Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Stomach Virus by any Other Still a Stomach Virus

So...yeah, I'm not even going to try to say this title reflects anything that this isn't. It is exactly what you think it is. However, in true fashion with my life, I managed to find a way to have a humorous experience with something that...really isn't.

Let's start with a setting and some background information. I was in Europe. I was on a six-country tour for eleven days that started in London and ended in Barcelona. Beautiful, glorious, adventurous, fun. I had the time of my life in London--which, by the way, has to be one of the cleanest, friendliest, most easy to navigate cities on the planet--a most fun experience in Dublin, a surreal, glorious experience in Moffat, Scotland (my ancestral home), a magical experience in Paris...and then, tragedy struck.

I was sitting at an outside cafe in Paris (a bucket-list item, by the way), enjoying my beef carpaccio, when I noticed something wasn't quite right. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. My head didn't hurt, I didn't feel pukey (that's the name I use for nausea with my elementary kids--roll with it), but all was not right with the world. My blood sugar felt fine--my meter even confirmed that it was. Nothing was really hurting. But I did...not...feel...right.

Well, I figured it out. I figured it out from Paris to Champagne, from Champagne to Barcelona--and beyond. My decline became steady, as I noticed a brick in my stomach. Let me be the first to say to you that a brick in one's stomach--real or imagined--is not normal. This was not normal. I was around the Gare du Nord in Paris waiting for the train that would drop me off near the Champagne region of France, and I was hungry, but not hungry.

For those of you who don't know--a change in my hunger is the first sign that something is wrong. Ask my BFF of 25 years--she'll tell you. In fact, if you ask her, there are only three times when I'm in a really bad mood to the point that I should not be "messed with": when I haven't had enough sleep, when my blood sugar is low, and when I'm hungry. Otherwise, life is good.

Look at me, digressing as usual. Anyway, I had some time to kill before my train ride, so I was bound and determined to eat at one of the cafes around the train station. But nothing sounded good. I finally found an Italian cafe that sounded more okay than the others. By the way, if you've never been to Paris, I was astonished by the number of Italian cafes around the city. I might as well have been in Rome. I knew I wasn't when I saw that little tower thing, called "Eiffel" or something. Bleh. Anyway, I was going to eat that food come Hell or high water, so I forced myself to eat.

And then things went from worse. I still wasn't quite sure what was wrong, but I knew something was. I enjoyed my spaghetti bolognese--though I forced myself--and settled in for my train ride to Champagne. As the train ride went on, the brick in my stomach grew larger--and more rumbly...and louder. I'm sure by the time I arrived in Champagne, everyone knew I had a brick in my stomach. And that brick was trying to find its way out of an orifice--it did not care which one.

I was to stay in this cute little bed and breakfast in Champagne. When I arrived, I learned that the innkeeper's wife didn't speak a bit of English. Guess who doesn't speak a bit of French. After a few minutes of interpretive dance and pointing, we were able to get the room arrangements taken care of. Boy, was I glad, because by the time we were finally put into a room, the brick was SCREAMING to get out. My first friend in Champagne was the toilet. I felt like I was doing some weird French dance that my travel dictionary forgot to tell me about. It was like Soul Train--first one end, then the other. I hadn't even had anything to drink. I was in the motherland of champagne and wine, and my insides wanted out. I wanted out, but it wast happening without tears.

Here's the one "cool" thing about diabetes: you become really smart about how to travel. So I started a sheet of what meds I could take when. As a diabetic, I get prescriptions for anti-nausea meds in order to prevent a real emergency when I get nauseous or vomit. Those things can cause catastrophic effects in diabetes, and you do not want to be in a foreign country without those meds when that happens. I set alarms. I was pumped full of anti-nausea/anti-diarrheal meds and the best foreign 7-Up money could buy (which tastes god-awful in case you were curious). I got to check my blood sugar every 2 hours, and give insulin or drink more 7-Up accordingly. I would love to paint it more glamorously, but the truth is--it sucked.

Again, here I was in the motherland of one of my favorite interests and hobbies of all-time, and I could not stop praying to the porcelain god. By the time I left Champagne, I had nothing left to get rid of, but boy, was my body sure going to try. I guess I helped things out by drinking some of the most glorious hot chocolate ever made--au lait (with milk--hey I learned a word while I was there!), of course--by the innkeeper's wife.

Here's an easy math problem for you: Milk + brick-in-stomach=bad.

I finally got some respite on the way to Spain--mostly because I was on an overnight train ride, and I had medicine to help with that. I was starting to feel a little more hungry by this point, so I ordered some aceitunas (olives) on the train. They were the tastiest things (the only things) I had eaten in 24 hours. I would later find out what a dumb idea this was.

I managed to sleep all night on the train, many thanks to the medicines I had with me. While I believe in holistic and organic treatments when possible, I'm ever-so-thankful for Western medicine as well. And you better believe that, for all the interpretive dance I had to do to get these pills of wonder, I was sure going to use them.

Barcelona gave me that opportunity.

Let me say that a) the weather in Barcelona is fantastic, and b) the food is pretty good--on the first round, anyway.

I was at one of those little sidewalk cafes enjoying the sun, seventy-degree weather, and some Spanish delicacies, super-excited about exploring the city and completing another bucket list item later: eating paella in Spain.

It was all going fairly well, until at some random point, the brick decided to make a strong reappearance. I stopped and said, "We have to go…right now."

We all know I'm not a runner, but I fast-walked with style back to that hotel room. I would be damned if I was going to let my colon and esophagus sing in some public restroom where other people could be aware of what was going on.

Luckily, I made it back to the hotel in time to use the toilet and bidet to multitask. However, I ran into a small problem. This wouldn't affect most people, but as a diabetic, I had some catastrophic consequences to consider. When my body gets dehydrated by way of vomiting and diarrhea, I have to worry about it making poisons called ketones that can be incredibly difficult to control and can lead to hospitalization real fast. As someone who's experienced horrific medical care in America, I sure as crap didn't want to have to experience it internationally. In any case, I had forgotten to pack the strips you pee on to check for those poisons, so I had no way of knowing if I was even going there.

I drew out on a piece of paper what I was looking for for my traveling companion to take to the farmacia. Since I'm fairly fluent in Spanish, I drew out a pronunciation guide, complete with little emphasis marks so he would know what to ask for. I did give one warning: "if you say all this in a Texan accent, so help me God, when we get back to Texas, you'll wish you spoke Texan with a Spanish accent!"

Regardless, the good farmacéutico had no idea what ketone strips were, so I had to depend on smelling my own breath and hoping that I could discern between vomit and acetone (go look all that up). Either way, I was now on duty to check my blood sugar every two hours, drink horrible European 7-Up and shoot up insulin as needed.

This went on through several god-awful Spanish TV novelas, a version of Deal or No Deal that made me wish the virus would go ahead and take me, and "August Moon" with a Spanish voiceover. I now knew what Hell was. C. S. Lewis got it all wrong.

I managed to live through that night, which included an argument at 2 am that I should indeed take a shot of insulin when my blood sugar was 534, even though my site had been changed only three hours earlier (by the way, I won that battle as my site was kinked at a 90-degree angle). I also lived through the next day, which included the 22-hour plane ride from Hell, complete with the screaming baby the…entire…time. When, at the end of that twenty-two hours, I arrived at Chicago O'Hare, you better believe that I didn't only kiss the ground (literally), I mugged down on it (literally). By this point, if that virus didn't kill me, did it really matter?

After bringing my A-game in Europe, I brought it on home to the U. S. of A. for three solid days thereafter. At this point, I didn't care if I lived or died, as long as I could do it at home. God bless America.

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