Several thoughts crossed my mind as I stared up at the ceiling at three in the morning. The first was, Please, God, don’t let me throw up. The second was Why do I feel nauseated all of a sudden?
I didn’t have time to consider the third, because I had switched my
focus to making it to the bathroom in time in order to avoid decorating
myself with vomit.
It had been a while since I had thrown up. I forgot that
feeling of a complete lack of control that came along with it.
Resting my head on the toilet seat I knew to be crawling with my own
bacteria, I pushed sweaty hair off my face. “Food poisoning,” I
said aloud to no one in particular.
Pulling a phenergan from my “chronic migraine” stash, I grimaced as I tried to swallow it. Just thirty minutes, and the nausea will be gone. I laid back down in bed, closed my eyes, and waited for sleep to come.
Five o’clock comes fast when you haven’t been sleeping well to begin
with. I rolled over from my side to my back and stared at that
familiar place on the ceiling. No, I assured myself, you aren’t going to throw up again.
I bargained with God. I counted backwards from 100. I tried
not to think of food. But I found my face inches from
2000-Flushes-blue water within seconds. My body felt like it was
trying to squeeze the very life out of me as it got rid of whatever
toxins were plaguing it.
I’ll feel better now, I reminded myself, throwing up makes the nausea go away. I tried to ignore the fact that I had already taken nausea medication as I put a thermometer under my tongue.
“101.5,” I sighed, defeated. It was obvious that I wasn’t going to
be able to sleep again as I went to the fridge for some water. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
I could hear my dad saying. I poured a glass and sipped it
slowly. I took some tylenol for my fever, and waited. My
stomach churned in adamant disagreement. Thirty seconds later, I
was face-to-face with my familiar friend once again. That worked well, my brain chimed in sarcastically.
I was supposed to take my roommate out for coffee so we could study
for exams. Then, I was going to be my boyfriend’s date to a
wedding. I really wanted to do both of these things, but as I
considered my options, my thoughts were interrupted.
The thermometer showed me “102.8,” and I knew it wasn’t happening.
I knocked on her door quietly and jumped when she responded.
“Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I’m not going to be able to
take us out today…I’ve been throwing up, and I have a pretty significant
fever, not to mention the fact that I keep almost passing out whenever I
I hadn’t addressed that issue in my mind yet. Every time I
stood up, I felt a little faint and saw the world closing in around
me. I’d sit right back down, but I still felt woozy. I knew
this wasn’t good, but I refused to let it get me down.
“Hey Mom, I know you’re at church right now, but I just wanted to let
you know that I’m a little sick. I’ve got a fever of 102.8, and
I’m throwing up regularly. I’ve taken tylenol and phenergan but
can’t keep anything down. Could you call me back with some
I curled back into my comforter and tried to get comfortable.
My stomach developed a really bad pain in the upper right quadrant, but
seeing how it was paired with a sharp left-shoulder pain, I brushed it
off as gas. I shook violently, the fever beginning to consume me.
“Hey Mom, it’s me again. I know you’re still in church, but I just
wanted to update you. I’m feeling really, really bad right now,
and I’m concerned by how fast I got so sick. Just give me a call
back when you get this? Thanks.”
I tried to close my eyes. I tried to crawl to the bathroom
every time the nausea overcame me, but the orthostatic changes were too
much. I dragged a trash can next to my bed and tried to situate it
so I could just aim and be okay.
I began to notice that things weren’t making sense. I saw
people in my room that I knew couldn’t be there, like my Dad. I
carried on a conversation with him about Physics, until I realized that
he was in Antarctica and there was no way he could be sitting on the
foot of my bed.
“Mom. It’s me. I’m…I’m really having a hard time thinking right
now. Can you please call me back…and…and just tell me what to
do? I…I’m so sick, Mom.”
Hit by a wave of lucidity, I called the church.
“Yes? Can I help you?”
“I need to speak to my mom…this is Sam Montgomery.”
“Oh hi, Sam. Your mom is in church right now.”
“Right, right…I’m really sick…can you please have her call me back?”
“Sam, hang on a second, okay? I’m going to go get her and she’ll call you right back.”
“Okay thank you.”
I let my head fall against my hand and tried to save the conversation
for the mother who was about to call me on the phone, not the one
standing in my doorway.
“Sam, it’s Mom. I just got your messages. My phone was on silent.”
“Mmm, mmhmm,” I murmured.
“You need to go to the urgent care center, okay? Like…five minutes ago.”
“Urgent care. Got it.”
I stood up and hit the ground, not realizing I had blacked out
completely until I addressed the fact that I was staring at the legs of
Right, I confirmed to myself, so I’m not driving there. I grabbed my phone and called the first person I could think of, who was in another city at the time.
“Sam, let me get my girlfriend on the phone and she can take you, okay?”
I had missed her call. Too preoccupied with the feel of the carpet on
my face, I had completely missed the phone vibrating and singing in my
I got her back on the phone, and she told me that she could give me a
ride there, but had food in the oven so she couldn’t stay with me.
That was fine by me, I knew I could figure out how to get back at a
later time, I just needed to be there immediately. We arranged to meet
Using the wall as support, I made it from my room to the door. I
opened the door and let it close as I leaned up against the wall. The
universe started spinning again as it darkened, so I let myself find a
place on the floor. I crawled to the elevator and put my face on the
Maybe I just won’t get out of this elevator. The floor is so
nice and cool on my warm face. Perhaps I can just die here? Then I
won’t have to hurt and hallucinate and vomit and shake. That would be
better, I think. Sam. Get up. Go to the car. You’re stronger than
The door chimed in the urgent care center as my friend helped me to the desk.
“I hope you feel better, okay? Let me know if you need anything.”
“Thank you so, so much.”
I wrote my name down quickly, my hand shaking the cursive of my round
letters. I set my things down in the first chair I saw as I dashed
toward the bathroom. After throwing up bile, I stood up to walk back to
the chair. Spinning darkness made its way into my head again, and I
awoke to find myself in a wheelchair.
“Can you hear me?”
“W-what? What’s going on?”
“Ma’am, your blood pressure is 70/30. Let me go get the doctor.”
“Mmm. Right. Does this hurt?”
“Yes, yeah, um, could you not do that please,” I protested as I squirmed under his hand.
“Something’s not right.” I looked at him suspiciously from under my glasses.
“I realize that.” I tried not to sound too sarcastic.
“Yeah, we’re not letting you go home. You have to go to the hospital right now.”
I groaned as I sat up. A black curtain was making its way into my peripheral vision, so I quickly put my head back down.
“You didn’t drive here, right? Who can we call for you? Do we need to call the ambulance?”
“God no,” I groaned as I imagined some of my favorite medics coming to scoop me off this boring brown table.
“Well you need to get to the hospital somehow.”
“Liz,” I said, “call Liz. I can talk…just please dial for me. Her number is in my phone.”
“I’m on my way,” she said. No hesitation. No questions. Just a
promise to be there for me when I needed her most. I wasn’t sure if I
could love another human being more at that moment in time.
The chime greeted us as she wheeled me into the emergency room. I
flashed an employee badge at the security guard and he eyed me
“Sick, not working this time,” I observed with a smile.
“Welcome to…oh…Sam…whoa-ho-ho, hold on here.”
“Do I look that bad?”
“Like shit,” my favorite greeter observed.
“Well damn, there goes my hope for charming some young doctor into falling in love with the ill lab tech.”
“Like you had a chance anyway,” she winked.
I was in the triage area before I could finish laughing.
“102.5″ flashed urgently on the screen as the nurse pulled the thermometer from my mouth.
“See, that’s not a good thing, Sam,” she said as she put a cuff around my arm and a pulse oximiter on my finger.
“Yeah, yeah, I know.”
The monitor was screaming at her.
“Your blood pressure is dangerously low, Sam.” I looked over and saw a number, but I wasn’t sure what it was denoting.
“Sorry, what is it?”
“72/30,” she said in a hushed voice, “and your heart is beating 160 times a minute.”
She coded me as an orange in the system. Orange is one step under red, I thought as I worried myself further, and red is one step under…well…you don’t want to be red.
They put me in a room and tried to sneakily park a crash cart
outside. I could see it from my bed. It was peering at me from the
door jamb, creepily eying me from afar. As if I didn’t know what that
meant. As if I hadn’t seen them used before. The defibrillator perched
precariously on top, like it was just one big shock away from falling
“Not cool,” I sighed under my breath.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
The monitor was alarming noisily, not shutting up for an instant.
Hey, somebody! This girl’s heart is about to explode it’s beating
so fast! Her blood pressure is dangerously low! Hey! Hey, guys!
I could see a little monitor dancing around, shaking its arms
frantically. I shook my head clear of the delusion. My fever was
spiking and the hallucinations were coming back with avengeance. I felt
a heavy hand jostle my shoulder.
“Sam, it’s Matt.”
“Oh hi, Matt,” I said through a little smile.
“Sam, I need you to cough for me.”
“Stimulate that vagus nerve okay?”
I coughed as he massaged my carotid artery. I saw the number on the monitor drop a little bit and sighed.
“Not good enough, sweetpea.”
“I tried,” I said with a mock whine.
“I know you did pumpkin. Need any medicine?” He pointed to my wrist. I looked at it, puzzled.
“I have an IV?”
“Yeah…I started it about an hour ago? The lab tech missed twice
already?” He pointed at the two antecubital bandages I was sporting.
“Yes, Sam…you’ve gotten some IV phenergan and morphine already. Twice, I think.”
“And saline, apparently,” I said as I pointed to the bag.
“Are you okay? Let me get the nurse.”
I was awakened by the noise of someone scanning my hospital bracelet. I
looked up and saw a large pair of scrubs standing upright.
“We’ve got a bed ready for you upstairs.”
“You’re being admitted, Sam.”
I rubbed my eyes hard, and when I opened them, I saw Matt standing next to me again, filling the scrubs I had just seen.
“Yeah, the doctor thinks you have an infection.”
“I saw the doctor?”
“How long have I been here?”
“About 4 hours.”
“And I can’t leave?”
“Sam…I’m just saying this because you’re my friend, and you’re obviously
not up to speed on everything. Your blood pressure is low enough that
if we let you go, you could die. You need fluid; you need medicine.”
I looked over at my phone. Missed calls and text messages flashed on the screen.
“Let me make a phone call before we go, okay?”
“Hey Mom. It’s me. Um, they’re admitting me. I’ll probably be out of
here tomorrow, though, so don’t panic. They think I could have an
infection. A-anyway, I’ll let you know more when I do.”