What to expect when you’re expecting (a norovirus)

I’ve had my tonsils out, I’ve broken my ankle, I’ve had glass shards removed from my hand. Yet no cold or flu or surgical operation could match the carpet bombing of the Norovirus that I contracted on the Christmas break.

I was all set to fly back to Toronto. I had seen all the friends and family I wanted to see, had eaten all of the things, had drank all of the beer. I had grown portly and pleased with myself. I decided to stay at my best friend’s parents house for the night. She was going to drive me to the airport.

What I wasn’t expecting was to be wholly dredged out by Norwalk, a Krabbelaar-like virus that scraped my stomach apart and deposited its contents elsewhere.

I suspect I got it from the questionable bar I visited to say goodbye to friends, mere hours before the vomiting took hold.

I awoke suddenly at 3 a.m., overcome with the unfamiliar urgency of extreme nausea. I rarely get hungover or sick, so the power and velocity of the projectile vomiting was suprising! WLAWWWWWWWWUUUUUUUGHHHH! It came now in great, purposeful waves.

I clutched the toilet and rested my head on the cool floor to think. Could this be alcohol poisoning? I’d only had a few drinks. I returned to bed to try and sleep it off.

Around 4 a.m. the projectile vomiting returned with renewed commitment. I befouled every centimeter of my friend’s parents’ bathroom, a colorful lattice of yesterday’s dinner. I’d always admired the art deco tile work and did so now, even as the turkey came up as a series of truncated brown curds.

When the pressing urge to shit myself came, I knew I was going to miss my plane.

I swiftly dumped the waste paper basket so I could use it to puke in, freeing up the toilet for my rear endeavors. Great torrents sprang from the core of my being. My best friend bravely entered the chamber of filth and offered some bottles of ginger ale. These too were quickly cycled through.

No food or liquid could spar with this incipient hell beast that was expertly dismantling my stomach lining. A sip of water would mean a brief reprieve from the mounting thirst. There would be about 3-4 minutes of an uneasy truce. Then, the Morningstar of Norwalk tore fresh cramps through my guts. I’d spew the water back out, now tinged yellow with bile. When there was nothing left to spew, I’d nearly choke with my own gagging. It was the stereotypical sound that actors make – one that until now I thought was exaggeration.

I’m squeamish and have no tolerance for this type of display from anyone else. When I wasn’t apoplectic with stomach spasms, I regarded my gross bodily functions with morbid fascination.

During the brief moments of calm, I would try to distract myself by reading my Facebook newsfeed from my phone on the floor. The pleasures and vices of others inspired barely a glance. The food photos seemed silly and staged. Don’t these people know that water, precious water, is the only important thing? SO THIRSTY.

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You learn, in these moments, that you are utterly alone. My friend unflinchingly emptied my puke bucket and rubbed my back when I wasn’t pooping out white foam. But she was helpless to alleviate my suffering.

When it looked like I was pissing blood, it seemed appropriate to head to the hospital. It had been nearly 8 straight hours of simultaneous diarrhea and vomiting, and I had nothing left to retch.

Unfortunately, the Sault Area Hospital has notoriously long wait times. The tiny hospital in my hometown (about an hour drive away) would be far less. My saintly mother was determined to get me home. She waited at an Idle No More blockade at the reserve on the edge of town as non-commercial traffic trickled through. Finally, she arrived. She scooped me off the floor, loaded me into the Honda Odyssey, and shoved a bedpan and several plastic bags into my hands.

After stopping at the McDonalds Drive-thru (glass of ice for me, thanks, 10-pc McNuggets for her), we approached a cop near the edge of the blockade. He waved us through. There is nothing quite so humbling as shitting into a pan in the back of your parents minivan as you are expedited through a protest.

“Step on it, will ya?” I spluttered as we neared the home stretch. The receptacles were filling up quickly, and I was delirious, shivering under my now papery skin.

At the hospital, I was promptly quarantined and handled with gloves after confirming my norovirus diagnosis. They protected the others from my filth with a face mask. The nurses promptly re-hydrated me and gave me a prescription for gravol suppositories. They shipped me off with stern admonishments to wash my hands, constantly. The waves eventually crested and subsided. I was spent.

If you feel this particular affliction coming on, take heart. Provided you are not elderly or sick or a baby, you’ll likely survive it (although at points you will long for death’s sweet release). Try to keep hydrated by any means possible throughout. Slowly chew ice cubes if that’s all you can keep down. Keep your loved ones (if you love them) as far as possible from your sputtering bilge. Wash your hands all the time now, even as it turns your skin into a soap-dried crust.

Use this as an opportunity to contemplate solitude. Get caught up on reading, or whatever it was you did before licking toilet bowls and fondling uncooked ground beef. Be thankful that you’ve achieved your weight loss goals at a time when everyone else is joining the gym, this virus trumps any master cleanse.


Tiffy Thompson is a writer and illustrator for the Spectator Tribune. Follow her on Twitter at @tiffyjthompson.

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