Sunday, 14 September 2008

Ten Traveller's Tales

Our fun holiday in Israel continuous. By now I'm in my fourth day where everything I put in my mouth goes straight out the other way in liquid form. The result is that I'm incapable of doing anything worthwhile; not that Israel presents one with much opportunity to exercise their right to do anything worthwhile.
Still, the travel experience is incomplete without some special delights, and it is with such a spirit of adventure that yesterday I went to a hospital emergency room for the first time in my life. The main problem was the fear of dehydration: although I was drinking quite a lot, it didn't seem like my body was able to retain these liquids. A book I found at my parents' place (mainly because I couldn't find anything over the internet, as my parents' place seems to be the only place in the universe that is not connected) talked about preparing a DIY rehydration solution: take a liter of drinking water, add half a teaspoon of salt and four teaspoons of sugar (preferably glucose), and sip slowly over an hour. I tried it, but as I was still rushing to the toilets we went to the hospital on Saturday morning – the perfect way to pass one's weekend.
The hospital was actually one of the few things in Israel that impressed me. Although clearly understaffed and overstretched, as per all good public hospitals and as all countries where the rich get away with it, the service was not too bad time wise and quite professional.
After an initial diagnostic by a nurse I was immediately connected to an infusion, which dripped slowly into my right arm for a duration of an hour and a half while I was waiting for the results of some blood tests. The infusion was funny: it didn't feel like anything was happening, but after a short while I felt so lively and energetic that I wanted to run a marathon or something.
Eventually even the doctors came along. Can't blame them; I was surrounded by people, some of which seemed to be on their way out of this world, so I couldn't be too picky. I told the trainee doctor my story and the conclusion was immediate and decisive: Until proven otherwise, I probably suffer from what is known as Traveller's Diarrhea. That is, thorough some ill prepared food, probably, a strand of some vicious bacteria my body is not used to because it doesn't exist in my fine area of normal dwelling – fair Melbourne – has invaded my body. More likely than not, given the lack of any other problematic symptoms such as fever, we are talking about an unfamiliar strand of E-Coli (readers of Dawkins and his likes will know that differences between two samples of Coli can be quite significant, much more than what we would normally label as different species if we were talking about, say, mammals; I also seem to remember reading there's more Coli in us than there is actually us, in the sense that there are more Coli cells than our own cells in our bodies; in The Fly, for example, Jeff Goldblum should have turned into a Coli much before he turned into a fly).
Practicality wise, there is not much I can do. I'm allowed to eat anything, but it's recommended to stick to rice if I don't want my stomach to feel like it's a barrel of explosives; within a few days my body should acquaint itself with the new Coli kid on the block and the show will go on. Catch is, I'm also due to fly in a few days, so there's a lot at stake, even when ignoring the fate of the remainder of our Israeli holiday. That is, it was pretty shitty even before it became literally shitty. I have said it before and I will say it again (promise), I do not see myself rushing back to visit Israel.
As I was discharged from the hospital while paying just a tad bit less than my travellers' insurance excess fees (not that I mind given the need to get all the Hebrew medical paperwork translated and certified to English, which is bound to be a costly pain), I was given a rehydration tip: instead of preparing home made solutions, just buy some Sprite, shake the gas away, and sip. So much for the science behind sports drinks like Gatorade and their likes.
So far, the only thing that really works for me is simply not eating, because anything I eat goes right out. We got back to my parents' place after the hospital and I had some rice; afterwards, I had four straight toilet sessions. Any sense vitality that might have been gained by the hospital infusion was lost down the drain.

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