I’d been having stomach discomfort for several weeks, and, although stomach irregularities are not foreign to me, these recent sensations were more severe than prior ones. I went to the doctor.
He analyzed the symptoms, placed a stethoscope on my belly and intestines, and listened. “Diverticulitis,” he said. “It’s an inflammation or infection of small pouches called diverticula that develop along the walls of the intestines. But it doesn’t appear to be a bad case.”
“I can’t have divituliticus,” I said.
“Because I can’t pronounce it and I’m going to have to tell people why I just shat my pants.” (I’m sorry. That was gross. I shouldn’t have said that. What I meant to say was, “Because I can’t pronounce it and I’m going to have to tell people in the swimming pool why I just shat my trunks.”)
But there I was exiting the doctor’s office, prescription for an anti-inflammatory in hand. I had asked the doctor if I could mix alcohol with the medication since I was heading to Puerto Vallarta the next day. “Yes,” he said.”
So, I did. Two margaritas the first night.
The next day, the friend from home with whom I had rendezvoused and I took the water taxi to Yalapa. We sat under a large umbrella on the sun-drenched sand and drank two beers, one prior to eating nachos and the other while eating. Shortly after downing my nachos, I felt an internal rumbling. I raced to the rudimentary beachside bathroom and spent fifteen minutes emptying out my guts.
Or so I thought.
We boarded the water taxi home, my mind swirling with relief and worry regarding that traumatic bathroom experience, and, as the sun beat on my left shoulder, I realized it was sunburned; the umbrella had been as protective as a mesh condom. But that was the least of my health worries. As we neared the Puerto Vallarta pier, a mere three blocks from my hotel, I felt a resurgence of stomach rumbling. I rushed home, where I filled the toilet for a second time that day. How, I asked myself, could that be? I thought I was empty from the first incident.
That evening, my friend and I attended a customer-appreciation/anniversary party at a nearby restaurant. Even though I felt empty and wasn’t hungry, I ate a few appetizers. But I downed two margaritas.
During the night, I awoke to stomach growls and a chill, the later, I assumed, because I had set the air conditioning too low. Instead of getting up and turning off the a/c, I pulled my covers higher so they could keep me warm. I woke up in the morning and promptly visited the porcelain throne for a third major evacuation.
I flew home later that day on a two-and-a-half hour-delayed flight, with no intestinal incidents. Stomach irregularities, however, were not my only concern. I also was worried about the delay, fearing the small local airline would cancel the flight until morning, which would have been problematic as I had an early morning appointment with my ophthalmologist. But I got home that night and went to bed.
I awoke the next morning with a sore throat. “Damn a/c,” I grumbled as I prepared for the eye doctor. She was going to perform a common procedure done about six months after cataract surgery, a removal, by laser, of a film that can accumulate on the new lenses. It is a quick, painless procedure that does produce several days of “floaters” dancing in your vision. My ensuing floaters varied in size from specks to wide-winged bats to small New England states. My eyes dilated, I donned sunglasses and headed home.
As I rode the bus, I realized I did not feel right. It wasn’t stomach-related though—that appeared to be settling down—but feverish instead. Once home, I took my temperature. It was about a full degree above normal. So, there I was, recovering from the runs, a sunburned shoulder tingling like the embers on a fireplace hearth, floaters making me swat imagined bats, and a fever.
It couldn’t get worse. I thought.
By Tuesday morning the sore throat had moved to my head and I had a runny nose. By afternoon it had shifted to my lungs. Meanwhile, my temperature bounced between low-grade and quasi-semi-sorta low-grade. This created a dilemma because I had a Wednesday morning appointment with my orthodontist to have some braces added to my existing front-bottom teeth. The new ones would be in the rear and were to space the now aligned teeth. Should I postpone this appointment or follow through to keep the process on schedule? I opted for the latter.
Delirious from my quasi-semi-sorta low-grade fever, I stumbled to the dental office Wednesday morning, dripping sweat along the route. I immediately told the orthodontist of my quasi-semi-sorta fatal condition and reminded her to thoroughly wash anything that touches my mouth. I then yanked a bottle of Windex from my backpack. “It cleans and fixes everything,” I said, “according to My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” I handed it to her and yelled “Opa!”
Additional braces were wired onto my mouth and I departed. I immediately, however, felt the rearmost braces, because of their proximity to my inner-cheeks, jabbing them. As if I needed another irritant, my inner voice screamed. Later that day, as I sipped chicken soup—made by a lovely woman named Campbell. She even added some rice—I felt one of the new braces separate from its tooth and dangle on its wire like a Christmas tree light. “Damnation,” I quasi-semi-sorta wailed, remembering a lesson from when the first braces were installed: Crowns with porcelain veneers resist the adherent that seals braces to teeth.
So, I went back to the orthodontist the next day, still sweating a fever and smarting from sunburn. The brace was reattached and I left. As I went home, my skin-damaged shoulder developed a new sensation. I’d had sunburn before. I knew what healing should feel like. This, however, was different. I touched the burning area and felt bumpy skin. That’s not normal peeling, I thought. Then I could feel moisture, minimal, but a wateriness, nonetheless. I have heat rash, I told myself. I knew heat rashes; Dad, who rarely went into the sun, suffered them on our summer vacations. The tiny, itchy blisters, when scratched, ooze mini-droplets of water.
It has been a week now and the sunburn and heat rash have disappeared. I no longer have floaters startling me into lunatic-like swatting spasms. My braces have remained attached and I am adjusting to the inner-cheek jabbings of protruding metal. And my divictulisis. I mean, disticulicus…divertistiliitis…diverticolitis…distorti…oh, whatever…seems to have disappeared. It, apparently, was a light case as the doctor said or merely a bug. Either way, I am fine now and—oh no. I just shat my pants. Thank God I wasn’t in the pool.