I went to South America for a missions trip, and it was awesome. The trip was wonderful, I felt truly blessed to have gone. Outside of the initial traveling complications of getting to Colombia, we did not have any other issues on the trip. I was thankful for a smooth week with no illnesses or emergencies for our team. We were all super careful to exclusively drink purified bottled water and we avoided vegetables washed in local water and we sprayed poisonous amounts of bug spray on our bodies to ward off malaria. We were all good, I thought…
We were on our red eye flight back to American when the flight attendants served our one meal within the first 30 minutes, at 1 am, when half the passengers were sleeping. I thought that was weird. They had a gross looking sandwich and a pitiful looking salad. But I had a craving for vegetables, you see. I’ve been on a healthy kick this year, so going a week without my normal dosage of vegetables was downright killing me. I blame you, Beachbody.
So I ate the salad, except for the scary looking cheese, and promptly dozed off to sleep. Within an hour I jolted awake with the unpleasant urgency that only diarrhea (and I assume childbirth) gives you. But not just one time, like 5 times.
The salad betrayed me!!! I should have known!
At the time of my 4th unhappy trip to the bathroom — which becomes like a walk of shame down that plane aisle, lemme tell you — I walked out of the restroom and hung around the back for the flight attendant to notice me. She spotted me and rolled her eyes. Yes, rolled her eyes, and said “What?” Classy. I asked her for a ginger ale to calm my aching stomach and she tried to convince me they ran out, before even bothering to look. I stood there while she unhappily flung open doors in the most dramatic way possible and found me one. Gosh, and I thought the service industry in Memphis was bad.
We landed soon after, and I spent the layover in the bathroom, where my sweet travel mate took pity on me and gave me some immodium. I had packed mine in my big suitcase under the plane, because we had all avoided getting the runs, you see. Stupid decision! I should have known, I write Travel Tips for fun. This is going to be a new travel tip: Always take some immodium/pepto bismol in your carry-on.
I spent the weekend trying to convince myself that the need to void half my body weight every hour would disappear. I even went back to school on Monday and was fairly chipper, though I couldn’t eat anything without having to go to the bathroom immediately after. By the time Tuesday rolled around, I was flat out miserable. The lights had gone out of my eyes, as did all the nutrients in my body. I wandered slowly around school in abject misery, wishing I could eat something and have it stick. If I did attend class, I don’t remember it. I remember being miserable. I remember wanting to curl up in a ball somewhere and die, which I did, outside the library on a bench when I should have been in class.
I started asking my medical school husband what this could be, and of course I googled all of my symptoms. I came up with parasites, which are totally normal to get in South America. I imagined tapeworms in my intestines, getting cozy with my innards. I fought back the urge to vomit everywhere. I couldn’t spare the fluid. As a way to deflect horror, I decided to name my unknown parasite Bob.
I realized that anyone overhearing my conversation about Bob the intestinal parasite might be confused or alarmed. “Hey Nicole, is Bob still hanging around? Are you still dealing with him?” “Yeah, he’s kind of nasty. He’s worse in the mornings and I can generally only eat one meal a day.” Sounds like an abusive stalker boyfriend.
It was an interesting week. My husband heard entirely too much about my bowel movements, but he should get used to that — he’s going to be a doctor. My primary care doctor checked me out at the tail end of my illness. Thankfully I did not require any antibiotics.
Before I left for Colombia, I remember writing a blog post called “Med Student Syndrome and Suspicious Worms.” My brain knew what was going to happen before it happened.
Bob has officially left the building. He’s in the sewers of Hell where he belongs. And for those of you wondering (which is a surprising amount of people), no — I did not see a worm in my toilet. It’s possible he lodged himself in my intestines and is waiting for an opportune time to burst out of my torso and take control of my brain, like the Goa’uld in Stargate.
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