Did I have E. Coli?

It’s Friday, and I’m at work. I’ve been heads-down all morning crunching numbers, which will later prove to be a complete waste of time. But I don’t know that yet, and frankly for now I’m happy to have a project on which to focus my energy. When I come up for air, I realize that I forgot to bring my lunch to work. Annoying, but no big deal, right? (*Hint – it turned out to be a big deal*)

So, without my leftovers from the night before, I start to play the ‘Where should I eat?’ game. This is the game where you mentally scan the surrounding areas for places to eat, but your brain just keeps saying, ‘Chipotle!’. Relax, Chipotle, for once this story is not about you infecting people with viruses virii viruses.  In a cruel twist of fate, on the way out of my office building I see a sign on the door of our cafeteria – “$5 Fridays!”. And, since I’m a sucker for a deal, I walk in.

I agree that what happens next is entirely my fault. It’s not just that I order nachos from a workplace cafeteria, but it’s that I order discount nachos from a workplace cafeteria 15 minutes before it closes for the weekend. Now, I’m no industry insider, but I’m guessing Friday’s ingredients aren’t as fresh as Monday’s and that this pile of death has been sitting under a heat lamp for the past 4 hours. However, none of this occurs to me at the time. It’s like high school nacho day all over, and I’m excited. So excited, that I take a picture of my food, and send it to a fellow nacho-loving friend with the caption, ‘jealous that these aren’t yours?’. (Admittedly the caption needs some work)

Things start to go downhill after the first bite. The meat is like a dry rope, the cheese is way shinier than it should be, and there are huge chunks of raw jalapeños just waiting for a chance to make my GERD act up. Side note here – I started sleeping on a wedge pillow at night to elevate my head above my stomach. No more late night heartburn, and it has helped my allergies as well. I wake up much less congested, which means no more hacking up snot in the shower. But, be warned there may be some raised eyebrows when people see this on your bed. These reviews should explain what I mean…

Ok, back to the story, let’s speed this up a bit. I ate everything.

Now it’s 10pm. I’m on the couch, and I’ve never felt more full in my life. It feels like my stomach is overflowing into my throat. For a split second I wonder if I’m going to vomit. This of course is a self-fulfilling prophecy, so I spend the next five minutes struggling to not think about vomiting. But it’s too late, the damage as been done. My jaw is tingling. The bottom of my mouth feels like it’s swelling up, as a pool of saliva begins to form under my tongue. It’s inevitable now, so I’m just pacing between my living room and bathroom trying to minimize the amount of ground I’ll need to cover during the evacuation. Ugh, even writing makes me feel ill.

I puke, a lot. The huge chunks of jalapeños are now smaller, slimier chunks of jalapeños. After I’m done, my eyes are watering and my shirt is now sticking to my back thanks to the layer of sweat that I just worked up. Yet, I feel strangely good. A wave of relief has washed over me, and I experience the Rally phase of what’s known as the “Puke ‘n Rally”. (Or “Boot ‘n Rally” depending on where your from. This is a fun quiz from the New York Times on regional slang.)

Sadly, this feeling is short-lived. The rest of the night is filled with toilet trips. At first it’s every 30 minutes or so. Then slowly I’m able to sleep 2 hours at a time before waking up incredibly hot and making a run for the bathroom. I’m drinking as much water as possible at this point, which is not a lot. But, I’ll take throwing up water over dry-heaving any day. And so I did.

The next day, I’m miserable. No more vomiting, but let’s say my time spent in the bathroom is still less than ideal. I can’t look at food, and drinking is a chore. My low-grade fever gives me hot and cold flashes. I don’t get off the couch. Mercifully, I stumble across Poldark, the PBS Masterpiece Theater series, and proceed to binge as hard as I’d been purging. Check it out, you’ll thank me later. It’s like Game of Thrones without dragons, magic, dire wolves, ice zombies, and incest. Ok, maybe it’s not that much like Game of Thrones.

On Days 3 + 4, I live on the following:

It’s not glamorous, but it’s improvement. I actually take a shower and change my clothes.  I’m still exhausted, though. I can’t stand for more than a few minutes, and I’m napping 4 to 6 hours throughout the day. When I’m not sleeping, I’m watching People Just Do Nothing on Netflix. It’s like the Office without Just check it out. If you don’t like it within the first 5 minutes, it’s not going to get better for you.

Day 5, I attempt to go to work. By noon, I’m falling asleep at my desk and I can’t concentrate on anything. Back to the couch! I eat a real dinner for the first time since the incident. And to slowly nurse myself back to health, I decide to go with something easy on the stomach – takeout Indian food. Shockingly, this seems to be exactly what I need. A little bit of saag for some renewed swag. (sorry)

Day 6, I survive a day at work with no naps.

Day 7, I hear the word nachos in the office and it triggers my gag reflex. Other than that, I’m back in business.

So, what was it?

Odds are it was run-of-the-mill food poisoning caused by one of the many bacterial, viral, or parasitic agents floating around out there. I was grossed when finding out how many of these are caused by “meat contaminated with feces during slaughter”. That’s +1 for vegans everywhere. Another side note – have y’all tried this Beyond Meat burger? This is clearly a product placement, but in all seriousness I just had one at a restaurant and it was delicious. It then made me wonder if our grandchildren will ever taste real meat? Kind of like how they might never drive a car in their life…thoughts?

Sorry, side tracked again.

In the end, I secretly think it was E. Coli. Most people scoff when I tell them this, but just two weeks after my episode the CDC announced a recall for Romaine lettuce in 10 states, including mine. People usually get sick from E. coli 2–8 days (average of 3–4 days) after swallowing the germ, which means the nachos are off the hook. Most people infected with E. coli develop diarrhea (yup) that can be bloody (thankfully no), severe stomach cramps (yup), and vomiting (yup). Most people recover within 1 week, with some infections being very mild and others severe or even life-threatening.

In any case, I’m fine now and it definitely wasn’t cancer.

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