenly-unhealthily-lower number on the scale, it disturbed me and frightened me.
Norovirus is deadly and dangerously contagious, especially throughout college campuses. So please, take this as a Public Service Announcement to WASH YOUR HANDS! Before and after preparing food, before and after using the bathroom, before and after doing anything. Be careful and take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, eat your greens, take your vitamins, and exercise. It’s that time of year when all-nighters seem like a good idea, and energy drinks seem like the one and only elixir of life. But listen to your body, take care of it, and listen to your limits! You do not want to end up in the emergency room.