In my last post, I said it was 8 hours until I was getting my ass on an early plane home from this great vacation I had planned. Things had already gone awry and I was sad and ill. Then my hunch proved true; my system crashed. If I hadn't decided to stay behind, I would have been in the middle of a national park, several days from the nearest city.
The first thing to go from bad to worse wasn’t due to me being ill but a technical error.
I had begun the day with little sleep and not able to eat (like the previous 4 days of travel and stay in Darwin). I waved my new friends goodbye – the worst part of going home was not to get to know them all better. I pack my bags, I get to the shuttle, I have a good time with the drivers, I arrive at the airport.
The lady at the check-in says I have to talk to the ticket office.
She probably sees the alarm in my eyes because she assures me the booking looks fine. I move over to the ticket office, still alarmed. With all right. The Swedish company I booked with had not managed to create a ticket, and it’s the middle of the night in Sweden. No help to find. I was not allowed on that flight. [Later on I learned that there was a technical error and the travel company repaid everything.]
I booked another ticket for the same day and remained stubbornly at the tiny airport despite the twelve hours until my flight.
Then things started to get ugly. I turn more nauseous, and also weak and shivering [later I learn they're convulsions, not shivers]. At this point I haven’t been sleeping or eating much for five days. The journey home will take more than 30 hours. I’m alone.
The airport staff try to help me but I start throwing up and I feel even more woozy and weak. They get an ambulance to pick me up to make sure I'm fit to travel. I’m taken to the hospital, I wait, a bitchy nurse examines me, I wait, and then a young female doctor looks me over. She says the best thing is for me to get home (definitely true), gives me some strong painkillers and anti-nausea pills.
By the way, have you ever noticed that ambulance people treat you like a person and everyone else at a hospital treats you as a patient? It’s a big difference.
The painkillers have effect by the time I get back to the airport – the first time in ages I haven’t felt in pain. Unfortunately the tremors are still there, and so is the nausea. I hold out for some five hours, checking my luggage in, going through security check, sitting waiting and all that. The convulsions are by this time constant. It’s like the restless thing when you put your toes against the floor and you leg starts bouncing up and down – but all over my body. Finally, with the backdrop of a spectacular thunderstorm that I hardly notice, I throw up as I attempt my second dose of painkillers.
It’s interesting how many people don’t notice that someone has thrown up all over themselves and are sitting bent over, quivering. Even when they walk right over the puddle on the carpet. And when guy next to me tries to get help, they said something about if I was at the airport, I was obviously well enough to fend for myself.
Finally one of the flight attendants take notice of my pathetic little self and gets me help. I think eight people were hovering above me at one point, getting info to find my luggage and my name to end my booking and my age for another ambulance.
This time it takes much longer at the hospital. It’s in the middle of the night, so I’m sure they’re understaffed and there are a lot of people in the waiting room. But after the nurse has taken a look at me, they leave me there, on the plastic chairs. The only time they notice me is when I’ve laid down on the floor, my whole body twitching, because I felt so faint I was afraid to fall down. The nurses tell me to get up on the chairs; one isn’t allowed on the floors.
There are lot of hurt and ill people passing through the emergency room in a hospital. I felt guilty for just being there, yet I'm sure they thought the same about me. Or maybe not. Apart from the twitching I might not have looked as lethally ill as I felt.
At some point I'm given a shot of some still unknown substance. I don’t know how long it takes before they find me a bed (a gurney in the corridor). Then I lay there, twitching. It’s very unrestful to twitch uncontrollably. It’s in fact really scary.
I think a total of six hours pass before the doctor talks to me. He’s a young, Asian guy with dreadlocks gathered in a ponytail. (I'm not kidding you)
I was not an easy patient. He said I had a panic attack, I didn’t believe him. At least not until he started explaining that he had had the same (maybe he lied, but it worked) and exactly what was going on in my body with the adrenalin going amok and how my brain didn’t need to be upset for a panic attack to happen. He refused to admit me to the hospital and gives me valium, which makes no difference. Another pill, stronger, takes effect and stops the convulsions. By this time I’m so heartily tired of hospitals and people not listening that I just obey when he says he doesn’t want me to stay in the hospital. I accept the sleeping pills and find the hostel where I had stayed earlier.
For the first time in some five odd days, I sleep. I get six hours. The following two days are tainted with the odd side effects of dizziness, sleepiness (odd, eh?) and general hungoverness. The euphoria, one of the uncommon side effects, didn't show up. And the pills affected the libido negatively. What's with these drugs that are no fun? No fair at all.
The first night (technically it's almost noon) is the only time the pills make me sleep, but those six hours are enough to get me through the 40 hour journey through Melbourne, Hong Kong and London.
I arrive in Sweden much earlier than I was supposed and much later than I would have liked. But I am home, and there isn’t a better place in the world.