Illness and Appreciation

This week I’ve been sick. Now, I’ve had my share of illnesses over the years. Flu, mono, the occasional so-tired-I-sleep-for 18-hours-straight, seasonal allergies (it’s like being sick 8 weeks out of the year!), but this time seemed different somehow.

So here’s how the story goes…

A good friend is moving across the country. We decide to throw her a party on saturday.  It’s nice, it’s fun, we’ll see our friends, we’ll have a fond farewell. Photographs, card games, good times, munchies, root beer, cake.

Hey, wait… who invited the norovirus?

24 hours after the party ended, my wife and I got sick. So sick that our bellies decided to disobey the standard rules of digestion and forcefully evict, without a warrant or barely a warning, the food we’d eaten over the past 24 hours. Needless to say, Sunday night was pretty rough. Between bouts of queasiness, praying that it will pass without having to kneel before the (thankfully recently sanitized) toilet, visiting the toilet more than once, and trying to get some sleep, it was almost a miracle we made it through the night.

After things started to calm down at 1am, I thought I’d warn our guests that we’d been sick and to see if any of them had come down with anything. I started a group chat with them on Facebook. Sadly, within an hour of my initial post, someone else was feeling queasy. And by the end of the next day, a good 60% of our guests had the same symptoms.

Monday comes and we’re wiped out. I don’t think I’ve ever been more tired in my life. Not when I biked a metric century (62 miles) without being prepared for it. Not when I tried to walk 5 miles home and ended up walking 15 (didn’t quite make it home.) Not even when I had mono (two weeks in bed.)  I realize now that b monday morning, we effectively hadn’t eaten in nearly 36 hours, and had about 4-5 hours of uncomfortable sleep. Not a great combination. And to top it off, having an upset stomach, to put it mildly, meant that we had no interest in eating anything whatsoever.

I somehow made my way to the grocery store that morning to stock up on Pedialyte (yay! On sale!), juices, crackers, soup, and other gentle foods to ease our bodies back into the idea of digestion. I think I must have been an odd sight: 8am in the grocery, barely showered and groomed, trudging through the store, taking upwards of 30-35 minutes to pick up a selection of items that filled one grocery bag, at a time when most normal people are just getting to their desks.

The rest of the day passes in a blur, more or less. After we moved the furniture around in the living room, converting the floor to a bed by way of the mattress from the hide-a-bed sofa, and turning on the TV, we zoned out, make sure we each always had water and juice, and checked our email as we could. Sleeping now and again, resting, hoping that the crackers I ate thirty minutes ago will stay down, even though my stomach is threatening another rebel uprising.

Dénouement

By and large, with enough sleep and managing the 101º fever, things begin to move back to a state of normal. We were able to commiserate with our friends, taking comfort in the shared experience and that in the end, there’s really no one to blame. It could be that someone, anyone, picked up the virus and it spread rapidly with all the hugging and handshaking going on. But we were able to support each other and offer advice and sometimes that’s a good thing to have.

Everything is better today, with the exception that our guest of honor at the party had to delay her trip by a few days. Fortunately she was able to work things out with her soon-to-be ex-landlord to stay a few more days and I hope that the airline said “Why of course we’ll change your ticket for free, Ma’am. We’d rather you just keep that nice little virus to yourself!”. (Somehow, I don’t think it went down like that.)

But what this all boils down to is that I have come to have a much greater appreciation for illness than I did before. Typically and historically I have a pretty strong immune system and don’t fall ill often. I like to think of it as a trade-off for fighting grass pollen two months out of the year. So usually when I do get sick, I’m a miserable, insufferable, whiny, bitch about it. This time around, I somehow found a way of accepting it and I think I gained a greater understanding and empathy for those who have chronic or other severe illnesses. For me, there are few things worse than vomiting, which in my case is pretty bad. It made me think about cancer patients going through chemotherapy and how they face this sort of thing week after week and I can only get a glimpse of how they find the strength to continue to go on with the treatments again and again. Lying on the living room floor for two days, I think about people who have CFS or other chronic illnesses and how it feels to have what seems like a two ton weight on your entire body such that simply sitting up takes all the strength you have. And yet these people still hold jobs and have families and lives. It’s amazing.

I guess it makes me thankful that I am healthy, but at the same time I’m a bit guilty for having taken it for granted for so long.