Friday, March 26, 2010

The Worst Day

by John Gilstrap

This week, my big-boy job took me to Islip, New York, where I was to deliver the keynote address for the Long Island Chpater of the American Society of Safety Engineers. I flew into Islip though a circuitous, cost-savings route that ate up nearly as much time as if I had decided to drive, and when I arrived at the airport, I confess that I wasn't feeling all that well.

I checked into my Hilton Garden Inn--not a bad chain overall, but certainly not high-end--around 6:30, grabbed a very light dinner and then just settled into my room early. By 9:15 or so, I was asleep. Then, at 4:03, I was awake. Oh, God, was I awake.

I'll call it a north-south stomach flu, for lack of a better term--and to convey the both-ends nature of the malady without invoking too much unpleasant detail. The good news is that all deposits were made in their appropriate recepticle, but I tell you, it was close. Thus began 8 of the most miserable hours I can remember.

It was so bad that I did something I've never done before: I skipped my speech. There just was no way. Standing was enough of a challenge. The thought of trying to deliver a speech--well, that would have ruined everyone's morning.

Instead, I slipped the Do Not Disturb sign over my door knob, and I stayed in my room, where I tried desperately to sleep, while my body insisted on dehydrating. Then, around noon, the demon left me. I was exhausted--and empty, Lord knows--but my insides had settled. It was like flipping a switch.

But I was still in the Hilton Garden Inn in Islip, NY, where there's no such thing as room service at midday. That meant getting dressed and getting into my car just to find something bland to eat, and something soothing to drink. There sure are a lot of Italian restaurants in Islip, NY. And delis; both of which I would have welcomed on any other day, but I was on a quest for toast. Or Saltines. I settled for a plain bagel.

I'm sure there are many things that are far worse than being tummy-sick away from home, but this week I had a hard time thinking of any of them. There wasn't even anyone there to attend my pity-party. The good news is that I'm feeling better, I'm back home, and this is Friday!

So, what about y'all? Got any poop-n-puke stories you'd like to share?


  1. I think I'll pass (so to speak) on sharing my stories on this, but you're right, being sick during travel is the worst. Hope you're feeling better.

  2. having wrapped up a 40 year career in nursing...i could probably trump any bodily fluid story you have! i could even name many more orifices from which these fluids may flow. ah, such fond memories. kathy d.

  3. I had an experience like yours when I was scheduled to give a talk at a local bookstore. I started feeling not-so-great that morning, and was vomiting into a plastic bag by the time we arrived in the parking lot of the store. I was determined not to miss the engagement, however. I actually called up friend to appear with me at the store, which had a SRO audience that day, incredibly (normally I'm lucky to draw a dozen people). She had shared some of the experiences I was going to discuss, so it made sense. Miraculously, the nausea lifted for a magical golden hour while we gave the talk, which was very successful. As soon as I got back in the car, however, the nausea kicked back in, and I threw up all the way to urgent care.

    By the way, I've learned with these illnesses to go straight to an urgent care as soon as the symptoms start. The doctors have a magic injection which can almost instantly cure the vomiting, if not effluence.

  4. Having been a stage performer of various venues most of my life I can say that seldom has something kept me off the stage for a show. I can also say that I probably should've stayed off the stage on several occasions and there are some events I know I was at but don't remember anything except running off stage and blowing chunks between scenes then running back out. Luckily for the girls there were no kissy scenes in those shows.
    Once at a church concert I practically had an out of body experience while drumming with a 102 fever. I remember being so afraid of puking in front of a few hundred people I had placed a receptacle on stage in a discreet location so I could duck out of sight behind the congas and let loose if needed. The other fear was I would faint during the exertion so I moved my set around to allow for a wide open space behind me. Listening back at the tape of it, I did OK, but I don't think I am that dedicated anymore.
    The worst that ever happened to me though was in total privacy, my family didn't even know until afterwards. Week old salmon mousse for lunch was apparently the culprit. It provided me with bodily evacuations with extreme violence of action, and ended twenty minutes later waking up on the bathroom floor with blood from temporarily unknown sources on my clothes,face and hands. Thought I was going to end up as a character in someone elses murder mystery.

  5. Live long enough and you will have tons of these kinds of stories! I don't even want to think about them, let alone try and describe them to the entire cyberspace world! Some caused by food poisoning, some not. My intestinal system is very sensitive to grease, so it doesnt't take much to overload it, even have to be careful with butter on stuff. And yes, the "north-south" kind is the worst. I've been fortunate in that my husband has been available to help me each time this has happened (poor guy!) as I get extreme dizzy spells, chills, and sweats, and usually pass out at some point, and usually become dehydrated quickly. Only had to go to the ER about 3 or 4 times, though. And there has only been I think 2 or 3 times when we were both sick at the same time; somehow we each got enough strength to help the other, our bodies just kind of took turns (weird!). I hate the thought of this happening when I'm out of town and all by myself. I feel your pain. And I'm glad you're better now!

  6. My name is Adrian Kurre and I am the head of the Hilton Garden Inn brand. I read your post on your stay at the HGI Islip. I'm disappointed on a couple of levels. First that you became ill and could not make your presentation and second that we could not get a meal to you at lunch time when you were still feeling less than perfect. I know that you are not blaming the HGI for your illnes, but I sure wish we could have helped you feel better. If you'd like to email me at I'd love to hear more about your stay and what we could have done to make it better.

  7. Oh man, have I been there. But for me it was on a bus in Costa Rica in the middle of the jungle. Let me tell you how thrilled my fellow passengers were at having to stop every ten minutes for turns out I was the victim with the fastest metabolism, because by the next morning, everyone had been felled.
    Words to the wise: on a rafting trip in the jungle, do not under any circumstances consume the lunch meat.

  8. Sounds like what I had 25 years ago when I drank water out of a plastic bag in Nicaragua.

  9. John, you should have known better than to speak at a Safety Engineering conference in a place called I-slip.

  10. On my first and last trip to the UK for my 30th anniversary I caught a very similar malady, only I caught it on my way out of the country. I got hit hard just after takeoff from London. Oh MY GOD. I wore out the carpet going back and forth to the Loo. I did learn one interesting lesson. If you want to become truly invisible, just vomit into a barf bag on an airplane. Not one person will look at you for the rest of the trip.

  11. First, don't eat shellfish in Atlanta.

    Second, I would not wish food poisoning on (just about) anyone.

    Third, I was to emcee a writing award ceremony. I had a tux, and material I'd worked on for months. So the night before...bam! All night in the hotel room. My sainted wife pumped me with Pedalyte the next day, but wasn't going to let me get out of bed. Ashen faced, I begged, started sipping Coke (that works!) and once I got started speaking it was all good...after the banquet, I slept for fourteen hours.

    Repeat: Never eat shellfish in Atlanta.

  12. I just endured something similar in Australi (thanks Qantas!) but it did pass and thankfully I was at my mother in laws so I was well looked after. I dread it happening on a plane!