Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Getting Sick (warning: gross)

Edit (6/9/11): Thanks for the wishes everyone, I'm fine now. I was able to go to class the next day. Everyone in my village now knows that I will not eat watermelon or drink coconut water, and that my stomach is still scared of noodles.

(May 6, 2011)
So, one more right of passage behind me. After eight weeks of ease and luck, I finally got sick last night. I don't mean a cold--I've already had one since coming to Indonesia. I'm talking about vomiting and diarrhea…the good stuff. Around 10:00 last night, my stomach was feeling really unsettled, which is part of the reason I was still up in the first place. I couldn't find a comfortable position to lie in my bed, and the rumbling in my belly was picking up.
I started feeling queasy. And queasier. I went into my bathroom, thinking I might have to throw up. I squatted in front of the toilet, and sure enough: BLLLLAAAARRRGGGGG. Hello, noodles from three hours ago! Still curiously undigested. After a wave of stomach contractions, my first barf baby was born. He shall be called…Ralph!
It was pretty gross, but I figured I would feel better after that. How naive I seem to myself now. Five minutes later, I had to throw up some more. After that, my stomach was more or less empty. Then came the diarrhea. And let me tell you: getting diarrhea when you have to wipe with your hand SUCKS, because even though you end up cleaner, you go through soap like nobody's business.
At this point I started getting chills, so I put on the one jacket I brought with me to Indonesia. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror: Yeah, looking good there in your waterproof rain jacket and boxer shorts. Another consequence of squat toilets and diarrhea is that it doesn't make much sense to wear pants. So if there had been anyone to see, I would have been quite a laughable sight.
Anyway, I spent the next four hours alternating between vomiting and diarrhea. Even though there was nothing left in my stomach, it continued to try to expel whatever offensive thing got into it earlier that day. I went from throwing up dinner to throwing up saliva to dry heaving to vomiting some bitter yellowy fluid (yellow bile?). Meanwhile, I had diarrhea to contend with. At one point, both Mr. Diarrhea and Mr. Barf were knocking at the door, so I had to choose one end to aim at the toilet and one to aim at the floor. I think that's a pretty obvious decision, especially considering my stomach was already empty. Still, it was the first (and hopefully last) time in my life I was presented with that choice.
My retching was enough to wake up my host mom, who was very sweetly worried about me. I explained what was going on, and though there wasn't much she could do, she still stayed up the whole night to be sure she could help if needed. My host father, who came home at 1:30am from the family shop, also stayed up. Eventually, sometime around 3:00am, I was able to drift off to sleep for a little while. I called the Peace Corps doctor around 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning, told him my symptoms, and got his recommendation. I felt better by that time--at least I wasn't puking anymore--but I was still very weak. Basically, today was the day for rehydration. He told me to rest, eat soft foods if I was hungry, and drink a bunch of water with oral rehydration salts.
Water with oral rehydration salts tastes like what I imagine gatorade would taste like if there were absolutely no sweeteners in it. To put it redundantly, it tastes like watered-down seawater. But it's got electrolytes (man!), which is what my body had run out of. For the rest of the day I felt progressively better. Unfortunately, this poop 'n puke adventure cost me the first day of class in Javanese. Annoying.
After going over the lead-up to my sickness, it was concluded that things went awry when I ate watermelon in combination with honey-and-sugar-sweetened young coconut water, an apple, and drank sweet tea. My parents say this was far too much sugar, and that the real problem was the watermelon. Apparently everyone here knows not to eat watermelon with other sweet stuff. I think the coconut might have been the culprit for the D, and watermelon (in combination with everything else I ate that day) responsible for the V. I'm pretty much set on never eating watermelon or drinking coconut water again. I don't even like coconut water! Tastes like sweat to me. I was just drinking it to be polite. Call this a lesson learned.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry for the sickness! The line "I think that's a pretty obvious decision" made me laugh out loud, though.