We are about 5 minutes from Miami-Dade International when everything begins to go to absolute shit.
Rix and Wakey are chatting in the backseat about the last 5 days and suddenly, out of nowhere, it happens: the uncontrollable nausea followed by the lump in my throat. My body temp shoots up, causing my cheeks to turn flame red and sweat to form on my forehead. I’m unable to move and the world halts to a slow motion drive-by.
I’m going to fucking throw up in the passenger seat of an Uber.
Saying nothing, I lean back and focus on re-learning how to breathe while the guys babble on. The car somehow makes it to my terminal and I jump out, more eager for the fresh air than I’ve ever been before. My suitcase is loaded out and I hear the back window roll down.
“Bridge, we’ll just meet you back here in a bit, after we check in.” Wakey’s no more than 3 feet from me but he may as well already be back in England. They’re on a separate flight and need to go check their bags with their airline; Harry’s already gone home.
I don’t remember the car driving off, nor walking into the terminal. The next thing I do remember is the sudden fact that I have been in the same bathroom stall by the American Airlines check in counter for over 45 minutes and everything I had eaten barely 2 hours before was gone.
My mom calls once or twice and I vaguely recall speaking to her. Chris calls too, and its then the situation at hand fully hits me: I’m having a flare up. A bad one. A massive, fuck-my-life, where is a doctor and when can I eat food again flare up.
If I’m being honest about it, this isn’t a sudden onset. I know I’ve been having a flare up since the 2nd day of the cruise I’ve just returned from; in my efforts to avoid questions & concerns, I blamed seasickness the entire time. At every meal, I had tricked the guys into believing I was eating, and would even force down a few bites here and there, just to chase down a toilet 15 minutes later to choke it all back up.
“This whole thing is fucked up,” I think to myself. All I had wanted was the option to be able to get on a ship and go off on an insane adventure with 3 of my closest friends. But no, shit had to get all kinds of terrible at the absolute worst time. Typical.
Rix and Wakey find me about an hour after we had separated and clue in pretty quick to the scene they’ve come across. I try to keep up the pretense I’ve spent the whole holiday building up.
“I’m fine, don’t worry about it,” I say every time they start to ask.
Each time I make the statement, Ricky stares at me, knowing I’m full of shit as I sway back and forth, clearly ill. The way his eyes narrow quickly clue me in to his brain processing how seriously he should be taking me. Finally, in an effort to deflect his gaze, I grab the water bottle he’s holding and throw the cap off, drinking the remainder liquid within seconds flat.
It does nothing for me and I can tell I’m in more trouble than I had initially acknowledged.
“You look like crap,” he says, with no sugar coating in sight. All my makeup has come completely off and my hair looks like I just ran a marathon. Sweat has soaked through my top and fully glistened my face.
The process of me throwing up, trudging back to sit down and lean my head over the check in chairs with the guys trying to cheer me up repeats itself at least half a dozen times over the next 2 hours.
It’s decided, by my obnoxiously stubborn self, that I’ll go through security, get on my flight and head straight to an ER/A&E when I land.
“You sure?” Rix asks
“Promise. I just need rest.”
He thinks for a second before accepting my lie with a worried smile and turns to Wakey to nod.
“Alright, safe flight, woman. We love you.” They both hug me and I’m suddenly in line for security. I somehow manage to not faint and make it through to find my terminal. I ask the customer service agent in my boarding area if there are any upgrades and, when told the flight is completely full, am asked if I’m “feeling ok.”
Fucking great, I think. Apparently I now look as bad as I feel.
Replying that I was alright, I ask if theres a First Aid center anywhere. There’s not, of course, and they offer to call me an ambulance, asking again if I feel ok and what exactly may be wrong. I tell them I have Crohn’s and one of the reps becomes immediately concerned, saying he knows of it and tells the other reps how “debilitating” it can be. He seems to already know how today is going to end for me.
I find the nearest toilet to restart my routine of being ill in a new various area of the Miami International Airport. By this time, theres nothing left and I know that if this keeps up for even just another 30 minutes, I’m screwed.
Turns out, it doesn’t take that long. Like he knows I need him at that exact time, my dad calls. I’m not sure why, but thats when I break.
“Dad,” I say, with a cracking voice. “I am not ok. Something is very wrong.”
And as I sink to the floor in front of one of the bathroom sinks, I slowly begin to cry.
I don’t want this, I’ve never wanted this. I’m tired, exhausted actually, of fighting a battle that I will never, ever win. Worst so, fighting a battle thats a recurring nightmare of déjà vu: get sick, vomit for days on end, lose weight, enter remission, repeat.
Crohn’s brings such a gloom over its sufferers that slowly, no matter who you are, no matter how positive of a person you are, at some point, you will eventually spiral into a horrendous depression. It will be severe and sudden and you will not be able to shake it, though you’ll lie to everyone saying you’re good. And everyone will believe you, which actually just makes it all the worse.
A 5 day excursion from Florida to Mexico to the Cayman Islands and back again, with no reception anywhere and very little communication to the outside world, should end with me feeling like a mermaid, sun-kissed and relaxed. Instead, I’m forced to accept that I need to start taking this Crohn’s thing a bit more seriously.
My airport stay ends with me NOT getting on my flight. Instead, after managing to actually become physically ill all over the customer service counter, American Airlines is forced to call an ambulance to its departures terminal; when they arrive, they have to pick me up off the tile floor of the handicap stall. A TSA agent accompanies them and I’m forced to endure a casual 350+ eyes on me as I continuously vomit up what feels like quarts of stomach bile. To add to it, I’m administered an IV into my hand and arm, with the one in my hand missing at first. Blood spouts from it, down my arm and all over my clothes, which, by the way, are the only clothes I have since I’ve checked my luggage.
As I soon discover, when an ambulance is forced to take a patient from an airport to a hospital, you’re transported from point A via the physical runway. Ask me about it today and I’ll tell you its hilarious, but day of, literally forcing commercial airplanes to wait as I’m hauled away is probably the most humiliating thing that I’ve ever endured.
I spend 2 days at Hialeah Hospital (which, in my record book, is among the least amount of time admitted) in Miami and am unable to eat for about 5 more days. Legally I am not allowed to board a flight until I have strict permission from a doctor that has been communicated to the airline; my luggage has already been forwarded to LAX and I pick it up once I land.
The final diagnosis comes back as norovirus with a side order of diverticulitis, which I’ve dealt with before. For the second time in my life I had to hear from several members of the medical personnel how they had never seen “diverticulitis in someone so young before, let alone under 50.”
Rix and Wakey had a bit of a flip out when they find out whats happened, but in all honesty, what could they have done? They are 2 of my best friends and a couple of the best guys I know; they did enough by entertaining my delusions of not being sick the entire time we were on holiday.
So here I am, 2 months later. My food intake list has been depleted, yet again, and my exercise regimen has drastically increased. I don’t go out anymore, and the rare time I have to myself is spent sleeping because I’m exhausted from doing the simplest thing.
I wish I could relive the cruise. I wish I hadn’t been ill the whole time. I wish I wasn’t facing over $6k in medical bills from a mere 48 hours of medical care. I wish I wasn’t this and that things could be different. I wish a lot of things.
In the end, I can wish all I want, but some things can’t change, no matter how much I want them to. I’m going to keep bouncing around the globe. I’m going to see Vancouver and London and Stockholm and Munich and Dublin again and I’ll do so whenever I please. If I want to grab that last minute flight out of town for a weekend, then thats what I’m going to. I still have a life to live.
C’est la vie. At this point, the only thing that’s going to stop me is me. And that is not something I will ever let happen.