The Man and I booked ourselves into a remote mountain retreat for the purpose of riding horses and eating hearty fayre by a roaring fire. “I LOVE BEING IN THE MOUNTAINS!” I shouted, “AND I CANNOT WAIT TO SEE YOU ON A HORSE! I AM SO EXCITED!”
The Man was a little more chilled about it all. After all, he is a man and they tend only to start screaming during sporting events.
But I knew that, deep down, he was looking forward to it very much. Every attempt we’ve made to ride horses thus far has met with disaster and this time, we were both quite sure, nothing could stand in our way.
I woke up on the morning of our departure feeling like I was going to throw up and then maybe die. “You go and get breakfast,” I muttered to him, breathing hard through my mouth in an attempt to stave off the vom. (It never makes a scrap of difference, does it. Why do we bother?) “I’ll join you in a minute.”
I did not join him. I did not eat breakfast.
And I cannot adequately express what an emergency this constituted. Given the choice between save someone’s life or eat my breakfast, I would unquestionably pick the latter. And no I won’t take that back. What is a morning without breakfast? What is life without breakfast? It is the best part of my day!
The fact that I found myself unable to eat was a source of great concern both for me and The Man, who is now well-acquainted with my dependence on a morning scoff. “Are you sure you’re fit to travel?” he asked.
“Of course!” I replied, as brightly as possible. “Just off my food for a few hours!”
The Man looked unconvinced. If Lucy Robinson chooses not to eat breakfast, he was probably thinking, she is either dead or dying.
Sure enough, by the time we arrived at our mountain retreat three hours later, I had a high temperature, and had managed the rather extraordinary feat of fainting inside a van. I also had The Browns again. That ominous rumbling in my bowels is like an old friend these days.
“Hello!” cried the friendly owner of the retreat. “Welcome!”
“uhgmm,” I replied.
She looked alarmed. “Are you tired?”
“Are you dying?”
Without any further delay, she showed us to our cabin. “Get her back to England,” she whisper/shouted to The Man as I shivered away in bed. “She is seriously ill.”
I tried to shout “I can hear you!” but all that came out was a groan. With that, I fell asleep.
A little while later, I was staring at our lovely sunken bath, in which we would later be able to enjoy a soak together by the fire with a view of the volcano. “It doesn’t look very sunken,” I thought to myself. “Shouldn’t it be on floor level if it’s sunken?”
After a moment’s contemplation, I realised that it was indeed on floor level. As was I. I moved my head a little and discovered that I was lying on the floor, butt naked, shivering.
“Oh f*ck,” I thought. I had obviously fainted on the way to the loo.
Slowly and carefully, I went to get up.
I promptly fainted again.
“DAMMIT,” I cursed, when I came round. “Come on, Robinson!”
The next thing I knew, the owner of the retreat was sitting on my bed informing me that I was being taken to hospital.
“NOOOOOO!” I screamed, suddenly able to talk once again. “Don’t make me go to hospital in Ecuador!”
“Well you will die if you don’t,” she said firmly. “It’s your choice.”
“Shit,” I muttered to myself. “Shit.”
Four hours later, I arrived in hospital. By this point I was so sick I didn’t care. The Man wheeled me in to casualty and within minutes people were sticking needles into me, taking out blood, pumping in drugs and saline and asking questions like “Why the hell are you only coming in now after being ill for ten weeks?”
It was a fair question. “I’ve never been this ill,” I protested. “Not even close! This is something different, I think…?” I then proceeded to tell them my entire medical history for the last ten weeks – IN SPANISH, I should add – waited for them to acknowledge that this was indeed complex . . . and then passed out again.
When I woke up, I was being wheeled into a ward. I spent the night there, blissfully drugged up and unconscious, while the poor Man had a terrible night trying to sleep upside down on a vinyl chair, wondering if his girlfriend would make it. The things that man has had to put up with in his relationship with me are extraordinary. If you read this blog, The Man, please know that I am beyond grateful for your kindness and awesomeness.
So. Four days later I was discharged. (As I thanked the nurses I felt a little embarrassed that I had objected so violently to going to hospital in Ecuador. It was way nicer than anything I’ve seen in the UK. Next time I get really ill I shall try to do so here.) I left with a crazy diet that permits me to eat just about nothing, and instructions to do just about nothing until further tests results are available.
They still don’t know what’s wrong with me.
And so I write to you from my hostel bed, where I am spending yet another day recuperating and working out what the hell to do next.
Common sense dictates I go the hell home and sort out my mangled insides and non-existent immune system. If I carry on travelling I will crap my pants every time I feel so much as a twinge in the belly – I barely trust the food that our super-clean super-lovely hostel staff are giving me at the moment; I can only imagine how I’d fare at a street food stall in the middle of a 20 hour journey on a none-too-clean bus. I know what I’m like when I’m recovering from being badly ill. I have no confidence and I freak out about everything. I got super-sick in India back in 2007 and, after I’d recovered, I was a nightmare for the rest of the trip. Every time I thought I was being served food that might make me ill I burst into tears and even small discomforts suddenly seemed monstrous and terrifying.
No-one should travel in this sort of a state. Until now, in spite of the health problems I’ve been having, I’ve been fearless – I’ve been eating anything, trying anything, sleeping anywhere. After all, in a developing country you’re just as likely to get sick eating food from a market comedor as you are in a supposedly 4* ‘international’ restaurant. But there’s nothing like four days’ hospitalisation to strip one of such bravado!
If my immune system is as poor as it seems to be, I’m vulnerable to anything and everything. Had I not already been in a weakened state due to these bastard parasites that invaded me ten weeks ago, I probably wouldn’t have passed out and ended up in hospital – I think it happened because I have no defences left. How do I know that won’t happen again the next time I pick up some minging bug from my lunch? Right now there’s a smallpox epidemic here in Quito and foreign embassies are warning those with weakened immune systems to get vaccinated immediately. It’ll be like this wherever I go. I’m like a disease magnet right now.
And so really, I think I need to be somewhere with clean tap water and higher standards in food hygiene if I’m to sort myself out. I know the UK’s pretty germy too but the point is, my body knows UK germs. It may be weak but it knows how to fight them. But it’s buggered if it knows what to do with this bombardment of Central and South American nasties.
…But. I still cannot quite bring myself to say “right, enough, it’s time to go home.”
Why? Am I being a retard? I would be grateful for objective feedback, friends. There is still a part of me that thinks “but I feel loads better… No tummy pain in days… I don’t want to miss out on all these wonderful places… Yes we could come back another time but I’m here NOW… The Man’s flat is rented out so we don’t have anywhere to live in London… And I’ve made it through the last ten weeks with compromised health, surely I can do another eight? I should also admit (embarrassingly) that there is a sense lurking somewhere that I will somehow have failed if I go home early (I know this is bollocks).
It’s like I know what I need to do, but I just don’t want to do it.
Sigh. I’ve just read over this blog and the answer is right here. But do let me know your thoughts, chaps. Sometimes I need to be told several times over before I listen.
PS. Forgive the picture. I know hospital is no laughing matter but The Man and I were just trying to feel a little bit more jolly.