Monday, August 6, 2012

Giardia ruined my Julydia


Honey, I hesitated whether to tell this story or not. Then I thought about all the things I’ve written about on this blog. Nothing has really been off limits so I thought why not. So I had a run in with the big D and I don’t mean Dallas and I don’t mean Divorce.

Montezuma took his revenge on me for the entire month of July. Days off, days at work, days on vacation, days that turned to night waking me from sleep. Back and forth toilet runs. Flux pouring out of me like water. Trotting, trotting then trotting some more. I was the most glamorous human being ever with my ill fitting clothes due to weight loss and my lack of energy due to dehydration and lack of appetite. Yes, honey, as Emily says in The Devil Wears Prada “I'm one stomach flu away from my goal weight.” Except my goal weight did not include losing my pecs and ass. This must be how women feel when they lose weight and it’s in their boobs. Ugh!!

July 2nd. Let me take you back. I didn’t have much of an appetite that day. I got up that morning like normal and made my coffee and poured myself a bowl of cereal. I drank the coffee and ate most of the cereal. It’s unlike me to not finish off the bowl of cereal. I love cereal. I’ll take cereal over bacon and eggs any day. I could tell my appetite was experiencing technical difficulty. I didn’t eat for the rest of that day. Just didn’t feel it. I could hear this voice in my head telling me that it was not good to skip meals though and decided by evening that it was important and necessary that I put food into my system. 

We have a fantastic option here in New York City for ordering in. It’s called You put in your address and all the restaurants that deliver in your area will show up in a list. It’s amazing. You can search by ALL or select the type of food you want (i.e. American, Chinese, etc.). Of course a restaurant has to be part of the community. But then most are. Why not increase your revenue wherever you can, right? Anyway, I searched through all the listings on and just wasn’t feeling anything. My favorites, saved from repeated ordering, weren’t doing it for me. I’ve got to eat, what do I want to eat kept running through my head. Lack of appetite does not make food appealing. Nothing seemed to fit the requirement. Then I settled on pizza. Papa John’s pizza. I love the Garden Veggie and convinced myself that pizza was better than nothing. 

I ate a couple of slices of that pizza. It tasted like it normally tastes. It was filling. I did not go to bed hungry, but I went to bed slightly off. I didn’t feel sick, but I think I know my body well enough to know when it’s not quite right. 

July 3rd. I woke that morning lethargic; the coffee didn’t help my energy materialize nor did it help clear away the clouds that had formed in my brain. I was awake and walking, but I wasn’t completely present. I was frustrated and concerned, but took myself to work with no breakfast because my appetite was still gone and honestly, cereal just didn’t sound good. Slowmo walk to the train combined with a slowmo walk from the train and I’m at work. I’m not feeling it. My frustration continued through my lack of energy and focus; the clouds that had grasped my brain refused to let go, their wisps wrapping every section in a murky blanket.

Tasks that I do everyday took thought and took longer to accomplish. My boss could tell something was wrong and asked if I wanted to go home. Being a trooper and a person who is rarely sick I said declined his offer. I went to the grocery store and bought crackers and a banana. By then, my stomach was a little more rumbly and annoyed by more than hunger pains. I ate nearly a sleeve of crackers, but didn’t touch the banana. A couple of hours later, I decided to say accept the offer to go home. My functionability was so affected that at one point I was sitting at my desk holding my head in my hands. That was the moment home seemed like the best place for me to be.

A stomach in question is not something one wants on a crowded, fast moving, bumpy subway train. It was my only option other than sitting in traffic in a cab. The subway was the fastest choice for my 5pm departure. I sat as still as I could and breathed. I don’t remember the last time I concentrated so hard on breathing. Focusing on each breath. In with the good, out with the shit. Deep, relaxing breaths. Shallow breaths. A twenty minute subway ride filled with too many people and breaths that filled my lungs but didn’t really calm my stomach.

Something was wrong. Something was churning. A cold with congestion and maybe a bit of mucus in the lungs is the most sickness I’ve felt in many years. I’ve been fortunate to be healthy. I have an immune system that works for me every day. You can imagine how a sour stomach might impede my ability to live my life in my normal way.

Home. Sanctuary. Safety. I took my shoes off at the door, turned the air conditioner on and dropped my clothes at the foot of my bed. I then climbed into my bed, pulling the covers to my chin, and slept. I hate naps yet I slept for three hours. My energy was depleted. That was the night the sickness hit. It reared its ugly head first by the expulsion of the contents of my stomach. I couldn’t stop it from happening. I could tell it was going to happen by the way the muscles at the back of my throat held a new tension every time I swallowed. Try as I may, no deep breath would stay the sick. No desire to hold on to my saltine lunch was strong enough. I was thwarted at every turn. Worship at the throne of the toilet god was inevitable. My mind was reeling from the fact that this was happening. I was shocked. I’m so consistent with washing my hands after exiting the subway and after a bathroom visit. I am a clean, healthy person. I don’t have a roommate. I’m not one to hang around children. How could this have happened? 

Moments after the emptying experience, however, I was back in that room with its cold, faux marble tiles only this time my feet were feeling the cold tile instead of my knees. I took up residence as the King. That night my reign began and it didn’t let up for 28 days.

Dehydration became the scariest factor in this situation. I was losing more water than I could drink. Partly because I had no desire to drink. My brain was sending the alert signals that I needed water, but my body had put the emergency broadcast system on mute as wasn’t paying attention. I didn’t want to drink it, I did, but it wasn’t nearly enough. 

I tried to work. I tried to eat. I slept on my sofa. I slept in my bed. I started the night in my bed and moved to the sofa or vice versa. I didn’t get dressed. I barely ate. I tried jello and applesauce. I tried chicken noodle soup. I called my sister, the nurse. Sitting in my apartment alone, feeling the rumblings of my bowels, knowing that I was getting neither enough water nor nutrients was alarming. Then came a break in the pattern.

July 6th. Three days in I was solid again. Rock ‘n Roll Sign of the Horns lifted high in the air. I was so happy. The three days of watery discontent had ended. Whatever had been causing the problems had decided to move on. I celebrated by eating watermelon. It’s full of water and my dehydrated body needed all the water it could get. My false since of wellness was nothing more than the beautiful mirage a thirst ridden desert traveler sees as the sun beats down upon the sand while he slowly moves across the desolate terrain toward death. A few hours later I was kneeling back at that thrown while the desired and needed watermelon made its grand reappearance.

Okay, something was wrong. I knew it. This wasn’t a twenty-four bug. It wasn’t a 48-hour bug. On Saturday and Sunday, the lack of appetite and the rumbling of the stomach and intestines continued; movements emptied my body with a deluge from my ass.
July 6th. Fear and commonsense came together and I finally went to Urgent Care. Thankfully, they were open on Sunday’s. I knew all the details. I knew when the vomiting had started (approximately 10:31pm on Tuesday, July 3rd). I knew how many times I had vomited. I could recount what I’d been eating. I knew how many movements a day I was having. I gave clear and concise information to the person I trusted to help me.

I felt a sense of relief when the doctor said she thought I had a viral infection. She came to this conclusion based on my timeline of events. Said timeline helped her rule out bacterial infection which would require an antibiotic. Basically, I was told that this would have to run its course and I would suffer through the watery episodes until it did so. I was hooked up to an IV and given two bags of fluid to replenish my dehydrated body (a first for me). I was given anti nausea medication in the bag as well as a Pepcid AC to swallow for control the acid that was bubbling in my stomach. 

Knowing what’s wrong with you goes a long way toward making you feel better. There was more pep in my step as I walked home from Urgent Care. I felt a sense of relief by the diagnosis and my energy was on the mend thanks to the two bags of fluid. I just had to wait it out and all would be right with my world again.

July 7th. Monday would prove another false moment of recovery. Solidity appeared. My attitude improved. When the doctor from Urgent Care called to check on me we both felt that my wait was over and that the virus had moved on.

July 8th. Tuesday, a week since the beginning, Niagara rushed again. All the happiness and confidence that had been present on Monday got flushed right down the toilet. I was scared, but I thought I just had to keep waiting.

This is, of course, where I began to wonder if I have cancer. Shake your head at my leap. It’s okay. My grandmother lost her battle with cancer that was found in the lining of her abdomen. I was suffering from liquid evacuation and I jumped onto that cancer train faster than it could pull away from the station. Fear is why I did that. Fear of the unknown. 

July 9th - 22nd. Through another week at work then a week of vacation I suffered through this disgusting chapter in my life. I knew it was time to see my doctor. The Urgent Care doc had done a great job diagnosing me based on the information I had provided, but it was time for some real answers. It was time for blood tests, stool samples, something to put a name on this thing that was gripping me from the inside. Reminded of the expression “Shit or get off the pot” I was ready to get off the pot. Something was not right. This had been going on for too long. I needed answers. I needed peace of mind. I needed to get off the throne.

July 24th. I sent an email to my doctor’s office pleading my case; begging for a spot in his busy schedule. Three weeks after life took a drastic turn toward Liquidville, I had an appointment. It wasn’t to be with my doctor, but it was with a physician’s assistant in his office. Relief washed over me. Now, I thought, I’ll get some answers.

July 25th, 11am: I rehash my story to Kelly. She was great and I was comfortable telling her all the details. I knew them all, of course. Every detail of what I ate, how long I held on to it, the Urgent Care diagnosis, the amount of sleep, the color underwear I was wearing when it first happened (not true). I was thorough. The keys clicked as she typed these details into my file. Then she gave me the bag of vials; three vials that I was to fill with my stool. I couldn’t help but laugh. This was going to be another moment told for comedic effect in my life. 

July 26th, Thursday. How was I going to catch the evacuating contents of my colon? Bowl? Bag? Milk jug with the top cut off (eew)? A bag it was. 

Having finally figured out how to catch the liquid I was ready. The plastic bag was positioned under the toilet seat with its handles on the outside so that I could hold onto them thereby preventing the bag from sitting in the water. I needed to fill it with my water not let it sit in the toilet water. What if the bag had a small hole I couldn’t see? The instructions were clear. The vials could only be filled with contents from the bowels. The toilet water would have contaminated the specimen. I had to make sure my penis was on the outside of the bag too so that the toilet caught the urine while the bag caught the rest. No contamination of any kind. Now to the fun part. I was back on my knees at the throne only this time I was armed with a spoon smaller than one used to feed a child its baby food. Seriously, it was a spoon that was slightly larger than what a pixie might use to slurp up berry soup. Thankfully, I only had to scoop about a quarter inch worth of waste into each vial. With a spoon that small though it took scoop after scoop after scoop....

Honey, this was comedy. Who ever watches my story on their digital screen, light years away in outer space, had to be laughing. I should get notification any day now regarding the Galactical Emmy I’ve been nominated for as Best Actor in a Comedy Series. 

With the contents stirred and shaken (what kind of shit martini was this?), I placed the three vials back into their plastic bag and put them in my backpack. I had to get them to the doctor. For thirty minutes I carried shit in my bag in New York City. I am so proud!!

After dropping it off at the diagnostic testing center all that was left was the waiting. 

For those of you keeping up this is three weeks and two days since the start of this life alternating experience.

July 29th, Sunday. I got a call from another doctor who works with my doctor. I’d been compromised!! Small amounts of the parasite Giardia had been found in my cocktail. A parasite. I realize that I live in New York City, but I am a clean, healthy person. And this is America. My brain began its index file search of where I had been that I could have picked up a parasite. A parasite. I had a parasite. When was I in Mexico opening my mouth in the shower? (Charlotte York Goldenblatt, anyone?) After the initial shock, relief again washed over me. It was treatable with an antibiotic and I could actually start it that day. Three times a day for seven days I would take this drug that would kill and flush this parasite from my body. After that, “I have a parasite” became a joke shared among friends and family.

The commercials for Mucinex depict the mucus family and friends taking up residence in the lungs and just hanging out like they own the place. Just like the mucus, the parasite Giardia took up residence in my intestines, setting up a parasitic palace where they continued to party for nearly 31 days. I was hosting a party that I hadn’t even been invited to. What’s up with that? How rude!! 

I learned that Giardia is the easiest parasite to get rid of. I learned that it can take anywhere from two days to two months to show itself. That means I could have picked it up anytime between May and July. That could have been anywhere. 

Since the diagnosis I have become an even more stringent hand washer, and fruit washer, than before.

August 5th, Sunday morning, I took the final dose of antibiotic. The party is over. Giardia has left the building. As the host of a few human parties in my time, this one was my least favorite. A host should have fun at his own party, but this party was full of selfish guests. They took and took and took from me giving me nothing in return for my accommodations. Montezuma may have taken revenge on me, but I got the last laugh with revenge through eviction on Giardia.

Later guys. All future parties in my body have been cancelled. Peace out!!