I Survived Norovirus 2019, And All I Got Was This Lousy Blog Post


I wasn't sure if I would be able to write about the week I spent incapacitated by the Norovirus, but then I read a story in David Sedaris' newest collection of essays where he contracts viral gastroenteritis and tries to avoid shitting himself onstage in the midst of a book tour. Well, I thought, if it's good enough for Sedaris...

Admittedly if you'd asked me a week ago, I would have told you there was nothing amusing about the situation. My trauma began on Sunday; I was halfway through a twelve hour shift when I felt the click of my body's inner dial turning from "Fine" to "Increasingly Unwell". I ushered patrons into the theatre with a thermos of lemsip sloshing around in my pocket, breathing my contaminated blackcurrant breath over every ticket I tore. A trickle of sweat ran across my temple and down my neck as I waited for an opportunity to excuse myself to the bathroom to assess the situation.

Diagnosis: Not Good.

At around 9pm I sat at the merchandise table neatly arranging CDs into a pleasant grid and sneaking pieces of a granola flapjack. I chewed my mouthful of oats, positive that this was a biological blip, a passing phase. These sugary bars are basically porridge for slackers, right? It would sort me out.

Half an hour later, I realised with great annoyance that someone had turned down the heating and opened all the doors and windows in the building. It was too dark to see outside, but I was confident that it must be snowing. I unrolled my shirt sleeves and tucked myself into as much of a ball as you make out of yourself into when seated and trying to remain professional. My teeth chattered, my body burned and it was at that point that I got up, staggered into the nearest bathroom and threw up.

Monday was a fever dream. I felt as though I'd been plugged into the Matrix just before the Millennium Bug hit. I took a sick day and spent it a dark room, shivering under the duvet, 404 Not Found. "I think I've got what you had." I croaked from beneath the covers. My boyfriend, who had spent the last few days pooping and pouting, shrugged. I was annoyed that he wasn't demonstrating an appropriate amount of guilt for poisoning me. A short prison sentence would have sufficed, or some moderate flogging. When I got of bed to use the bathroom I left a wet human outline behind me.

On Tuesday I was feeling more positive because I could do the things I struggled with the day before, such as opening my eyes. There was nothing left inside my body but the chewing gum I accidentally swallowed when I was nine, so I was pretty optimistic that I was almost out of the woods.

That's when it started.

You know those horror movies when the young woman (or man) is fleeing the homicidal maniac who has just showed up at their door? They climb noisily up the stairs, gripping the handrail and panting with fear, tripping over the rug on the landing before staggering to their feet and flinging themselves through the closest door. They barricade their hiding space as best they can and crouch on the floor, trying desperately to control their breathing. Silence. Has the monster gone? They slowly stand and creep towards the locked door, straining to hear if any noises are coming from outside, and then... BAM. The murderer barges the door, rattling the handle, and our victim's shrieks in fear.

My stomach was that maniac. It began to churn, and then gurgle with the ferocity of a feral dog. I had about three seconds to react. "BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD" my body chanted, as I threw myself into the bathroom.

This went on for a brief 24 hours. By then, I had made peace with the knowledge that this was the end. My stomach cramps were signalling kidney failure, and my last meal was to be water seasoned with rehydration sachets. I'd referred to the gloopy pink Pepto-Bismol medicine I forced down as "Pepto-Abyssmal". Was this the last awful pun I would ever make? I searched my media library for an intelligent-sounding art-house film, worried that my corpse would be discovered that evening with Bring It On playing on the tv screen.

By Wednesday I had nothing left to give. Death seems quicker in the movies; the zombies reanimate basically ten minutes after the infection kills them, but I was being forced to wait hours. In bed, I lay as still as possible to keep my insides inside me, as the Grim Reaper's answering machine message told me that my call was important to them and to please stay in the queue.

I drank some water and threw it up. Release me, Satan.

And then on Thursday, I was fine. The storm cleared, the waves retreated, and I was left surveying the battered remains of my life. I made a sandwich. I played a video game. I wondered if this was part of a fever dream, that any moment now my surroundings would melt away into walls of yellowy diarrhea and I would be back in the bathroom, hugging a roll of toilet paper against my chest.

One of the most fascinating aspects of humans is the ability to bear a great amount of pain and then immediately forget how it feels. I'm always surprised when I get sick; the experience feels fresh and unfamiliar each time. Other people struggle to relate to the physical torment of others, unable to conjure the empathy required to console someone who's just had to throw away their third pair of knickers in two days.

When you're at the lowest point you can't see a way out, but once you're free of it you can't see a way in, either. I spent my four days in hell utterly miserable, unable to take pleasure in anything (food) and reluctant to be more than fifteen feet away from the toilet. I was at the complete mercy of my failing body, stunned by my own mortality and how quickly your health can fall apart. I was profoundly depressed by it all.

And now? I find it quite funny.

Comments

  1. Glad to hear you've recovered, I'm going through the same illness right now and reading this has helped cheer me up. You're such a brilliant writer x

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