Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Great Immune System Challenge

I really love smartphones because they let me track my ideas for Middle Flipper whenever they come to my mind.  And sometimes I'll sit and look at my list of entry topics and wonder which one I should choose.

Then, the entry chooses me.

I want to share with you a moment that could really only happen to the likes of me.  I hope you realize that the Middle Flipper is now so fully engrained in my person that not only does my brain come up with themes about which to write, but my immune system as well.

So there's this stomach virus going around work.  It's probably the norovirus strain that's been plaguing the U.S. since the summer.  You might call it "stomach flu", you might call it "stomach virus", you might call it, "oh GOD WHY ME."  

Jerks!


So this Evil Little Virus (herein noted as ELV) is just floating around, probably on delicious wrappers of pieces of Halloween candy that as a staff, we all share.   ELV is invisible to the naked eye, and so enjoys its stealth and laughs as it plunders the unsuspecting and well-meaning immune systems of human beings everywhere.

I thought I was in the clear.  A few of my coworkers fell victim to the ELV but I, being the hypochondriac I am, felt I was taking proper precautions.  Yes, I ate the communal (WRAPPED!!!) Halloween candy, but I like, washed my hands a zillion times.   I kept up with my daily exercise regimen and ate healthy food (well, aside from the 39 Kit Kat bars but there are no calories in Halloween candy, d'uh).  

A week had passed since the first person had succumbed to ELV and I was feeling pretty confident my immune system had fought the enemy.  I was also really excited because I got to go on a trip to visit another Really Amazing Facility with a coworker of mine.  I'd never been to this Really Amazing Facility, and while the drive out there was several hours, I looked forward to the trip there and the behind-the-scenes tour, as well as meeting up with some people both my coworker and I knew who worked there.

Little did I know, the ELV was well-aware of my travel plans.

So we get in the car, pumped for a fun adventure.  The drive was gorgeous for most of the way and we enjoyed getting to know one another and laughing to Brian Regan*.  When we arrived at our hotel, we got ready to meet up for dinner with our friends from said Really Amazing Facility.  And that's when I noticed something slightly awry.  Despite my bottomless appetite and the fact I hadn't eaten in a few hours, I didn't really feel hungry.  In fact, I felt this strange, vague ache in my stomach.

Oh, you were the last laugh I had!


"NO," I told my immune system.  "You can't let this happen now.  I've got a facility visit tomorrow and have to represent myself well.  ALSO, I HAVE TO EAT MEXICAN FOOD IN 10 MINUTES."

"Okay," my immune system responded.  "But be careful."

"Don't listen to that moron," my brain said.  "Eat whatever you want.  You're just tired from the drive.  You're fine."

So obviously, I listened to my brain, since the last time I checked my immune system had no neurons and therefore was incapable of speech or thought.  What the heck did it know about eating Mexican food with a minor bellyache?

I enjoyed thoroughly catching up with an old friend and meeting new ones.  I ate a really big burrito and about 3 metric tons of chips and queso.  My stomach ache didn't go away, but it didn't get worse, either.  I felt triumphant.  My brain was right; this was nothing.

Fast forward to 4am.  An entirely different conversation occurred.

Stomach: Cat, wake up, there's trouble in Tummy Town.
Brain: Oh, no, it's fine.  You're fine.  Go back to sleep.
Immune System: WAHHHHHHH SOUND THE ALARM
Me: I should probably play Candy Crush until I feel better

I could not sleep.  I drifted into semi-consciousness for a few minutes but was awoken by the worsening pain.  By the time we had to get up to go to Really Amazing Facility, I was almost convinced I had ELV.  However, let's not forget all the Mexican food I consumed, which as we all know can deliver its own set of lovely GI gifts.

Delicious meal, or plunderer of the gut?


We got in the car and excitedly headed off.  When we met up with our contact, who happened to be a Really Big Name in the field, I forgot momentarily** my queasiness and pain.  Really Big Name showed us around some of the back areas and introduced us to several other trainers.  One of whom took us under her wing and spent a lot of time going over some really awesome stuff they do and have for their penguins.  Then, my stomach spoke to me.

Stomach: Okay, I worked it out.  If you don't move or talk, I can keep myself together.
Me: Deal.

The habitats were amazing, the back areas were incredible, the staff friendly and passionate about their work.  I had so many questions, so many comments.  But I couldn't bring myself to ask most of them, because I had made this Gastric Covenant.  And we all know what happens when you break those.

At some points throughout the tour, I started looking for hoses because I needed to know I could clean up after myself should something go awry.  I still remained unconvinced ELV was at the helm of this discomfort, but I knew something wasn't right.   I couldn't let myself be sick in front of anyone, much less people I barely or didn't know taking time out of their busy day to show me around.  I couldn't bring myself to excuse myself to use the restroom, mostly thanks to denial.

Once our penguin tour was complete, we met up with someone in charge of the otter exhibit.  The trainer was really knowledgeable and shared a lot of great information.  We saw some great examples of enrichment.  Still yet another internal conversation began:

Brain: Oh, I have so many questions! Ask them!
Stomach: REMEMBER THE PACT.  YOU MOVE I MOVE.
Me: …….

It wasn't until we went into another area of the otter back-area that I realized ELV had moved in and was holding my immune system hostage.  I'd wondered why I hadn't heard anything from it in the past two imaginary conversations.  But still, I held strong.  I didn't move, I tried not to speak too much.  I focused on some cute otters and good conversation.

However, I am prone to fainting.  And my brain finally caught up with what was going on in my body and again my internal systems spoke to me:

Brain: MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY SHUT IT ALL DOWN 
Stomach: I think I need to break my promise…
Immune System: SOS SOS SOS SOS SOS SOS
ELV: We're heeeeeeeerrrreeeeee

I couldn't stand there any longer.  I was going to pass out…or worse…and so I asked where the nearest restroom was, embarrassed and defeated.  ELV had won.   The trainer who had shown us the penguin area was kind and understanding and showed me the nearest restroom where 


 THIS CONTENT HAS BEEN CENSORED FOR DECENCY AND ALL THINGS HOLY.

After I had used at least one of my lives (because apparently, I'm supposed to have nine of them?), I emerged embarrassed.  Everyone I encountered was again, kind and understanding to the point where one of them offered to bring me ginger ale.  My coworker and I thanked them for sharing their time with us and we decided to head home a little early for obvious reasons.  

Why you so good?


And despite the fact that my poor coworker was trapped in a car with my toxic self, she drove the entire way home and kept me distracted from the major discomfort caused by what is medically described as "Virus Playing Steel Drums On Internal Organs".   Another coworker of mine was also hosting her own group of ELV friends on the same day as I was, so we texted back and forth sharing in each other's misery.  

Now you might ask, why did I go to said facility visit if I was ill?  Well I parry, if I knew for sure what was happening, I wouldn't have gone.  But recall the Mexican food, and recall your own experiences with such fare.  I didn't really feel awfully sick until about 90 minutes into the site visit, which was like, 100% planned by this uncomplicated virus.  

ELV #1: Guys, I know we've made ourselves comfortable now.  We've got a decision to make.  We could make Cat sick now, or we could wait until Thursday when she is in front of a bunch of people she's never met before in her industry
ELV (chorus): THURSDAY.  
ELV #2: What about timing?  It's our tradition to wake people up in the middle of the night to make them violently ill.
ELV (chorus): WAIT TIL MID MORNING WHEN EVERYONE IS AROUND.  BWAHAHAHAHA

Well, after two days, my immune system regained control and banished that virus to somewhere I hope is far away from me and everyone I know.  While it's never fun to get sick around or in front of anyone, it did make for a funny story in an inevitable and uncontrollable situation.   I met some great people and saw an even kinder side of my super awesome coworkers.  And! It may think it got the best of my mental state, but thanks to ELV I now have zero interest in drinking Red Bull again, which I'd been consuming in quantities that could render me hazardous waste.

Now dear readers, do you have any embarrassing sick stories you feel like sharing?  Because let's face it, in the moment it's pretty awful, but after some time has passed, there's some good gems in those tales.  

And on a final note, it's easy to hate something that makes you feel so badly.  But then I remember, this little virus is just a tangled mess of a single strand of RNA.  It's pretty stupid and tiny and obviously, has no compassion.  So I'll let it have its foolish fun, but I still have the last laugh BECAUSE I KILLED IT AND IT'S NOT EVEN TECHNICALLY ALIVE.  FTW!

Now here's a cute picture to take any lingering grossness away from your minds:

Tee hee!



_______
* No, he was unfortunately not in the car with us.  Just his CD was

** For the length of an elevator ride

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