Saturday I woke up just a few hours after going to sleep. Hot, sweaty, pajama pants feeling tight. I walked around the hotel room, used the bathroom - wow, my stomach hurt. Maybe I'm hungry?
I got out a gluten-free muffin (packed from home, I brought over a dozen with me to Chicago), sat on the bed. Took a deep breathe and smelled the chocolate-chippy goodness.
And I ran to the bathroom and threw up.
Violent, choking, gasping for air throwing up and I knew it immediately - I was having an allergic reaction to dinner.
"Just a few hours, this is going to take just a few hours," I kept thinking to myself.
Throw up, rinse, repeat.
After an hour, my dear friend became insistent is there something I can do for you? "No, really. Am fine. Allergic reaction. I should be done in a couple of hours."
I filled the tub with hot water to calm the muscle spasms. I'm smart! This is totally gonna work! I'll stop throwing up! Laura, for the win!
Get in the tub. Relax for ten minutes, get half way out, throw up again. Finagle my upper body back into the tub. Lay back, relax for ten minutes. Climb half way out of the tub, throw up again.
Are you sure there's not something I can do for you? She asked through the bathroom door.
"Nope, just throwing up. I've been at it two hours, I'll be done soon! Go to sleep! Big day later!"
Rinse from the tub, dry off. Lay on the bed.
Are you sure there's not something I can... and I'm off and running back to the bathroom.
But this time, this time there's blood. Not streaks of it. A tennis ball glob of it. Fuck.
But me? Noooooo, I'm fine. Really. It's just an allergic reaction. My dinner had to have been contaminated (despite going to an Asian-themed chain that brags about their gluten-free menu). I've never had such a severe reaction - it would most certainly be over soon.
And then the pooping my pants began.
"Um... I think I better call Ask A Nurse."
Don't you think you may need more than that?
"Nah, really. I'm sure they'll say I'm about done here."
So I called Ask A Nurse (a service I use at home A LOT), answered their questions, no, I can't stand up straight, yes, I've been throwing up for three hours. Blood? Well, there was that one glob the size of the tennis ball. Oh, AND I'M POOPING MY PANTS. But! It's just an allergic reaction!
"Ma'am? You need to call 911."
Sigh. "Fine. I'll take a cab."
By the time we get to ER, I'm over three hours into it - vomit, rinse, repeat. My throat is scratchy. My abs feel like they've done a thousand crunches while somebody used them as a punching bag. At least I haven't pooped my pants since we left the hotel room.
They get me back to a room, I get an IV and anti-nausea medicine. I lay back, "You can call Aaron now and tell him I'm fine." My friend dials the phone and, "Oh, shit. I have to throw up again." More anti-nausea medicine and it last ten minutes.
The tears finally start.
"How long have you been vomiting like this?"
"Um... four? Four-and-a-half hours now?"
"And you just came in now because?"
"It's just an allergic reaction."
The rest of the day is a fog - the gave me some amazingly good narcotics to knock me out - I recall an x-ray, having my bed sit in the hall of the ER for what felt like an eternity (which was all levels of embarrassing because not only was my bed parked in the hall and I'd occasionally vomit, I DIDN'T HAVE A SHIRT ON and the guy strung out on meth kept giving me the come-fuck-me eyes,) I overhead lots of talk about my heart.
Seven hours after arriving at the hospital, I was admitted into a room. I demanded that my friend go-go-go (although I completely appreciate the hair holding, the POOPING IN THE PANTS HAD COME BACK) and frankly, there's only so much humiliation one person should have to endure in a lifetime - let alone a single day.
The ER was convinced something was wrong with me - liver, gallbladder, appendix, something - just not food allergies. Oh no, it couldn't be food allergies.
The attending doctor visited, wanted my approval to run more test.
"It's an allergic reaction. My dinner last night had to have been contaminated with gluten."
"And why do you think it's that?"
"Because I am allergic to wheat and have Celiac - if it was wheat I would have broken out into hives. But the gluten doesn't hit me until it's in my intestines, and I didn't react until six hours after dinner."
"And why do you think it's dinner that did this to you?"
"Because everything else I've been eating I BROUGHT FROM HOME."
"Well, we think it's your gallbladder, your liver or your appendix. We'd like to run more tests."
"Look, it's an allergic reaction. But I'm not going to be the asshole who refuses medical treatment - if something else is wrong with me, by all means FIND IT."
So I got more narcotics and more tests. And let me tell you - you haven't lived until you've pooped on the CAT Scan table while magnets whirl over your inflated abdomen.
Meanwhile - back at the BlogHer Conference - my friends and coworkers were freaking out. And really, can you blame them? Who the fuck throws up a tennis ball blood clot?
I was convinced, positive, I was having an allergic reaction. Why couldn't they give me some anti-nausea medicine and pain relievers and send me on my way? I had places to go, people to see and was over 500 miles away from home.
Sunday morning I woke up - when I should have been on an airplane headed home - somewhat clear headed, not nauseated and very, very sore.
My test results came back.
My intestines were swollen to twice their size. Otherwise I'm in perfectly good health.
"Well, normally we'd attribute intestinal swelling to gastroenteritis - but that's usually 20%. I can't quite explain why yours is so severe."
"HELLO, I HAVE CELIAC DISEASE. I WAS HAVING AN ALLERGIC REACTION."
"I have never in my life seen a reaction this bad. But you're correct - that is the only plausible explanation of what happened to you."
Fuck yeah, it's what happened to me, I thought as I counted all the unexplainable needle holes up an down my arms.
And here's the thing - very few people take food allergies seriously. Not once did the doctors act like allergic reaction was remotely a plausible explanation of what I was going through. Gastroenteritis? Sure. That could explain it. Food poisoning? Absolutely, that could explain it too (we knew it was not that, thankfully, because I split my entire dinner with another friend - who has no gluten-intolerance problems). Liver shutting down? Hells yeah, it sounds like her liver is shutting down. Gallbladder problems? Absolutely.
Food allergies? Not plausible.
NOT PLAUSIBLE MY ASS.
According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, food allergies account for approximately 150 deaths per year in the United States.
I cannot tell you how many times over the years I've heard ridiculous comments of "food allergies aren't real" "they are all in your head" "people make that up to get attention" and prior to this experience, I've laughed at people's ignorance in my head and done the best to educate people without sounding overbearing and rude.
But vomiting a glob of blood the size of a tennis ball? Yeah. I totally did that for attention. Because what better way to ruin my vacation-slash-business conference for myself and one of my best friends than to magically decide I'm feeling a little attention-neglected of late. Hey! I know! I'LL POOP MY PANTS UNCONTROLLABLY!
In case you can't tell, that's as polar-opposite of the kind of attention I'd like to receive.
But thanks for the offer, I super-appreciate it.
I'm not one of those people who expect others to accommodate her. When I'm invited to a party, I bring something I can eat. When my family travels, our van is more than halfway full of food. Even planning for this trip to Chicago, I researched local restaurants with gluten-free menus (all of which are chains, as they supposedly have higher standards) and took a suitcase full of food for me. I don't walk into a restaurant and say make this to accommodate me. I order off the gluten-free menu (and make sure the server knows it's GLUTEN FREE, AM ALLERGIC TO WHEAT). In a pinch, I'll call or walk in a restaurant and ask - not demand - if they can accommodate me. If not? Not a problem. I don't expect you to.
And I understand human error. I've had gluten sneak in before. It resulted in stomach cramps that lasted a couple of days and 12 hours of diarrhea (oh please, don't look at me like that - I already told you how much pooping in the pants was happening Saturday).
But to have something this severe? This horrible? Where the doctors were concerned about my three times too fast heart rate? This is just blatant disregard for their job.
After calling the restaurant yesterday and getting the information on how this food is provided by Corporate and how it's assembled the only explanation of what I experienced is that the cook used a dirty (previously containing gluten) pan to cook my dinner in. There is absolutely no other way that could happen.
And using such a pan is out of line for how that restaurant chain's kitchen is suppose to be ran. You can be your sweet ass the manager of the store - as well as corporate headquarters - is going to get a letter from me.
I was discharged from the hospital 30 hours after arriving. All because a cook was too damn lazy to do his job properly.
Food allergies aren't real? You sure about that?