I’m sick again, but so goes the semester of un-health.
See, the meds that I’m taking to kill the second presumed parasite in my stomach have lowered my immune system, leaving me with a persistent cold. Or maybe it was the umpteenth round of Cipro that I ingested before the current anthelmintic and anti-infective pills that made me vulnerable. Or, most likely, the unholy union of all aforementioned medication paired up to double team me.
I never got sick in America. Once, I think, I got a bad cough, but it very well could have been that someone farted. Before Thailand, my immune system was my point of pride: “I may be nerdy, of average height, prematurely balding, moody, occasionally lispy, and pale—but at least I have my health,” I often thought. My stomach, which has been the most victimized here, was so regular in America that the Swiss often consulted it during watch production.
One year in Southeast Asia assessed my immune system, found it wanting, and pooped on it.
Some of the more tenured teachers warned, “When we got here, we began to fall apart. Couldn’t help it.” Nestled in my previously robust—untested?—health, I ignorantly treated their statement as something only normies experience. I was, after all, super human.
I was younger and more naïve—dumber—in those days.
Things have gotten so bad that I’ve stopped eating spicy food to allow my stomach to settle. Life without spicy food—especially in Thailand—is like a puppy without eyes.
The kicker? I don’t think Thailand’s once made me sick, which is startling. Never mind walking barefoot through murky soi-puddles, eating lukewarm street meat (I’m no longer a vegetarian), and utilizing sometimes-suspect butt hoses (I’ll explain later); I fucking live in this country. Odds are, if I were to get sick anywhere, it’d be here.
Laos and Cambodia scoff at such odds.
If I had to pinpoint my first stomach bug, I’d put it somewhere in Laos. I felt like a million baht after muay thai in Pai, but by the piss-drenched sleeper bus in Laos, I could barely make it five hours without an emergency trip to the bathroom. (An e-poo, as I’ve come to refer to them.)
Most days it was bearable. Others, I’d have to run to the loo three to six times a day. And, on the most specialest days, I’d writhe in bed in the middle of the night as something peppered my intestines with acid, dynamite, and acid dynamite.
After a couple months, three trips to two hospitals, and three rounds of various antibiotics, I had a colonoscopy at the beginning of January 2012. The antibiotics weren’t working, ruling out a run-of-the-mill stomach infection. (I never thought that I’d use “run-of-the-mill” to describe a stomach infection, but here we are.) With that ruled out, everything else was ruled in.
The whole process went smoothly, except I’m pretty sure I tried to attack someone during the procedure. There’s a hazy memory of trying to bash someone’s head while nurses pinned me back down. I don’t exactly remember—and I sure as hell didn’t ask—but I can’t imagine a half-drugged myself acting any other way. Have you seen the camera they use for the procedure? It fucking looks like one of the sentinels from The Matrix.
My travails aren’t the only notable ones. Indeed, my best friend seemed to live at the hospital this entire year. During the first semester, she toured a pair of hospitals to treat what she assumed was a sinus infection that was working its way down to her lungs: an annual or bi-annual routine, according to her. But the fucking sickness wouldn’t go away. The result: more hospitals, more pills, and more frustration at the consistent exhaustion that affected everything she did, or tried to do. The answer? More pills, etc.
More pills until they reportedly burned a hole in her throat—which seems extreme, until one realizes she had been taking Cipro, a kind of nuclear bomb for infections, for several months.
Thankfully, the doctors stopped trying to hone in on the issue and finally resolved the cause: mold. The white powder-fluff that would appear on her dark clothing within her armoire finally made more sense—as did the smell that would creep into one’s nose every so often.
She moved out of that room.
But in Malaysia, she got stung by a Portuguese man-of-war and was laid-out for days.
The colonoscopy, which proved my piping was flawless (I’ll spare you the photo evidence) allowed for the proper meds to be prescribed and my bowels were once again moving like a champ.
But at the end of March came Cambodia, and its suspiciously broken seals on water bottles and uncovered raw meat being delivered via the back of a wobbly motorbike puttering down a dirt road. Like me, the friend with mold poisoning ended up with a healthy dose of what-the-hell-is-in-my-stomach.
Back to most days, some days, and most specialest days.
Back to more medicine than I ever wanted to take in my life.
Back to paying for traveling with checks my ass is forced to cash.
Goddamn you, Laos and Cambodia.
Thailand: home sweet home.