In case you haven’t noticed from my stories– I am not the most lucky traveler. Having said that, I had always been very lucky with at least not getting seriously ill while traveling. I never got food poisoning and was always healthy while on the road. That all changed though when I visits Laos.
It first started when I was in Vang Vieng and went tubing down the river from one bar to the other for a wild birthday celebration. Little did I Know that I would be receiving a gift that I didn’t want.
I remember the day before I went tubing, looking at the water and thinking that it looked disgusting and wouldn’t touch it if someone paid me to. The water was murky brown and unlike and of the turquoise blue waters that I had gotten used to in South East Asia. However, as soon as the tubing started and I had a few drinks in me, any hesitation about jumping in disappeared. The bars along the rivers had rope swings and slides that were too fun to pass up. With everyone else doing them I joined in on the fun without thinking twice.
I would jump off the edge of the bar and catch the rope midair and let it swing me until I fell off into the river- probably guzzling up nasty water as I did so.
There was one ‘mission-impossible’ moment when my friend and I crossed the fast moving river to the other side. It was a mission but we managed it – with the help of locals throwing us a rope to bring us in. Once we got to shore I remember feeling an annoying pain in my hand. I brushed it aside – but it didn’t go away. I looked down and I had a tiny worm looking leech on my hand. My friend quickly picked it off for me and that was that – or so I thought.
My birthday was an absolute blast but I can’t say the same about the following day. My stomach was in excruciating pain. The day after it got even worse. That’s when the diarrhea kicked in. I had never had it before in my life and it sure wasn’t fun- lucky for me it passed within a day. I recovered quickly and forgot about the whole event during the rest of my trip.
It wasn’t until coming home from that trip that my day in Laos came back to haunt me. When I was back home I was constantly getting extreme stomach pains – but I thought they were just symptoms of my low blood sugar. The pain was so intense that it would keep me up at night or force me to cancel plans with my friends. I would eat to try and bring my blood sugar up but that never seemed to stop the pain.
The day after Christmas – completely out of the blue – I had a sudden urge to use the toilet. I dropped what I was doing and bolted. I don’t want to gross you out so I will skip the details, but what I saw was so alarming that it had me calling my mother in tears. My mom told me to head straight to the hospital. I was still in shock from seeing living organism swarming around in my stool – but I managed to make my way to the emergency room.
When I told the nurse what happened I was expecting her to assure me that everything was okay. I figured that as a nurse she had probably seen a million things worse than this. Instead, she looked taken aback and said, “oh my gosh, you poor girl.”
The fact that even the nurse was freaked out wasn’t reassuring. It turns out that I had a parasite living inside of me for over six months. I must have ingested it by accidentally swallowing some water when jumping into the river in Laos. Unfortunately, instead of dealing with it I had been a girl about it and stuck it out. I just carried on with my life with the excruciating pain.
The doctor wanted to test which parasite I had so he told me to wait a week for the test results and then he would give me the proper prescription.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t wait that long. A couple of nights later the pain was so terrible that it woke me up in the middle of the night. It was unbearable. At 2 a.m. my friend came to pick me up to take me back to the hospital. It was a different doctor and after explaining my situation he was pretty confident guessing what I had and gave me a prescription right away.
After about a week, the pills did the trick and my stomach pain subsided. I just can’t believe that it took me so long to admit that something was wrong – and healthcare is free in Canada so I had no excuse.
I learned that if you think something is wrong with your body, then it probably is. No one knows your body better than you do. So even if you think that you are overreacting – going to the doctor to check is a way better alternative to having parasites use your stomach as a place to hatch their babies.