February 14, 2013

My Queasy Valentine

This week marks the solemn three-year anniversary of my most memorable Valentine's Day weekend. Advertisers tell us this holiday is all about flowers, candy, jewelry and love; but my family's V-Day experience in 2010 was a gastroenterological nightmare.

Yes, indeed, I call it the Great Valentine's Day Stomach Virus of 2010 (hereafter cited as GVDSV-2010). Brace yourself-- here's the most graphic sentence in this entire post: Imagine two adults and a four-year-old child all suffering from simultaneous uncontrollable diarrhea and vomiting.

The 14th was on a Sunday that year, so a few days in advance we bought a nice bottle of wine (and some sparking apple juice for the little one) and planned to spend a quiet weekend at home for some family fun. Little did we know that it would be many weeks before we popped the corks on those bottles.

Memories of the exact order of events (and probably your appetite at this point) are fading. But I recall that my daughter was the first victim of GVDSV-2010 during the middle part of the week. It's no fun watching anyone suffer like this, but especially your own child.

A day later, GVDSV-2010 claimed victim #2, my wife. Now suddenly we had one adult and one child having those uncontrollable medical maladies that I mentioned above.

I'm always the healthiest person in our family and very rarely get sick. So with my wife and kid down and out, I was glad to be on my feet and able to take care of them. I even walked around with a swagger in my step knowing that GVDSV-2010 wasn't going to get me.

Photo: My porcelain valentine
Boy was I wrong! It hit me with little warning. Shortly after midnight while my wife and daughter were trying to recover in one bathroom, I suddenly had to sprint to another bathroom to deal with my own splattering sickness. After the indiginity of crawling around on the floor and cleaning up my own mess, I sent an email to my workplace letting them know I would not be in on Friday. I wrote something like this: "The whole family has a stomach virus. I won't be coming to work today. If you need me, I'll be on the floor of my bathroom."

I'll spare you the dirty details, but I spent the next couple of days going back and forth between the bed and the bathroom. Eating and drinking were out of the question, no mater how dehydrated I felt. I think the first time I was able to eat something was Sunday when I tentatively nibbled on a single pretzel.

Later that day my wife ventured out (very risky, but she was finally feeling a little better) and bought me a large bottle of Gatorade. As much as I wanted to chug the whole thing, I had to take sips in five-minute increments. Anything more frequent fired up my ornery innards. I stared at the clock next to the bed and watched the minutes tick away until I was able to take another sip.

We were all back among the living by the next week, but the effects of GVDSV-2010 lingered. For the next few weeks, eating was no longer the pleasure it had always been. Our stomachs were too sore to eat very much. I think it was about a month before I resumed eating full portions of food.  The pain was gone, but I was just not excited to put too much into my stomach. My wife and I both inadvertently lost a lot of weight during this period. But if you're looking to shed a few pounds, I would not recommend the GVDSV-2010 diet.

So here we are three years later, looking back on the Valentine's Day that brought our family to its hands and knees. As you celebrate today and reach for the chocolate-covered strawberries, please try to keep them down.

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