Sitting in the back of a car, somewhere between Ottawa and Montreal I feel a chill go through my body and I begin to shiver. The humidity outside is raging, and everyone else in the car is desperate to cool down, yet I reach for my hoody and curl up against the window as my teeth begin to chatter. My brother looks over at me in shock, and asks if everything is alright. I can only muster a whimper of a yes back.
Things however weren’t so alright. We arrive in Montreal. I quickly make my way upstairs to my Brother’s apartment. I try to goto the bathroom. Nothing. My brother brings me a warmer blanket, which I curl up in on my bed and slowly drift off to sleep in.
I wake from my sleep. I am a covered in sweat. My head is on fire and I am feeling this horrible surge from my body. Few seconds to process, what is it? What is it? Right I know this urge, I have felt it before. I need to through up. Sweat beads are forming on my forehead, I am starting to lose my ability to think. Something inside of me needs to come out. Based on previous experiences I know I have about 20-30 seconds max before I will be keeled over and letting loose. Not enough time to get to the bathroom. Not even close. I quickly scan my bedroom for a vessel. Looking. Anything. My backpack. I quickly dump the contents. Open up the pockets, grab out my passport, money, travel itinerary… The wave is on me, I need to expel what is inside me. I stick my head in my backpack and begin to throw up.
When I am finished the bag is nearly brimming. I have enough strength and wits to tiptoe past a sleeping nephew to the bathroom and dump the bag into the toilet, and throw it into the bathtub. As I do a second waves comes over me. Head in the toilet I let loose again.
As I finish up my second round, my stomach is feeling no less better than when I started. However now I begin to feel a new sensation. My abdomen feels like it is being stabbed by a million knives, and I realize my purge of my system has only just started. I manage to sit myself down on the toilet. Within seconds I am rocked with the most dreadful diarrhea I have had in years. My system is in complete discharge mode.
I finish up in the bathroom. I am weak, and tired. My last 2 days of food now shooting somewhere through the Montreal sewer systems. Channeling my strength I find enough energy and wits in me to rinse out my backpack and hang it on my brothers balcony before I stumble my way back to my bed where I crash.
The rest of the night is a mad feverish dream of little sleep, and many tiptoes to the bathroom, as the diarrhea takes hold of me.
I wake. My body is purged and empty of any substance. I wander into the kitchen to be greeted by my brother and wife. When queried how my night was I fill them in on the details. They are shocked that they never woke up once. We start to question what could have caused my sudden sickness. The first thing that pops into all our minds is the food. Ottawa was an extravagant time for my stomach. Two nights in a row I dined on home made Indian cuisine. The second day also featured a Ugandan beef stew and hamburgers. Lots of places to point fingers.
Having a very similar reaction the last time I had food poisoning, I resolved myself into thinking the worst was now over, and it was time to recover.
Tuesday Morning, Still No Change
I wake Tuesday morning. The night was again troubled with another raging fever and constant trips to the bathroom. No longer riddled with nausea, I still find myself with a horrible case of diarrhea. With only 4 days left until my trip to Europe I resolve myself that I need to see a doctor.
I arrive at a walk in clinic a few minutes past noon on Mont Royal. I pay my $50 “I-am-not-Quebecois” fee and begin to wait. I scan the waiting room. Despite the clinic having just opened at noon there are probably a good 7 or 8 people ahead of me. I look around for a tap or a fountain, as I am beginning to get thirsty. There is a water cooler. I get out a cup, turn on the tap. Nothing. The cooler is empty or not working. Damn. I sit back down. My body at this moment is in a state of stasis. An hour roles by, my time has still not come. My mouth has become a desert, and I am in desperate need of water. Dehydration is setting in I can feel it. My head begins to sweat, and that oh too familiar feeling of cold chills begin to set back in. I look nervously around the clinic. Still 3-4 people in front of me. I begin to shake. I try to control it, and keep it to a minimum. A little girl beside me looks at me for a second, then goes back to playing with her mother. I need to see the doctor.
I wait, and wait, and wait. Finally around quarter to one my name is called. I stumble into the doctors office. “Fermer la porte s’il vous plaît” the doctor says to me. I close the door. This was as much French as I was going to be able to handle in my state. I quickly return, “Pardon-moi je ne parle pas les Français”. He looks at me sideways with a bit of a smirk forming on his lips. He replies, “À Montréal, il faut parler français”. Yes I realize in Montreal I should speak French. Thanks. I don’t. I reply again that I do not speak French, and ask nicely if he can speak English? He replies again that in Montreal one must speak French.
At this point I was about to stand up and walk out. I came to a doctor to get help when I am sick, not to be ridiculed for not speaking French. I give it one last try. I tell the doctor in English I am from Vancouver, I am sick, and I need help.
Finally he breaks. He begins the diagnosis. My dehydration is getting worse. At first he doesn’t seem to concerned. Thinking it is likely to be food poisoning as I suspected. Then he does an examination. Checks my temperature. 39.4 degrees Celsius. That is bad. Now the doctor is worried. I can see it in his face. We sit back down at his desk. He looks over his notes. He tells me most food poisoning should have passed, and I shouldn’t have a fever. He thinks I am severely dehydrated, yet he can’t tell me what I might have. Either a bacterial infection or a virus. He thinks I should goto the emergency room at the hospital. He asks what I think? I say this is fine. He writes out a referral and sends me on my way.
I make my way to the emergency section of the hospital. There is a large waiting room that is brimming with people. So much so people are standing in the hallways. This doesn’t look promising. I talk to a receptionist who tells me to sit in a purple chair and wait for a nurse. In the meantime Youki (who at this point has escorted me around from the clinic to the hospital) finds me a bottle of water. It is cold. I start drinking the water, and find the more I drink, the calmer I begin to get. My chills start to get better, and the head begins to cool.
Twenty minutes later, a nurse comes. She takes me into a small room, does some preliminary tests and checks me in. She takes my temperature again. 36.9. She sees the cold bottle of water in my hand and notes that it is likely the cause of my lower reading. I am brought back to the waiting room and am told to wait until I am called. Youki checks with the receptionist and asks how long a wait time it likely will be. 3-4 hours. The receptionists advices us to simply go home and come back in 3 hours or so. So we do.
Back again at around 5pm. The waiting room is filled with the same people I saw 3 hours ago. Their faces are blank and bleak. Having to wait in that room is enough to drive a person mad. We make our way to the nurses booth to let them know I am back, and to check where in line I am. There is a good 11 people in front of me. 1 doctor on duty. 20-30 minutes per person. 3-4 hour wait. This is getting typical. We leave again, this time with the nurses phone number so we can check on my status.
Around 9:30pm we call back and find out there is only 1 person in front of me. Good news. This time Richard is my escort and we make our way down to the hospital. I speak to the nurse to let her know I am there. She says I will be up next. I wait, and wait, and wait. There is a really drunk Hispanic guy now in the waiting room with blood on his forehead silently mumbling to himself. The 10 or 12 people in waiting room quietly watch as the security guard tries to tell him to sit in a purple chair instead of a red chair. He mumbles something incoherent, before resting his head against the wall and falling asleep. On the far side of the room is a heavy set man with a walker. He has a massive growth on the top of his head, which doesn’t seem to phase him. I silently munches on a sandwich from a vending machine. He eats the sandwich as if it is the best food he has ever eaten. A few minutes after finishing his sandwich, he gets up and buys himself a second one.
A little after 11pm I get the call. Stefan Klopp to Salle 7. Another room to wait in. The doctor shows up sometime after 11:30pm. She is a young doctor who had clearly had a long tough day. The bags under her eyes, and the obvious head cold she was battling hide what was clearly a very beautiful French lady.
So asked why I was at the emergency. Then proceeded to diagnose my problems. Like the previous doctor she was unsure if what I had was bacteria or viral. So she wanted me to take some tests. First a blood test, then an xray of my abdomen. First up was taking blood. It is amazing how quickly blood leaves your body when a needle is connected to your vein. I fill two vials of blood, and am then told by the nurse to go to the xray department. I arrive. Put my form in the holder. Knock on the door. Wait. I get called into a dressing room, where the radiologist tells me in French what to do. I tell him I don’t speak French. He says to me, “This is Montreal, we speak French here. I suggest you learn.”. He then goes over what I need to do.
I have my abdomen xrayed. “Don’t breath… … Breath.”. “Don’t breath… … Breath”. OK Mr Klopp you are done.
I make my way back to the nurses reception. She tells me that I need to wait for my blood test results to come back before the doctor will be able to discuss further. Back to the waiting room I go. It is a little past midnight now. My brother looks tired. There is only so long a person can wait in a emergency waiting room and be able to keep their spirits up. He was trooping it out for me.
It is now past 1am and I haven’t been called back. I go back in and find the doctor. She tells me she hasn’t gotten back the results yet, and is wondering why. I think I am her last patient. She calls the lab. Looks like they forgot to send my results back to them. They post them up on my file. The doctor looks over my blood work and xrays then takes me back to the examining room.
My blood work looks find. Xrays look normal for someone with diarrhea. To know what I have they need to take a stool sample. However stool samples take 5 days minimum to process. She leaves the room. Comes back. Then leaves again. She says if I can get a stool sample to her now, or in the morning she might be able to have it processed before I leave. Great. I go to the bathroom, and fill the vials for the doctor. That is one problem I don’t have.
She says she can’t guarantee the results will be back, however wants me to book an appointment with a followup doctor for Friday. She gives me a number to call, and tells me to insist on an appointment. She then disappears with no further advice. We go home, and are in bed sometime after 2am.
Wednesday morning I call the number I am suppose to call. Apparently they are suppose to open at 8:30am. I get an pre-recorded message in French. I hand the phone to Youki. The office is closed today. Great.
Thursday up early again. Call at 8:30am. New message. “Our offices are open from 8:30am to 12pm, please call back again” it said in French. Humm. I proceed to call back every 5 minutes or so. Same message. Sometime after 10am the message changes. I pass the phone to my nephew. He says it has something to do with cards or something. I call again. Same message. This time I hang on the phone a minute… I am put on hold. Bingo. I talk to the receptionist, she books me in for Friday morning at 8:45am. I am set.
I get to the hospital I wonder how long I will have to wait despite my appointment. To my surprise I am immediately placed in an examination room. The doctor shows up 5 minutes later. “Why are you here?”, he asks. He say I was told to book the appointment because I am suppose to fly on Saturday to Europe. I inquire on my stool samples. He laughs. Those take at least a week he says. Damn. What do I do?
He looks over my file, then looks puzzled at me and asks, “Why haven’t you medicated yourself yet?”
How could I? Medication requires prescriptions, prescriptions come from doctors. The doctors have simply passed me around.
“You leave for Europe in a day and you haven’t medicated yourself”, he says again as he shakes his head. He looks over my file again. Viruses usually last 1-2 days tops. Since you no longer have a fever, and this is your 6th day of diarrhea, this looks bacterial he concludes. He writes me a prescription for an anti-biotic called Cipro, and sends me on my way.
I get home with my new drugs. I pop my first pill. Within 30 minutes of taking it I am already feeling better. The pain in my abdomen is now gone, I have a new sense of appetite, and a smallest sense of hope enters into me. Despite my new found medication I decide to change my flight to Monday. I have to rebook my train trip from Frankfurt to Berlin, and update my booking at the hostel. The costs involved will be worth having a few extra days to recover before having to fly.
So this is where I stand now. It is Sunday morning. I just took my second to last pill. I am feeling a great deal better. The last week has been an adventure and a severe test of patience. Now I am just looking forward to regain my strength, so that I can fully enjoy my time in Europe.