Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Food Poisoning (Is Way Worse on a Bus)

Fair warning, I really tried to clamp down on my Peace Corps induced case of chronic over-sharing, but I am talking about food poisoning and I didn’t have a lot of standards BEFORE I joined PC.

I woke up on Saturday morning with food poisoning, or at least that's what I now think it was. At the time, all I knew was that I felt terrible. I tried curling up in a miserable ball before it became abundantly clear that wasn’t going to suffice.  Look, I’d never had food poisoning before, but I can only imagine it's way worse when you're staying at dormitory style government housing and going to the bathroom means running down the hall.

I threw up four times that night, and when I woke up the next morning, feeling like a truck had run over me, and drank some water, I immediately threw that up as well.  I was 200 miles from home for a meeting and had already bought my bus ticket home (on the fancy bus line since PC was footing the bill).  I sat on the bed after returning from the bathroom, sweaty and disheveled from throwing up five times in as many hours, and told my sitemate, "I don't know if I can make it back to site."

"Here," she said, handing me a plastic bag. "You can make it."

“I think I need two,” I told her, but that was exactly the attitude I needed, so I hauled myself off the bed and to the bus station. I bought a bottle of water and took lots of tiny sips, because I had never been so thirsty and yet unable to drink in my life. The bus from Agadir to Marrakesh is three and a half hours and goes through some stunningly beautiful scenery, but I spent most of the trip trying to doze against my headrest. I kept taking tiny sips of water and made it all the way to the outskirts of Marrakesh before my stomach rebelled and I threw up everything I had managed to drink that morning.

Lucia looked over in the middle of me dry heaving into a plastic bag and made a sympathetic face. "I am so sorry for being a terrible traveling companion," I whispered.

"No, it's okay," she assured me.  “I have headphones.”

We sat in the bus station in Marrakesh for a while before finding transportation back to site.  (The quickest route back to site is a grand taxi, which is seven people shoved in an old model Mercedes sedan and there’s no room to throw up in the back of those.)  Luckily, loitering in the bus station meant we ran into two other PCVs from our stage (small damn world) and managed to catch one of the two nice buses with AC that goes through town.

I managed to drink half of a Sprite on the ride home, which at least gave me a little bit of energy, but as we pulled into town, my stomach began to flop again.  You're almost home, I told my stomach, but I kept feeling worse and worse. We flagged a cab to take us home, but I threw up again as we were getting in the cab and then again just a minute down the road.  Lucia had to give the driver directions to my apartment because I was too busy dry heaving into a plastic bag to speak.

Once I made it home, I called PCMOs (PC doctors) who made concerned sounds about my inability to keep liquids down in this heat, and prescribed me anti-nausea medicine so could try to start re-hydrating. I took Lucia up on her parting words of "anything I do to help" and begged her to go buy me medicine, since I wasn't sure I had enough energy to make it to a pharmacy, much less across town to the bank.  Then I laid down on my ponj because my stomach was upset again and I really didn't want to throw up for an eighth time, and fell asleep.  I woke up a few hours later when Lucia called me to tell me that she had walked all over town, but all the pharmacies were closed.

"Bwuh?" I said.

"I know," Lucia said.  "They all have the same sign hanging in the window saying something about June 30th to July 7th, but that's all I know."

I called PCMOs back to let them know that the pharmacies in town were all closed and after going through my (limited) options, the nurse suggested that I take a couple of Benedryl to knock myself out and hope I had stopped throwing up in the morning.

That’s when I cried for a little bit, because I had used up my daily allotment of being a brave little toaster and dealing with shit like a mature adult.  Then I took the Benedryl and slept for twelve hours, and while I have spent the last two days alternating between napping and reading, I haven’t thrown up in two days and have managed to eat a piece of toast and some grapes, so I think I’m on the mend.

Food poisoning is the worst and I will never eat somewhere called Mickey Burger’s again (I knew I should have gotten the pizza), but once I made it home, I pretty quickly reached the stage where I realized I could either laugh or cry about it, and I would much rather laugh.  Plus, you're not a real Peace Corps Volunteer unless you have at least one gross, over-sharing disease story, and at least I got mine in style.

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