I Used To Have Millions of Little Friends.

by - November 25, 2009

Talking on the phone to my sister last night, she told me that one of her friends who had gone to the Dominican Republic came back with Giardia.  For those of you who don't know what Giardia is, it is a parasite that one gets from drinking contaminated water.  Contaminated with HUMAN FECES.  Feces my friends, is a nice word for SHIT.

It reminded me that at one point in my life, I also had Giardia, otherwise known as Beaver Fever.  And since I like feeling like a redneck sometimes, this is what it will be called throughout the rest of this post. 

Let's begin my story with a flashback: I remember a story that my father told me about his youth in Macedonia.  He was very poor and did not have much, but he did have an abundance of nature.  He would get a far off look in his eye when he talked about swimming in the Danube River, and he would make me wish I was there when he described how the water tasted that flowed from the mountains.  Clear and cold and delicious.

This is where the ROOT of my problem was born.  Because the thought was born in my obviously gigantic brain as he told this story was that ALL moving water is ok to drink.  Who's with me on this one, right?  But alas,  if I was put on this earth for one thing only, it's to tell you that this is a crotchety falsehood.

One day about 6 years ago, my friends and I decided to go stick our feet in the water at the Elora Gorge.  The gorge is a beautiful place: 22 metre high cliffs surround the rushing Grand River that splits the gorge in two, creating a rift in the earth, and therefore a gorgeous place to spend the afternoon hanging out.

But, everyone failed to mention to me that we would be hiking as well.  The day was sweltering hot.  I noticed that everyone else had come prepared, with bathing suits and bottles of water.  Did I miss that memo or something?  I figured what the hell, I would just swim in my army pants and t-shirt, and if I got thirsty well...was there not a rushing river in front of me for my drinking pleasure?

And so we enjoyed a lovely day of swimming, hiking and laughing.  When I got thirsty, all I had to do was bend down and take a gulp of the river.  Until I noticed that people were looking at me funny.  When I asked them if they had a problem (because we were constantly ready to rumble?) they would just shrug and gave me a 'its your funeral' kind of look.  Did I mention that these people were supposed to be my friends??!! A-holes!

About a week later, I started noticing that well....ummm...errr....I was going to the bathroom A LOT.  I mean, around 10-15 times a day.  And although it fleetingly passed through my mind that this was probably strange, I just shrugged and figured it was my funeral right?  Yeah, we are all pretty blase around here.  A life of playing video games and nerding out in front of a computer does that to you.

A week turned into a month, and it only got worse.  Instead of trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with me, I just imagined that it would go away.  Until I started getting sicker and sicker, and losing a ton of weight.  It seemed like everything I ate or drank went right through me.  Then, one day in August (and I will remember it always because it was the day of the Blackout in 2003) I woke up and tried to get out of bed and couldn't.  My mom took one look at me and said that it was time to go to the doctor. 

At the doctor's, I was questioned about my symptoms, all while people were running around madly outside thinking it was the end of the world.  When I told her, she seemed to think right away that I had a parasite, and asked me if I could remember drinking any water from somewhere I never had before.  I nonchalantly told her that I had had a few gallons sips of water out of the gorge.  She looked at me in horor and said "WHAT!! WHY??".  Umm...aren't you a doctor sweetie? The water was moving it's fine.  She continued to stare at me like I was the parasite and told me that thousands of people's toilets emptied into that river.  Oh.  Well that's sort of gross. 

She wanted to put me in the hospital overnight on account of how sick I was, but figured with the power being out that it might just be smarter to send me home with a few boxes of pedia-lyte and plenty of bed rest to get my strength back up.  Now here was the awesome situation that I faced at home:  there were only two bathrooms on the main floor, and five of us in the house.  And when the power goes out, our toilets don't flush.  I was quarantined to one toilet.  Yeah.  Picture the biggest dump you have ever taken and times it by three.  Then times that by 15.  THAT'S how much shit that toilet was seeing on a daily basis.  We had a love affair that toilet and I.  Only on that day and leading into the day after, I couldn't flush the toilet.  Whatever you are picturing in your head right now is not gross enough, I promise you.

Turns out I did have beaver fever.  My doctor called me a couple of days later to tell me but I already knew deep down inside.  Inside my bowels.  Cute little fuckers aren't they?

I spent the next few months answering the same question over and over again: Why the hell would you drink the water out of the gorge?  And I always loved that it was accompanied with such an incredulous look.  And because I was sheepish about the whole thing, I would shuffle my feet and look down and mumble that I was thirsty.  I was THIRSTY. Have some pity for the dying girl you heartless bastards.

The best part of the whole situation though, is when the Minisrty of Health called me one day.  They kept me on the phone for hours and asked me a thousand questions as to how I think I contracted beaver fever.  Things like: did you eat any under cooked meat?  Did you use a dirty toilet? Do you fail to wash your hands after every bathroom expedition? Yes to all of the above!

I tried to interrupt every few minutes to let the guy know that I knew exactly how I got the parasite.  His answer was always a stern "Please just let me ask the questions.  Standard procedure.  I will deduct how you got the infection as I am the government official and it's my job". Well alright.  Finally we got to the end of the slew of questions and he asked:

"How do you believe you contracted this parasite?"

"Well, I drank water from a river that is contaminated".

His answer:



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