On this day, one year ago, I contracted e. coli. Except, I didn’t know I had e. coli. I thought it was something I ate…or hell, the school year had just started (I was a teacher in ‘da Bronx’) so I could be getting the flu. I took it easy for a few days. Then all hell started breaking loose.
I went to Brooklyn to meet up with a fellow Bronx teacher, Katey, to see the Bottoms Up Blues Gang. That night, I woke up at 4am super sick and throwing up. I chalked it up to food poisoning (the sandwiches we ate before the band started WERE a little sketchy). After having a hellorific weekend in the bathroom switching between sitting and leaning my face against the seat (I know, not sanitary. But after spending 72 hours purging your insides, you tell me how much you care…) I attempted to go to work. It was a no go. I was a wreck.
The following week I tried to go to work again. I ended up doubled over in pain in the middle of my classroom, mid-lesson. One of my students called the office for help (thank God I had gone over that routine in the classroom starting the beginning of the year) and someone came to relieve me. I hobbled to the office and called a friend who has a husband for a doctor. Their immediate advice: go to a GI right away. I made an emergency appointment for Dr. David Berman at Park Avenue Physicians. Several hours and some blood testing later, I have E. Coli O157:H7. That’s right. The same e coli that Jack in the Box threw out there back in 1993. Awesome. Dr. Berman immediately put me on antibiotics and sent me home.
The next few months are hellish. Back and forth from doctor’s appointments. In and out of work. In and out of the hospital. Continuing to lose weight. Can’t eat anything. See, e. coli damages your digestive system and then gets out of dodge. It wasn’t e. coli that was causing so much disruption and making my body refuse to eat. It’s the damage it did before it left…
In 6 days I welcome the beautiful age of 30. I know that my thirties will be…different. I have been dreading 30 since I missed my 29th birthday. I didn’t really even get to cling to my 20’s. I spent the last year of my 20’s struggling to be…healthy. I became more resilient. I became determined. I had to figure out what I really wanted because, dammit, I had to fight for it if I wanted to ever get better. I now know who I am and what I want from this life. I am so grateful for having been strong enough to recover and come out better. I did some soul searching…quit my job…got a tattoo…traveled to Honduras…then to Ireland…I raced in two mountain bike races and survived. It’s been a long year.
I am healthy. I can ride my bike for a long time. I have FUN riding and hiking. I’m happy and enjoying life. My life. The one that I had to think about and re-assess after getting sick. My quality of life has increased. I eat healthier, I’m more aware of what goes into my body. I am more active. I’m back outdoors where I love to be. I don’t hate my job. I don’t hate where I live. I created a lot of peace and happiness from the tragedies of this illness. E Coli helped me become…me again. I had lost myself in NYC and working in the Bronx. I had lost touch with who I was…and with nature. The recovery allowed me to find those things again…and find myself again. I was also inspired to get my second life changing tattoo of my life – the Bodhi tree. I feel more solid. More stable. More me than ever. Fuck you, E Coli!! I win!!
Oct. 14. Friday. Went to see Bottoms Up Blues Band (love these guys!) with Katey in Brooklyn. We had some sandwiches before the band started…I thought it may have caused food poisoning given the upcoming days’ events. Weight: 103 lbs.
Oct. 16. Cancelled birthday dinner plans. Massive stomach pains. Lots of time in the bathroom.
Oct. 17. My 29th birthday. Unpacking at the new apartment. So sick, can’t unpack. Call in the troops to help.
Oct. 18. Monday. Stay home from work – uber sick.
Oct. 19. In the classroom. Doubled over in pain. Students have to contact office for emergency relief. Doubled over in pain in the office, I call a friend who has a husband for a doctor. Their immediate advice: go to a GI right away. I make an emergency appointment for Dr. David Berman from park Avenue Physicians. A few hours and testing later, I have E. Coli O157:H7. That’s right. The same e coli that Jack in the Box threw out there back in 1993. Immediately put on antibiotics. E Coli caused Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli. Could not eat. Body rejected everything.
Oct. 26. Antibiotics are working. Starting to feel better but still not able to eat. On Ensure and bread diet. Losing weight fast.
Oct. 30. Went to a Phish concert with a love interest. Passed out at the show after becoming hot and sweaty.
Nov. 1. Back to work. Still feeling weak. Can’t eat. Weight: 95 lbs.
Nov. 8. Back out of work and in the hospital. Very sick. Turns out I have e coli. Again. Antibiotics didn’t work. Back on stronger dose of antibiotics. Weight: 93 lbs.
Nov. 11. Visit my aunt in Denver. Get sick on airplane. Very weak. Can’t eat while there. Slept a lot.
Nov. 19. Visit love interest to go mountain biking (I know, I’m nuts). Saturday wake up in excruciating pain and try to play it off like it’s no big deal. Can’t eat breakfast. Head home
Nov. 21. Emergency Room visit. Don’t remember driving myself in. Don’t remember checking in. On IV for several hours. Very undernourished. Blood tests clear but organs not working properly.
Nov. 29. Meet with GI, Dr. Berman. Concerned not getting better. Conduct endoscopy. Have to cancel because my INTESTINE is twisted. Emergency “untwist” scheduled and virtual colonoscopy done. OW. Weight: 90 lbs.
Dec. 2. Finished antibiotics. Endoscopy attempt #2. Still not so great up there. Inflammation and swelling. Blood. Recovery continues.
Dec. 16. My mother’s birthday. Starting to feel better but very weak. Can eat basic foods: soups, rice, plain pasta, crackers. On protein shakes to try and gain weight. Sleep a lot. Try to ride my bike. Weight: 87 lbs.
Dec. 23. Parents arrive from Seattle for NYC Christmas. Very weak. Starting to gain weight. Depressed. Tired of being sick. Weight: 89 lbs.
Dec. 30. Shipped parents off to Atlantic City for the weekend. Phish Concert #2 with Love interest. ;o) At least I can still try and make that happen! Felt really good.
Dec. 31. NYE in NYC with good friends. Feeling much better. Still underweight, still weak, still sad and depressed but moving out of the storm and into recovery. Weight: 90 lbs.
Jan. 3. Back to work in the Bronx. Catch bad cold. Very sick. Out of work again.
Jan. 10. Attempt to go back to work. Almost pass out on the way. Still very sick. Go to hospital. I have pneumonia. Weight: 88 lbs.
Jan. 12. Talk with GI, Dr. Berman. Suggestion: Move out of the city, quit the Bronx and move upstate. I agree to do all three. I start selling my things and plan to move to Ithaca.
Jan. 18. Leave of absence from work is granted. I have 60 days to create a new and healthy life upstate. I book a trip to Honduras for Feb. 18th. I have one month to weigh 100 pounds. Current weight: 89 lbs.
Jan. 19 – Feb. 17. Sublet apartment, sell all furniture, find a roommate in Ithaca, move all stuff into storage. Fight to eat every day. Three Ensures, two protein shakes and two small meals a day. Takes all day, every day to eat. Sleep a lot. Weight: 95 lbs. Almost there. Close enough. Fuck it. Let’s go to Honduras.
I spent Honduras getting my head on straight. Being that sick, for that long is tough. I came home determined to get HEALTHY and stop being sick or in recovery. I ran. Road my bike. Walked. Hiked. I was outside a lot. I started acupuncture for digestion.
Mar. 11. Signed up for Downieville All Mountain Race. Training to begin immediately.
Mar – Jun. Trained hard and almost every day. Gained muscle weight. Conditioned new muscle to push and ride long distances over tough terrain. Weight: 97 lbs.
Jul. 9. Downieville Classic. Finished dead last…but finished! Weight: 98 lbs
Aug. 19. Trip to Ireland for SSWC. Much healthier. Still a little sensitive to food and drinking alcohol (dammit!) but able to enjoy a beer here and lots of food there! Weight: 98 lbs
Sept. 5. Move farther north to Lake Placid. So good for my soul. I’m in the mountains. I settle in to work, life and loving the outdoors. I ride my bike every day, have met great friends and am loving all the hiking trails. Weight: 100 lbs
Oct. 11. I now weigh 103 lbs. My one year anniversary is marked by that once a month womanly avenger returning again (how surprising!) and I can’t tell if I’m happy or sad that has happened. My body is now fully back to normal operation. I weigh a little more than I could – at 5ft tall 103 is solid. (I like that).
Total duration of e. coli: 2 months
Total duration of illness: 5 months
Total duration unable to eat well: 7 months
Total duration of recovery: 1 year