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Amanda: Meet E. Coli

April 27, 2011

My fourth weekend in India, I accompanied my roommate Jezelle to the hospital after she spend half a week suffering from extreme diarrhea, or as Indians like to say, loose motions.  As the only foreigners around, Jezelle and I both stood out like sore thumbs at Fortis Escorts, the private hospital Jezelle attended.  Not only did every doctor and nurse on the floor know both of us by name and nationality, but every housekeeping attendant, room service waiter, and elevator guard greeted us with a hearty “Namaste” and a mouth full of Hindi that neither one of us could understand after less than a month in India.

I never expected to return to Fortis after I left the hospital in February when Jezelle’s health finally began to progress.  Little did I know that a month and a half later I would face the same fate as Jezelle. It happened early March, on a day that will forever live in infamy.  It was during the period of time when my boss was on vacation, and I was enjoying life as a direction-less intern, meaning, even more cups of chai than usual, afternoon naps, and solitaire on my cell phone (that was before a village in the hills mysteriously claimed my cheap Nokia phone, the sole connection I had with the rest of the world).  It was a day that made me love India.  Sun blazing down on my kurta, but weather still resting below the 100 degree Farenheit line.  It was the first day I saw my favorite fruit vendor selling mangoes on the side of the street, and the first day I bought the fruit that made Indian springs famous.

Early that morning, I met Jezelle, purchased two mangoes from the side of the road (one for both of us), walked to Seva Mandir, met my program director and roommate for coffee, and discussed the progress of my internship.  I put in a few hours at the office, and then headed off to Sahliyon ki Bardi, my favorite garden in Udaipur, to read, rest, and indulge in the mango I’d patiently waited to eat all day.

My time in the garden began as promising.  I hid under a tree and for once, people-watched in India instead of being people-watched.  I closed my eyes for a few minutes.  I ate my mango.  I read my copy of Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss that I got signed at the Jaipur Literature Festival (had to take an opportunity to brag there). Two of my friends, North and Morwenna, met me to chat and discuss their prospects in OK Cupid after their hip-hop class finished.Fast forward to around 7 pm.  I returned home to Kavitaji’s house.  Jezelle stopped by to show off some jewelry she purchased from the gem emporium.  Felecia, my roommate, and I were preparing to accompany Kavitaji to a function.  Then, all of a sudden, a wave of nausea hit me.  I felt sick but thought it may have been because I stood up too quickly.  Once I made it to my room three flights up the stairs, I realized I really was sick.  I tried to throw up but couldn’t.  I walked downstairs to tell Kavita I couldn’t make it to her party, walked back upstairs, and then observed the battle between my bowels and my stomach that was to ensue.  Both organs were trying to empty any possible substance from my body as fast as possible. 

Over ten times throughout the night I awoke suddenly, made my way to the toilet, stacked a plastic bucket on my lap, and, well…became really sick.  Not to go into too gruesome of detail, but I was vomiting and passing loose motions at the same time.  I experienced a stage of vomit/poop, feel a lot better, sleep, feel extremely nauseous, run to the bathroom, vomit/poop.  Suffice it to say, I had never been so sick in my life.  All this, keep in mind, is from a girl who hasn’t thrown up since Algebra II class freshman year of high school.

The next day I was to meet classmates in Jaipur for a mid-internship meeting.  After my night of disaster, I threw on jeans and a tshirt, tried to wipe the previous day’s mascara off my face, and haphazardly packed my bags for the trip to Jaipur.  What a bad idea that was!  The driver chose to ignore my friend Jonathan’s instruction of dhire, dhire, or very slow.  When we stopped in Chittorgh, the village where my friend Gretchen worked, the combination of fast driving and bumpy roads became too much for me.  I rolled down the window and vomited. The rest of the journey was no more promising, either.  I tried to zone out my friends’ conversation and focus on a black hole.  That didn’t work.  I tried to wipe the crustiness off my lips.  That really didn’t work.  Finally, I tried to wish that the dryness in my throat would disappear. When we finally made it to the hotel, I sunk myself into the lush, marshmallow-like beds, but was again faced with a relentless case of nausea.  Jezelle and Jonathan were in the room, watching me lie in misery.  My mom called to check up on me, I answered the phone, moved too fast, I guess, and then…vomit.  I started to feel worse. My teeth started chattering despite India’s hot spring weather.

Finally, one of the program administrators took me to Fortis, where a doctor in Triage diagnosed me with gastroenteritis and severe dehydration.  How the tables turned!  This time, Jezelle was my attendant.  All of the doctors, nurses, housekeeping staff, room service attendants, and elevator guards remembered both of us.  The miracle of intravenous rehydration pumped water through my body again.  A diet of toast, curd, and rice nursed my sick self into its normal state.  My last day in the hospital I was finally ready for discharge.  The resident on duty handed me my discharge papers and I prepared to be wheeled downstairs until my nurse ran into my room, printed out new discharge papers, and wished me well.

By this time in India, I was beginning to learn that India is always full of surprises.  I faced one final surprise in Fortis when I read those new discharge papers in the elevator.  I didn’t just have gastroenteritis and dehydration when I was ill.  A little friend by the name of Escherichia Coli was keeping my stomach company too.

And so the journey continues…
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