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2010.02.11 Stomach Virus Sucks

posted Feb 11, 2010, 2:31 PM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Feb 11, 2010, 5:04 PM ]
Most members of my family will brag they have something akin to a cast iron stomach.  As a group, we eat anything and everything.  While some few of us might prefer not to each eat any particular food item or another, between three or four of us you can pretty much count on every plate being cleaned.  It's not just a matter of quality, mind you.  We also kick ass when it comes to quantity.  There are buffets which fire up extra burners when they see four or five us come in.

Also, in spite of what our doctors keep telling us, we're pretty healthy.  At least, we feel pretty healthy.  Apparently, all the conditions/diseases/illnesses/defects we have are "silent killers" which require constant monitoring, invasive tests, and expensive maintenance medications yet somehow have no noticeable symptoms until we drop dead.

Until a week or so ago, I would have told you that I couldn't remember the last time I felt sick.  Oh, I've had the occasional sinus infection or stomach bug or the like.  There have been times when I've gone to the doctor, and there have certainly been times when I haven't felt well, but I couldn't tell you the last time I felt completely and utterly "oh dear sweet Jesus please let me die" sick.

I can tell you now.  Last Saturday night through Monday morning.

I woke up in the middle of Saturday night not knowing that I was sick.  I just knew I felt the slightest urge to pee and possibly release some gas.  This hit two of my three Rules for Getting Old.  Such rules are as follows:
  1. Never pass up a chance to pee.
  2. Any time you get a "special feeling" down there, do something with it.
  3. Never trust a fart.
While I supposed I could have just rolled over and tried to go back to sleep, I instead stumbled to the bathroom.  I'd had a relatively minor stomach upset earlier, so I decided not to take any chances.  I had finished with #1 and was halfway through #3 when I realized I was right; I shouldn't have trusted that fart.  As a cow-orker of mine once said, "That fart had some substance."  It also went on for a very, very long time.  I started to question that, but then I realized that things were moving in the other direction as well.

Jeff Foxworthy does this wonderful comedy routine about having to kneel in front of the toilet or sit on the toilet depending on what you're doing.  He also mentions having to switch from kneeling to sitting or sitting to kneeling if what you're doing changes.  Your night might go sit, sit, kneel, sit, kneel, sit, kneel, kneel, kneel, sit.  And, as Foxworthy says, hope you never sit when you should have kneeled or kneel when you should have sat.

I now find that this little routine is both funny because it is so true and not funny because I recently lived through it.  Also, Foxworthy never mentioned the possibility of needing to kneel and sit at the same time.

My Mother, by the way, has already consider the possibility.  If you're ever at one of my extended family's homes and wonder why there's a cut off gallon milk jug sitting in the bathroom, the official reason is so you can fetch a little extra water in case the "eco-flush" low-flow toilet needs a little help.  The actual reason is so you can blow chunks from both ends at the same time.

I honestly can't tell you the last time I threw up.  It's been at least 10 years.  While I can't say that my bowels have always been particularly well-behaved, I can't tell you the last time they felt like a high-pressure fire hose, either.  I think that's closer to 15 years.  Taken in combination, we might have to go back 20 or more years.  The last thing that really put me out was my girlfriend's batch of buttered noodles.  I had two plates full to assure her that, yes, I loved them and appreciated her cooking for me.  I discovered later that my girlfriend never knew that butter had an expiration date.

I'm not sure if noodles have an expiration date, but I'm pretty sure she didn't check that, either.

Anyway, back to my most recent discomforture, after a week or so of retching and flushing, I finally ran dry and staggered from the bathroom.  I then discovered that only an hour had passed.  All the clocks in the house agreed, so whoever was pulling a prank on me did a thorough job.  I placed a call to my place of employment to let them know that I might not make it in to work the next day.  I was certain that I was over the worst of it, but thought that taking the next day off might be a good idea.  Feeling tired but relieved, I returned to bed.

Four hours later, I was staggering towards the bathroom, milk jug in hand.  After another week (hour), I placed another call to work explaining that I definitely wouldn't make it that day, but was certain I'd be in the next.

Four hours later, I stopped bothering to call.

I don't remember much about Sunday.  I'm told that work called and I told them I would be in Monday, but a few hours later I called them back to say otherwise.  I'll have to take their word for it.  I'm also told, and this I do vaguely remember, that for 24 solid hours I would sleep 3 or 4 hours then spend 30 minutes in the bathroom.  I also have fantasies of considering going to the Emergency Room, yet being just stingy enough to balk at the $100 copay.  I believe the plan was that if I still felt bad Monday, I'd go see my regular doctor.

I woke up Monday afternoon feeling fine.  Tired, sore, and empty in a way I'm not sure I'd ever felt before, but otherwise fine.  While I had been running a bit of a fever Sunday (I'm told), I was subnormal come Monday.  I had no appetite, but that bowl of soup and stack of crackers went down pretty easily.  I had this thing licked!  Which was great, because with the new job and the new insurance and all, I had no idea which doctor or medical center or whatever I was supposed to go to, anyway.  Life was good!

An hour later, the queasiness and nausea and other things of that nature started again, but I kept a lid on things.  I was not going to let this beat me.  Besides, by that point, it was easing into Monday afternoon and the only available doctor would be at the Emergency Room.  The trips to the bathroom didn't start until late that night.

I woke up Tuesday morning feeling fine.  Tired, sore, and empty in a way I'm not sure I'd ever felt prior to the day before, but otherwise fine.  I didn't eat.  I'm too smart to make the same mistake twice.  (I come up with completely new mistakes every time.)  I called around and found a brand new doctor just down the road.  After hearing my story and poking around a bit, said doctor's first impulse was to send me to the Emergency Room.  Apparently, I was dehydrated to the point that he didn't think they could draw blood for lab work, and my history of diabetes and all those other "silent killers" made him hesitant to treat me without a better understanding of my condition.  After all, he'd never seen me before.  Hence the Emergency Room.

In addition to the cost, I didn't want to go to the Emergency Room because I've worked in hospitals many years and I know what they'd do to me.  First, after making me wait in the waiting room, they'd eventually triage me, find that I'm not current in the act of dying, and make me wait some more.  Once I made it to a room, I'd have to wait some more.  Then, the ER doctor would come in, listen to my story, then leave me to wait some more while he tried to contact the doctor who sent me to the ER to find out exactly why he had done so.  The ER doctor would be hesitant to treat me without a better understanding of my condition.  After all, he'd never seen me before, either.  Eventually, I'd get some IV fluids to battle the dehydration.  I'd be discharged with a prescription to stop the vomiting, orders to drink lots of fluids/get plenty of rest, and a recommendation to follow up with my regular doctor if my symptoms continued.

I tried to explain this to my "regular" doctor who, if I may remind you, was seeing me for the very first time.  He was more concerned about all those "silent killers" than my current condition.  Finally, he gave me a prescription to stop the vomiting, orders to drink lots of fluids/get plenty of rest, and a recommendation to go to the nearest ER if my symptoms continued.  He told me to come back in a couple of days or whenever I felt well and hydrated for lab work.  I wasn't to return to work until I was completely and totally well because my diabetes and other conditions made treating even a simple stomach virus (I'm not sure when we decided that this was a simple stomach virus) so complicated.  I left feeling worse than when I arrived.

He also gave me refills for a couple of maintenance medicines I was out of.  Only a couple, as I'd foolishly told him that I thought I still had a few days' worth of some of the others.  I went straight to the pharmacy to fill those prescriptions, along with the one that was supposed to stop the vomiting.  I didn't have much faith in it, as I'd never heard of it before.

My new best friend is whoever invented Promethazine.  It's fast, effective, and cheap.  The only side effect was to make me a little (more) lightheaded.  And did I mention it was cheap?  My maintenance medications, on the other hand, cost a bundle because even their generic equivalents are expensive and I hadn't met my deductible for this year yet.

A couple of days later, after drinking several gallons of water and eating almost normally, I felt hydrated enough and well enough to try those lab tests the doctor had wanted.  Also, I'd realized that I didn't have as much of my other maintenance medications as I'd told him I did, so I needed some prescriptions.  I probably should have gotten new scripts for everything when I first saw him, but at the time I was more concerned about not painting his shoes a new shade of green.  I called the office, played musical options, spoke to a live person, and was directed to call a different office.  I swear, the list they gave me showed several MD and PA operating out of the same office with the same local phone number, then my new doctor (and only my new doctor) with a different local phone number.  However, when I called that number for my doctor, they told me that I needed to call his office directly and gave me that other phone number shared by everybody else.

I didn't get a chance to complain about that because I got sidetracked when I found out that no one was available to collect my blood that day.  I told them that was okay.  I could probably do with another few days to hydrate and recover, but I'd definitely be out of some of my medications by then.  Could the doctor phone me in some new scripts?  Oh, the doctor wasn't in either.  The doctor wouldn't be back until Tuesday.

"That was the day I was planning to come in for the lab work anyway," I told them.

"Good.  You can talk to him then.  I'm glad we could help you.  Click!"