Frabjous Times


Emergency room redux: Nausea, or the Sickness Unto Death

The trip to Washington last week went pretty well, with some interesting sessions at the ServiceMaster/Furniture Medic Convention, not to mention the keynote addresses by former President Bush and his wife Barbara. But on the way home, something in my system was got seriously broken.
We set out shortly after noon, and seeking to bypass some sort of tie-up on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, instead headed east on 50 to Annapolis. I told Pamela about how my very first airplane trip was to Annapolis, for a week-long summer program at the Naval Academy, and we as drove past the grounds I remembered the model rockets I'd instrumented and taken data on about thirty years ago. We stopped for lunch near the old part of town, one which seemed to go okay, if one discounted the noisy neighbors and the slow service, then found our way out of town over the Chesapeake Bay bridge, through eastern Maryland and through Delaware.
Some hours later, we made our way to South Jersey where we visited with an old college fraternity buddy of mine and his wife. I had some pizza. So far so good.
Then partway back home, a couple of hours from home, I started feeling distinctly odd. The day was pretty hot, so it wasn't unusual to feel a sweat, but this was a different sort of sweat. The roads were as bumpy as usual and unkind to the stomach, but I started feeling unusually sensitive in that area. At some point, I turned over the driving to Pam while I tried to relax and take my mind off of the discomfort. This worked, for a while.
Then everything started to come up. Unfortunately, it was a split second before we were able to come to a stop and open the door. Long, racking minutes it was before my body decided that it had emptied itself sufficiently, and then it was a while before I could clean matters up in the car to the extent that we could continue on. As is often the case in such matters, I felt considerably better once the nausea was past, and I even entertained the thought that I could once again take over the driving. It was a good thing that we decided against this, as I was seized with one more fit on the road home, one we handled slightly better in terms of the mechanics. At this point, I felt as though I'd gotten rid of everything I'd consumed in the previous twelve hours.
It was a long ride up the NJ Turnpike back to Bergen County and home. On the final stretch, I was beset with a terrible set of cramping amidships, which I hastened to relieve as soon as I got in the door. Then I got myself to bed, terribly depleted but also quite exhausted. I followed the usual medical advice and tried consuming some fluids to avoid dehydration. A couple of additional rounds of discomfort later showed that this was not working; my system was rejecting even water at this point, having totally shut down.
So at around three in the morning, dehydrated and weak, I decided that if I didn't get some fluids into me somehow, I wasn't going to make it, so I asked Pamela to take me to the emergency room. We went through the by-now routine pain of contacting insurance and primary care physician by phone, then got back into our smelly car and made the trip over to Pascack Valley Hospital to have them take a look at me. This was a bit closer than the hospital I checked myself into the weekend before, but it turned out that the time spent in some kind of agony in the waiting area was considerably longer. I told them my symptoms and my recent history of illness, and soon I was hooked up to a saline drip to get rehydrated. Most of the nausea and bloating was past by now, but the weakness and mental confusion was worse than before. Because I hadn't been able to keep anything down, they administered some medication in my drip which had the side effect of putting me asleep for about three hours while they administered a second drip to get me back up to par. All told, I was there for something like four hours this time, and given a prescription in the end for a medication against nausea and instructions to consume only liquids and light foods at first while my constitution was still weak.
The rest of Sunday I spent pretty much in bed, and whatever I was given seemed to do the trick as far as the nausea was concerned, and an over-the-counter remedy also seemed to ward off the diarrhea as well. It wasn't until today that I've had solid food and started to resume my regular activity, however. Pamela never took ill, nor did my South Jersey friends, so we don't have reason to suspect a specific tainted meal along the way. Perhaps it was just a matter of being depleted because of the last big illness, having all my gut bacteria knocked out by antibiotic, and then undergoing the rigors of all this driving.
The biggest difference between last week's ER visit and this week's: when I learned that I wasn't keeping down even plain water, I knew that I was up against a bona fide matter of life and death this time. In my mind, I know that every day I'm out on these roads meeting an untimely end is a possibility, but this kind of experience makes the point more personally in a way.
Originally published: 2005/07/11 22:09:04
Previously published: Mon Jul 11 21:11:32 2005