One of the (many) things I love about Otto is his calmness in crisis and his penchant for understatement. Given my bent towards hysteria, he’s a useful balance to have around.
However, here I am feeling like a gigantic loser, and he tells you:
She started feeling under the weather Friday afternoon and, after some talks with the medical staff, decided to head home last evening.
Which, okay, is TECHNICALLY true. But he sort of left out a few key details, like how some of those “talks with medical staff” happened in an ambulance and at the Emergency Room. It’s not as though we were all sitting around chatting and then I was like, “Hey, you know what? Screw you guys; I’m going home.”
[Me: Why did you say “after some talks” like that? It makes it sound like I just elected to leave.
Him: I didn’t want people to worry.
Me: But now they’re going to think I just wussed out.
Him: No they won’t.
Me: That’s what it sounds like.
Him: You can tell them the whole story later.
Me: But. But.
Otto: I can revise it, if you want. Make it more harrowing. Talk about the ambulance almost running that old lady down.
The truth is that I didn’t feel quite right from the start; when the alarm went off at 4:15, I chalked it up to nerves and not enough sleep. We got ready and checked out of ye olde Fleabag Motel and went to wait out front for our 5:15 taxi. We met two other groups of women waiting for taxis for the 3-Day, and all quickly came to learn that the taxi company was swamped and we’d be lucky to get there at all. Our 5:15 taxi showed up at 6:45, finally, and then the crusty old cab driver turned off the meter and then charged us $40 for a 6-minute cab ride that was 1.5 hours late.
[Hello, Tommy’s Taxi of Framingham! I suspect you were Tommy himself driving the cab, based upon the phone call received while we were en route. Your “take it up with the owner” schtick was fooling no one. As I and the other ladies told you, I hope you feel really, really good about ripping off people who are walking for charity, and not only will I make it my personal mission to make sure you don’t have the opportunity to do so again, it’s just bad karma. Please look for our letters to the BBB and your local paper. I hope the $40 was worth it. Jerk.]
We caught the last 5 minutes of the opening ceremony.
The first hour of walking was very stop-and-go. They had to route us through several major intersections and everyone was still bunched up together and it felt like we were standing around more often than we were moving. As time passed, we spread out some, and then we moved a bit more steadily.
It also starting pouring.
So we walked and we splashed and the sweep vans full of happy! cheering! people! drove back and forth honking and waving (the sweep vans are hilarious, by the way… one was covered with boobs, one was covered with martini glasses… one was the fiesta van, done in a mexican theme… they were very cute) and there’s some sort of bike patrol that rides along shouting out things like “remember to hydrate!” That wasn’t quite as amusing, in the pouring rain (go figure), but okay.
By the first pit stop (maybe 4 miles in?) my stomach was killing me. I refilled my water and sports drink bottles and cruised the snacks. Bananas! Bananas are good for upset tummies. I ate a banana.
By the second pit stop, my head was hurting. Well, no matter. I had a bottle of advil in my pack. I took some and refilled my bottles (those bikers had put the fear of God into me; I was drinking, drinking, drinking) and ate some graham crackers.
We figured we were about an hour out from lunch at about 11, and here is where time went into some immovable vortex. In reality, we wouldn’t reach the lunch stop until around 1:00. It’s probably good that I didn’t know this, because it was right around 11 that I realized I might be in trouble, but I reasoned that I could surely walk for another hour. And once we got to lunch I could sit down and rest and then I would feel better.
(Two miscalculations figured into this: One, due to missing most of the opening ceremonies, we didn’t have a route plan. Had we had one of those, we would’ve realized that lunch was at about 13 miles, rather than the 10 miles we’d assumed. Two, we weren’t walking as fast as we thought. Whoops.)
About an hour before lunch (when we realized we were still an hour out), I started to silently panic. I took some more advil (even though it hadn’t been 4 hours) and put my sunglasses back on even though it was still cloudy. It was clear to me now that I had a migraine. I was having some trouble seeing. I has stopped eating about an hour before due to nausea; now I stopped drinking entirely for the same reason. Of course, as soon as I stopped drinking, the sun came back out.
[I spent some time berating myself for not bringing my prescription migraine meds. But the truth is that I can count on one hand (with fingers to spare) the migraines I’ve had in the last two years since my hysterectomy.]
We plodded along and FINALLY hit the lunch station. It was set up in some sort of sunken parking lot where we had to descend a million concrete steps to get down into it. I have almost no memory of what happened between then and getting checked in at Medical, but I do remember wondering what would happen if I took a header on the stairs.
Somehow, we got down there, we hit the port-a-potties, and my walk partner found us a spot in the shade. I sank down into the grass and told her to go get some food. It was somewhere in here that I confessed to having a migraine, and I’m pretty sure she lectured me for not telling her earlier, but I waved her away and told her I was just going to sit for a minute and I’d be fine.
I took off my shoes and socks. Eileen came back with her food and I don’t know what happened; probably we argued and eventually I said I’d go to Medical and see if they could give me something stronger for my head. (I think I hadn’t mentioned to her, even then, about my stomach. I think I was assuming that was a side effect of the migraine. She would yell at me about THAT, later, too.) She wanted to come with me but it turned out that we were sitting right outside the tent, so I told her to finish eating.
I lurched over there and waited in line with my eyes shut. By the time I got up to the front I started talking in what I thought was a normal voice and the check-in lady couldn’t hear me at all. So I leaned in closer and raised my voice and the next thing I knew they had me flat on a cot. Which, you know, was actually pretty comfortable. Except for the part where everything was really LOUD and they were poking and prodding me.
So my blood pressure was low and I was running a bit of a temperature, and I was trying to explain (without opening my eyes, because by now, my eyelids seemed to have stopped functioning) that really, if I had my migraine meds I’d be fine, but maybe if they gave me some aspirin or tylenol to take on top of the advil that would do it, really, and those people who were busy covering me with very cool and delicious but OH SO NOISY ice, they did not listen to me.
In fact, they took away my badge. I didn’t figure this out until later, after Eileen had come in to check on me. But if you’re deemed unfit to continue, they put you on Medical Hold and they replace your badge with a Big Red Loser Badge. I may have become a tad belligerent.
[Me: Hey! I don’t want this red loser badge! Give me back my real badge!
Nurse: Honey, I know you’re disappointed—
Me: I want my badge back! Why don’t you draw a big red L on my forehead instead!
Eileen: Ummm… she’s… upset.
Nurse: That’s alright. She needs to be transported to base camp to be seen by the doctor there.
Me: I WANT MY BADGE BACK!
Eileen: Mir? Sweetie? Shut up.]
Someone came in a car to drive us to base camp, and on the way there I started shaking, which I’m not sure I even would’ve noticed, but Eileen and the driver were talking about it, so I had this sort of out-of-body experience of listening to the two of them and then thinking “Oh! Hey! They’re talking about me!”
At base Medical I had to plead for a trip to the port-a-potties before they checked me in (I think it helped when I told the nice nurse I didn’t want to barf on her shoes), and then I was settled onto another cot and I opened my eyes long enough to see that they had what appeared to be the entire medical staff hovering over me. I felt very special. Actually I felt mortified. But, hey, at least I started crying, then! That helped!
They took my vitals again (blood pressure even lower, temperature even higher) and Nurse With A Soothing Voice told me she was a fellow migraine sufferer and she was going to rub my neck because it would help. I muttered something in reply and then a vice descended on my neck and my snuffly little tears turned into full-fledged wailing as she assured me that she was helping and crying was a good release. If I’d been a bit more in control of myself I would have told her to STOP IT IMMEDIATELY but I seemed incapable of saying much other than GIMME BACK MY BADGE (which, in the grand scheme, I’ll admit was pretty much beside the point) so I just laid there and wept while she made fireworks explode all over my head.
The doctor came to see me and told someone to call an ambulance. Something about how they couldn’t do anything for me there, oh don’t cry sweetie, if they get you better you can come back and walk tomorrow, this is for the best, etc. Eileen told me she’d come with me, and I told her she should stay and walk, and she told me to shut up AGAIN, because she is mean. Then I started crying all over again about ruining the walk for HER, and then she told me to shut up a THIRD time, and then I probably asked for my badge back again, because that’s sort of how my logic was going by that time.
The EMTs were two lovely young ladies who took excellent care of me, if you overlook the extraordinarily lurchy ride to the hospital. I’m not at all clear on why they needed the lights and siren, unless it was just sort of fun for them to use them; but to FEEL the ride (and later, to hear Eileen’s account of it) it made no difference because no one paid any attention, anyway. Apparently an old lady stepped off the sidewalk (wearing headphones! rock it, Granny!) right in front of the ambulance. (They claim we didn’t hit her. I have my doubts.)
While the driver and Eileen chatted it up, the EMT in the back and I made scintillating conversation. I recall:
1) Threatening to puke on her shoes. She gave me a barf bag and told me to give her a minute to change into MY shoes. She’s my kind of people.
2) Her radioing in to the hospital and reporting amongst my stats “patient is unable to open her eyes” and me protesting “I CAN open my eyes! I just don’t WANT to!” Because I am 5, apparently.
3) Her making me do all of these strength test thingies (squeezing her fingers, pushing up on her hands, etc.) and me saying “I didn’t have a STROKE, I have a HEADACHE,” with the implied “you MORON” dangling there at the end. She was not offended, even though by this point Eileen was yelling for me to shut up (again! so mean!) and it was clear to everyone except me that I was a complete brat.
At the hospital, I was not allowed to scoot my own bottom off of the ambulance gurney onto the hospital bed. No. They had to do the 1-2-3 lift where they move me on a sheet. Fine. Except they forgot they had me hooked up to one of those oxygen things via a tube lodged in my nostrils, so when they moved me, my nose was ripped clean off my face (what a mess). Kidding. The tubing (and my nose) are flexible. But it wasn’t comfortable. Maybe they were just getting me back. Who knows.
Nurse Ratched came in and started an IV, responding to my shrill, “Um, why does this HURT SO MUCH?” with a cheerful, “Well, I’m pressing pretty hard!” Something about my veins being flat. Whatever. All I know is that I look like a confirmed heroin addict, now, complete with bruises from the tourniquet strap, which is a first for me. I curled up under the sheet and tried to stop shaking (still with the shaking! blood pressure even lower, temperature even higher! I’ve always been an overachiever!) and prayed for death.
Eventually Hot Doctor showed up and listed off a bunch of drugs the nurse was giving me, to which I immediately responded by getting loopy and declaring, “I’ll take whatever you’re giving. Also why do I never get a hot doctor when I’m WELL, only when I’m sick and look like crap?” Hot Doctor was a little afraid of me, I think. Eileen laughed at me while I lamely finished up with, “Hey, I don’t live here, it’s not like I’m ever going to see you again. Or like you’re unaware that you’re hot.”
And then I passed out.
I woke up hours later, startled by a VERY loud thump. Hey, it was Friday night at the ER. Apparently some drunk ripped out his IV while lurching to the bathroom and managed to collapse headfirst onto the floor. Sounded like he split his skull clean open. Suddenly I didn’t feel like such a difficult patient.
Eileen wanted to take pictures of me and I finally argued her down to just a shot of my Big Red Loser Badge, the barf bag, and my IV arm. What an awesome scrapbook she’ll be able to make of our 3-Day journey, huh?
Hot Doctor showed up again to tell me I was being discharged but that he didn’t think I was in any shape to go back to the walk. Recalling what I’d said to him earlier, I stayed uncharacteristically silent. Except to say that I had to pee. Eileen trundled me off to the bathroom and when we returned, I was discharged.
While I’d been sleeping/unconscious, Eileen had gone to the cafeteria for dinner, done a dozen crossword puzzles, and called her husband to come and get us. He showed up about half an hour after I was discharged. I curled up in the backseat and went to sleep, drifting in and out of consciousness and vaguely aware that we got lost on our way back to camp for our stuff (I’ll have to ask Eileen about that later; I have no idea how lost we were or how long it took). Eventually we were headed home, and they both tried to talk me into staying with them for the night and I said no, I needed my own bed, I would crawl into it and sleep and be fine.
Yesterday I woke up with a temp of 101, so other than a brief trip to the kitchen for ginger ale and crackers I really did spend the entire day in bed. Today my temp is almost normal but the headache is back, and I’m still wondering What The Heck Happened. (At the hospital, they said I was dehydrated but not dangerously so, and their best guess was a virus. NICE TIMING, VIRUS.)
On the one hand, it utterly sucks to still be feeling so sick. On the other hand, if I’d woken up well yesterday (or, okay, knowing me? even today) I’d be kicking myself for not going back. So, OKAY EILEEN, (before she tells me to shut up again) I ADMIT IT, I was too sick to continue. Happy? I earned my Big Red Loser Badge.
But I am just so, so sad. I feel like I failed. I’m angry that I didn’t even make it through one day. This was not at all the experience I was hoping to have. And I know, the point is raising the money, the point is the awareness, but it was important to me to actually DO the walk and I can’t help being disappointed.
Plus I still pretty much feel like I was run over by a truck, so that’s not helping.
So much for my tale of triumph. But someday I’ll look back on this and laugh. Right? Or at least not cry about it? Maybe?
Until then, I shall raise a ginger ale toast from my bed here, to the women who are today actually finishing all 60 miles. I’m sorry I’m not there with them.