noun: norovirus; plural noun: noroviruses
In starting this post off, I’d first like to apologize for the lapse since my last one. I was a busy bee over the summer and there’s a hilarious film in the can but el bloggo sat patiently awaiting future embarrassments. Thinking about this, I wondered (often out loud) what to write about to get back into the swing of things. And then, as I rode in the car with a few friends, all of us sharing absolutely horrific stories of bodily functional errors, it occurred to me- We simply must detail my experience with the Norovirus. Because like everything else I experience, I couldn’t simply have a virus. Stomach pain would have to translate into a 4 day hospital stay culminating in SO many new “friends” and an MRI on my fat little heart. Is this funny you ask? Frankly, I think it’s damn hilarious. Here we go, friends:
It’s all fun and games until someone faints on the toilet, as they like to say. Well one very early morning this past winter (I’d say approximately 4am if you dared me) I awoke to the most intense stomach pain of my life. Let me break down stomach pain for you: I have IBS. As someone with that disorder you understand several things very well: How to breathe your way (or antacid your way) out of what can be very bad stomach pain, and also different levels of tummy aches and what they mean in terms of “can I handle this or not”. I’m not saying this to sound elitist (My digestive tract has a bigger personality than yours! Awesome! No.) I’m saying this because it’s a fact. Your awful gas bubble, frankly, probably wouldn’t even make me blink. That’s just how I roll. So if I am awoken by pain in my stomach, I know it’s bad. Real bad. So bad in fact, that I had to start massaging my tum and inducing yogatic (word?) breaths into the equation just to keep a regular breathing pattern. Finally, I realized, something had to be done. This would not do and I had no idea when the internal issues would become external.
Not knowing precisely what we were dealing with here (did you ever notice I pluralize? I feel it’s a nice inclusive gesture so you, too, can feel involved in this gastrointestinal romp), I sat up straight in bed and almost yelled. As best as I could yell I guess at 4am. And I decided I needed to get to the bathroom. I feel that if you’re ever unsure of yourself in life- personal issues, poetry writing, what have you- go to the bathroom. The least you can do is sit on the floor and reassess your life. And so there I was. Not on the floor, of course. But in general trying to handle what was rapidly becoming- I’ll say it- A Situation. My best attempts though basically weren’t very good at all, and my tummache know how was failing me. Making matters worse, not only could my body not hold onto ANYTHING, but I started to feel a bit light headed.
“I’ll just drink more water.”
Yes. THAT didn’t work. Water would go in and come out literally in under 5 minutes. It was not fun times back at the ranch. I realized fairly quickly that I would not be able to steer this ship to port, and while that induced a sudden sense of “Oh shit,” the additional realization that I was actually going to pass out was a nice icing on the “holy mother of god” cake. I knew I would pass out because I’d passed out once prior in an epic family vacay epsiode, also in a bathroom. I got sun stroke from frying too long on the beach and went to bed freezing with about 9 covers on me and 3 sweatshirts. When I woke up I was sweating so much I went to the bathroom and took off most of my clothes before kind of falling over clutching a lone dixie cup. If you’re gonna pass out, go big- you know what I mean? Anyways, I knew the sensation of cold creeping into my head as well as the vision that was rapidly disappearing from my peripherals. One thing I also knew? I was sitting sans trou on the toilet. In my now mildly delirious state, I still knew that if I fainted in the bathroom several things could happen:
1) I could pass out forwardly with my pants around my ankles and smack my face on tile. This was no good for my future modeling career.
2) I could pass out in any direction with my pants around my ankles and be found out. This was also no good because, it’s just not.
3) I could pass out, smack my anything and have absolutely no control of my body’s viral side effects, be found out, and basically just want to die of shame. This was really not something I found to be a positive either. Modeling career or otherwise.
And so with one of the most epic efforts of my life, following a really complex train of thought for a delirious 4am wet noodle, I regained my pantelonays, and as quickly as I could I walked back to my room to attempt to get on my bed so that I would just faint gracefully and not hit the ground. Unfortunately, I was losing consciousness with every step and as this happened I could no longer reason not walking all the way around my big girl bed to the side I sleep on. That was a mistake. A big mistake.
I KIND OF remember falling. I remember the sounds more than anything. Fainting is such a strange thing, it’s so fast and so unnerving. But I awoke seconds later staring up at the ceiling and in a lot of pain. I think I basically smacked every appendage I’ve got on the way down. What I found terribly fascinating though was that when I reached my hand behind my neck to feel my head, something seemed to be growing out the back of it.
“My head has exploded! I’m dying. Who will write my will?” I remember thinking. But my brains felt very firm. As luck would have it, my head in fact did not explode but instead had wedged perfectly into the rounded base of a tupperware container that had been on the floor. It took some time to remove, but thank goodness for keeping your pet fish supplies on the ground.
I crawled back into bed and called the many people I’d need to get a substitute teacher for the day.
“I’m pretty sure if I came in, it’d be a bad scene. And I passed out. My head was in tupperware. I have to go to bed.” I was a mess. Yet oddly cogent.
I called my friend “Wren” who basically told me to go to the ER. That seemed like a big effort though, and would involve leaving my now beloved bathroom for more than 10 minutes. I then called my parents because the truth is, at the end of the day, we’re all 5 years old when things hurt.
“Ingrid, if you don’t go to the hospital I’m going to call the police on you,” my dad eloquently declared into the phone.
So that was basically that, because I knew he’d do it. If memory serves I believe he called the police on my sister. I could be making this up. But I don’t think I am. And I didn’t think I was then either, so I called a cab, hung out in the loo until it got there and then basically pretended I wasn’t sick. I knew I’d be hanging out for a long time since it was the ER, so I came fully prepared. I brought my new Chelsea Handler book and prepared for the worst.
“My name is Ingrid.”
“What is your insurance?”
“I’ll tell you if you tell me where your bathroom is.”
And so I was checked in. If you’ve ever been to the ER you know several things. One, it’s the last place you ever want to be in your life, and two that you need to usually go to the triage to answer questions unless your arm is on the ground. Sometimes though, then too. I’ve seen some wild shit in some ER’s, I’ll tell you what. Anyways, I waddled over with my Chelsea book and sat down. They asked the usual questions-
“Are you pregnant.”
“Are you sure?”
“Did you pass out?”
“What is kind of?”
“I believe so? ”
“Did you hit your head?”
Ayyyyyy. There’s the rub! I didn’t really know how to answer this (not that the other questions were going that well). I had “wedged” my head but that didn’t seem like an option this dame was interested in. So I said the best thing that came to mind.
“I fell into tupperware.”
“Dear, what are you saying to me right now?”
It seemed pretty clear to me, I didn’t know why this was so confusing. I also didn’t know what happened between that utterance and the new neck brace that had immobilized what seemed like my entire upper torso.
“Get Ingrid a stretcher. Not pregnant!”
So there I was. It was too soon to be taken to the exam rooms and I was hanging out immobilized in a neck brace holding my bowels and Chelsea Handler and trying to be zen. Fortunately, I’ve been to so many ER’s for this reason or that (mainly that) that I am generally zen when there. Give me some benadryl and I’m loving life. Graham crackers and apple sauce? Shit yeah! Imma call ALLLL my frandsssss.
It’s like some weird spa day for masochists.
I pondered whether or not I should take a selfie but I couldn’t get the angle right since my arm wouldn’t go above my shoulder. And then I realized, I needed to be near a bathroom. It was a priority. Fortunately soon after someone came over and wheeled me away to a room I could have all to myself (this is actually rare for me. I’m like the ‘good kid’ that they can stick in the hallway cause they don’t care or complain that there’s blood all over the person next to them or someone’s yanked their IV out 8 feet away and gone rogue). Again, I’m not necessarily a mellow person, but ER’s induce some sort of calm in me. I can’t explain it, but frankly, thank God.
The doctor would come in eventually (read: 1 hour later) and in the meantime the nurses had come and gotten some info.
“How is your head?”
“My head is fine. My bowels are not.”
“Do you have a headache?”
“No. Please. We need to discuss my stomach. This is a sitch, I’m here for my tum.”
“Is the brace too tight?”
This exchange went on for a long time, with them reassuring me I had my own toilet to do with as I would, but the neck brace wouldn’t come off until the doctor could see me. Well fine. But I wouldn’t take this lying down.
“Listen. I’m going to be real with you because I think you can handle it. I understand your concern about my head, but it feels fine. But to be totally honest, if you don’t give me something soon for my stomach, I’m going to cry from the pain and also… also I may poo.”
“Ah. Aha. Alright, let me go get some things.”
The word “poo” seemed to carry some weight around this part of town. The next thing I knew the nurse had come back with a remarkable concoction of jacked up immodium and morphine. If there was any doubt whatsoever that I was not a morphine addict what happened next would prove otherwise. Morphine is intense. It’s so intense that I can both simultaneously see how people get addicted to it while also never wanting to have it in my system again. But they injected the whole kit and kaboodle into my arm and I sat there silently for a second. Then you FEEL it. You can literally feel a burning sensation traveling through your body, like a pressure. Which I could kind of handle until it reached my neck, which apparently really hurt. I didn’t realize how much it was hurting until they started taking the pain away. I don’t know exactly how that works, but it was one of the most intense body experiences ever. So I did what any normal adult classy dame shoved into a neck brace at 5am in an ER alone with uncontrollable bowels would do. I started to cry.
But I was also very confused so I decided that the nurse and I should have a convo about it.
“Whyyyyyyy??? I don’t understandddd!!”
“It’s alright. This happens.”
“I’m soooo sorrryyyyyy!”
“It’s really alright. Do you want a cracker?”
And then the doctor came in.
“Why is your neck brace still on?”
“We’re gonna have to do an EKG on you to figure out why you passed out.”
“I know why I passed out. I’m sick.”
“Yes. Good. We’re doing an EKG.”
This is where the plot thickens. My little heart has it’s own rhythm. You know how people dance to their own drummer? My heart literally sends out a unique electrical current. It beats fine but it beats uniquely and if it could speak it’d say “I do what I want”. You know how I know? Because this happened before when I had too much caffeine and mistakenly thought I was having a stroke. And so being that it was 5 am and I was feeling now jacked on morphine with newly minted immobilized bowels, I felt compelled to share my knowledge with the more medically learned:
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Simply because it’s gonna come back weird. It always comes back weird. You need to call the other hospital.”
“We will, but we have to move you to the inpatient wing. Have another cracker.”
This was just no good. This was rapidly becoming a very expensive vacation. But there was no reasoning to be had, and really why would there be? I wouldn’t reason with me. I was still crying while simultaneously shoving crackers as close to my mouth as I could manage, neck brace still in tact. One was in my ear.
“I don’t wanna goooooooo.”
That morphine, man. But I was terribly excited about my tum, we were ready for some serious cracker intake. So after I had my EKG (electrocardiogram to be precise) I got put in a hospital room, my neck brace finally taken off, and I have to say it wasn’t a bad deal. They told me I just had to stay until they could finish up with the results of the EKG, and I’d be ready to roll. Would I like to see the menu? Hell yeah! Chicken Noodle yo! Keep that coming, I’m immobilized!
Unfortunately, 3 bowls of soup later, I was informed that my EKG had come back abnormal. I don’t remember but I hope I was polite. I know that’s their protocol, I just hope I remembered then that that was their protocol.
“So while we’re waiting to hear back from the other hospital, we need you to stay overnight while we wait for an MRI.”
“What is the MRI for?”
“We’re worried about your heart. We need to take a look at it.”
Bring on the waterworks. I don’t care who you are, if you’re stuck by yourself after being tremendously sick, and get pumped full of potency with the follow up that you may have a bad heart, it’s kind of a lot to handle. So I sniffled a bit, grabbed Chelsea and tried to be thankful that my life as best as I could discern, wasn’t as big of a shitshow as the one she had constructed in her book. My roommates came to visit and brought fresh clothes etc, which was really nice to have. I think I called everyone and their mother and posted about 1,974 things on facebook. I could never do solitary confinement. I think I’d start making up monologues and memorizing them or something.
The hardest part was occupying my time, because my MRI kept getting pushed back. I forced nurses to be my friend. They’d come in the room to take my vitals and I said anything and everything to maintain human contact.
“Yeah, but what do you REALLY think of the pudding?”
“Oh honey, the chocolate is the best. Now did you go to the bathroom yet?”
“No. I think I’m plugged.”
And on and on. Eventually, after literally 2 days of waiting, I finally got to go get my MRI. A very nice man came in, put 2 more blankets on me and wheeled my whole gurney into a huge elevator and down to a new wing. I was let into a room that resembled a child’s doctor’s room, and a very nice man came in. To do the MRI I had to take everything off, and could only have my robe on, but it wasn’t allowed to be tied.
“Not to be weird, but what’s the point then?”
“You know, I don’t know. But keep it on.”
And then I had what remains as one of the coolest experiences ever: I watched my heart. I’ve never been pregnant but I assume the fascination is similar. There was just something so awesome about seeing your heart beating. And lo and behold- it was fine.
“This heart is great. You may have just been really dehydrated on top of everything, which probably made things worse for the reading. Everyone’s is different, though. But everything looks great.”
“Is that surprising?”
“Well… I do eat a lot of sweets.”
“How much is a lot?”
“… A decent amount.”
FINALLY I was allowed to go home, which was terribly exciting. My friend Bachel picked me up, bless her heart, and drove me home. I took the following day off again from work and gradually the virus went away and the bruises from my epic fall started fading. I returned to work to the chant of “You’re not dead, Stobes! You’re not dead! We thought you were dead!” which is always nice to hear. But here is what I learned from this entire ordeal:
*From a technical standpoint, you can usually heal on your own from the viruses that constitute the Norovirus. It’s just going to be AWFULLLLL until you do. But if that is the route you are taking, don’t tell your dad, or it’s gonna be the police that find you ass up in the bathroom.
*I guess still tell the triage lady you have hit your head, even if you land in tupperware. I’ve thought a lot about this and ultimately, yes, it’s the right thing to do.
*Chelsea Handler is a God send.
*I send a lot of medicated texts. A lot. But they are AMAZING.