Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cut Me Right Back Down to Size

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.

The verdict?

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."


"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.


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?


Skye @ Planet Jinxatron said...

The meth guy totally thought you were hawt. I went through your purse to see if you had one of your cards in there to give to him, but no such luck.

jenijen said...

Laura -- I'm so glad you are ok, and still pissed that you got sick. SG sends his sympathies and well wishes, too. xoxo

Dana said...

My gosh, I'm seriously in tears because NO ONE deserves to go through this, and I cannot imagine the pain and suffering you endured.

So glad you're on the road to recovery.

sending more hugs...

Grace said...

Oh honey.

I have so been there. Not the allergies, but the similar (and similarly horrifying) things that can happen when someone is severly food poisoned. I have been just hurting for you ever since we found out you were sick.

And I am SO pissed on your behalf. Make a LOT of noice. That restaurant had better being making VERY nice to you. Good God.

grendelskin said...

Whatta nightmare. You should send the restaurant your hospital bill. I have trouble believing it was remainders on a pan, though; if there was enough gluten-laden material left on the pans to do this to you, probably you should contact the health inspector too! I understand the lack of credibility since I come from Lyme Disease territory: can't tell you how many people I've known who were told that their agonizing pain was in their heads or a grab for attention.
Glad you are on the mend.

house on hill road said...

i am so glad that you are ok. really. food allergies scare the crap out of me and i really appreciate you being so open and honest about them. and now i am going to try not to freak out while i watch my nephew who has severe nut/egg allergies over the next two days.
big hugs. xo.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit, I had no idea how bad food allergies could be until I read this.

I DO know the humility of pooping your pants, though. The few months it took to get used to life without a gall bladder taught me that one.

I hope you're on the mend! Thanks for sharing, no matter the cost!

becky s said...

Oh you are so lucky Skye didn't find one of your cards. Hahaha!

I have learned so much more about celiac than I did before. And I will be a lot more conscious about it if friends tell me they have it.

So not cool for the restaurant to not be more on top of things. And yet, glad we shared the dish so we could immediately rule out food poisoning.

And terribly glad that you are doing better. I hope you get a response from the restaurant and that it's more than "oops."

Skye @ Planet Jinxatron said...

Hey, where the fuck is that picture of the IV in your hand that I took for you?

amy h said...

Aw, Laura, that sounds really awful. I'm sorry you had to spend your trip in such a way. Rest up!

Rachel said...

You're in good company. Even Hall of Famers poop their pants: http://www.theunticket.com/george-brett-shits-himself-story/

Seriously, I'm so sorry that happened to you!

Alicia A. said...

Holy. crap.

I am so sorry that happened to you. So terrible, Laura.

LauraJ said...

I'd sue! Then how do you prove it?

Maureen Fitzgerald said...

It was a pleasure getting to know you at Blogher! I am so sorry that some asshat put you through this. I hope you send them the ER bill and scare the poop out of THEM with the threat of a lawsuit.

Candace said...

I am soooo sorry you had to go through that. That is freaking HORRIBLE! And it SUCKS to be in an ER when you are away from home. Especially at an event like that. Glad you are feeling better!!

Stephanie ODea said...

I am SO glad that you are home and are back to joking.
I am HORRIFIED that you had to go through this. I am so so sorry.
xoxo steph

Jett said...

I followed Becky's tweet here...firstly, I want to say I'm very sorry that your BlogHer experience was ruined by this oversight. Will you be seeking remuneration for your expenses from the restaurant chain? I am typically of the mind that we live in an overly-litigious world, but this sort of thing is what the legal system was created for.

I am deathly allergic to green onions, which is usually the strangest allergy anyone has ever heard of....I break out in scary black welts and then do a slow anaphalactic (sp?) spin.

Food allergies are absolutely real and some are deadly. I'm glad you are better.

Unknown said...

WOW! I hope you are feeling better seems like it's not enough to say, but hey I hope you are feeling better!

Chickenbells said...

Oh no! I'm so sorry...what a horrible experience (although that sounds kind of trite) I don't know how many times I also get reactions and eye rolls when I mention food allergies. People honestly think your nuts...but they totally FREAK when your entire body gets so sick. I know people who swell and stop breathing...how is any of THAT in your head? It's maddening that the doctors won't listen to YOU. YOU are the one in your body...and it's so disappointing after you took such care in packing your own food and always ask restaurants if they can accommodate you. I hope you are feeling much better now...

Melissa said...

I was thinking about you this weekend and imagining with envy what an interesting time you must be having in Chicago - I hope I didn't jinx you! I'm so sorry this happened to you, and especially on this particular weekend. What bullshit! That bastard restaurant better make things right (ish)! I guess "right" would be a time warp that erased the entire thing.

If this was a get well card I'd write: Sorry about the pooping! Hope your intestines go back to their normal size SUPER fast!

But really, I do hope you are feeling better.

becky s said...

I am totally starting a greeting card line and the VERY FIRST ONE will say "Sorry for the pooping."

kristi said...

So sorry you went through all this, and relieved that you're OK now. I hope the cook catches all kinds of hell for what happened.

Paula said...

So sorry for you - this is something so horrible to experience (been there, done that MANY times) and even more so when your out of town in an ER you don't know when you were supposed to be having FUN.

Until my food allergies got so severe I would never would have believed one could throw up and poop at the same time. The human body is so amazing! And apparently for me these events can only happen in public!

Hope this helps...I love reading your blog - so good to see I am not the freak my in-laws make me out to be...there are other people who think like me.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery and financial compensation :)

Tarrant said...

Oh my. I am so sorry you had to go through that during BlogHer! (or ever actually)

Am glad I got a chance to meet you before that...

Dana said...

Oh man. I am sooooo sorry you had to go through that. Yikes. I really am soo sorry.

Elan Morgan said...

You are being featured on Five Star Friday!

Anonymous said...

Eek. Glad you're better enough to give them hell!

futuregirl said...

Oh, sweet Jesus. Why do doctors suck so often?!

Rebecca F. said...

Oh. My. God.

That is horrible. I'm so glad you are doing okay now.

Reed said...

I know we just met (Hi, my name is Kadi,) but I think I'm in love with you...poopy pants and all. You are hilarious and craptastic! Thanks for laugh and have a shitfree day :)