Monday, July 04, 2011

Field Manual Kris: Not Complaining, Just Informing

I first noticed it Wednesday, just a slight tightness in my throat as I was driving back home from New Orleans. The trip up to that point had taken me about three hours, enough time for someone to have completed a round trip from Houma to New Orleans and back to the city. My passenger side window was stuck down, I had to leave to go back offshore at one AM, and I was kicking myself for not finding a better way out of another emotional quagmire, so I didn’t think a thing of it.

Thursday was taken up mostly with travel. I took acetaminophen for a headache and spent the van ride to Texas in a sleep coma punctuated by buying fruit juices. My throat was very tight, but I thought I was just a bit dehydrated. On the boat ride out, I was unusually sea sick.  I don’t have a lot of man-points by default, and one of the places I work really hard on keeping them is the appearance of a strong constitution (a word which, no matter how much of it you have, will still leave you looking like a D&D geek if you actually use it in a sentence). I spent most of the ride on the outside deck for the fresh air, sitting on a storage locker with one arm draped awkwardly around a ladder so I wouldn’t slide off the boat when we hit large waves. I got sunburnt on the right side of my face and my right arm and soaked with spray, but I managed not to lose my lunch.

Whenever I got off of the boat, hot, tired, and sore, I thought that it was simply the effects of the ride out. I crashed in my rack and slept poorly until that evening.

The living quarters are kept frigidly cold. For the most part, I’m comfortable at a slightly higher temperature than most, and because this work environment doesn’t play well to moderation, I end up living in a frigid, deadly (yes, deadly) wasteland. That morning though, I wasn’t cold. I was a bit chilly, but during my fitful sleep, I’d thrown aside my sheet and blanket. I’d stumbled out of bed to the galley, nauseous. I thought that some greasy soup with tomatoes and orange juice would help rehydrate me. I passed the medic, but opted not to say anything; if I was sea sick or woefully dehydrated (the latter of which had happened to me before. You should ask about that poetry class, by the way), I could take care of it on my own without bothering him. If I threw up, then I’d seek his help.

I took a cool shower, which was automatically upgraded to a warm shower at no extra charge by my elevated temperature. When I got back to my room, I curled up in my bed for another half hour before getting up to violently hurl up greasy, tomatoey, orangey juice.

The medic was nice enough to put down his flan, head to the medic’s office, conduct a physical examination which consisted exactly of asking whether or not I was coughing (a bit) and if that cough was productive (no), and gave me some DayQuil tablets, some Robitussin, and some NyQuil tablets for later. He also suggested that if I felt nauseous, I should eat Captain’s Wafers. He said that captains used to use them to keep them from getting seasick in front of their crew. I’ve heard a lot of bullshit out here, so I wasn’t sold on etymology, but I do love me some crunchy, tasty Captain’s Wafers.

I puked up the DayQuil tablets almost immediately and spend the next twelve hours of my shift slowly learning how a person falls out of love with a crunchy, tasty snack food. I wasn’t just because I’d tasted them coming up, nor because I’d tasted them coming back up so many times, no sir. It was because they did work, mostly, but at the cost of eating enough of them that I genuinely got conventionally, buying-your-first-bag-of-candy-because-you’re-a-grown-up-now sick of having them in and around my mouth. And boy, when they didn’t fight back that wave of nausea, I got a solid, compacted train of reprocessed Captain’s Wafers in return for my troubles.

How I managed to get past day one of my hitch is a mystery. My usually porous memory was especially hard-pressed to remember that day. I remember distinctly falling asleep with my face in the seat of my chair, but the only people who caught me actually dozing were the Filipinos who, and they’re pretty cool (though I feel like I’m a Ricky Gervais from The Office type character to them). My relief assures me that I actually did an okay job and nothing got fucked up though, so that’s good. [1]

That night I slept poorly. My throat was too sore for me to swallow any spit autonomically and given the choices between waking up every few minutes/hours to (paaainfully) swallow or to simply drool on my pillow and pretend it never happened in the morning, I chose the former. It was a choice made entirely from pride, and it wasn’t a particularly wise or reasonable one, but one performs according to one’s nature.

The next day, my condition had improved considerably better, it felt like my throat was a tiny tube covered in razor blades. I couldn’t tell if it was a new condition, or simply one that I’d had yesterday, but in my litany of ailments simply couldn’t give polite attention to. I ate only yogurt and drank glasses of milk with ice then. Doing anything that required more than talking very lowly or walking left me short of breath. I won’t ascribe any luck to the fact that though I had tried to keep knowledge of my condition confined to my fellow clerk and the medic, others had found out about it. It was, however, quite lucky they saw this as a reason to feel some degree of sympathy instead of circling me like velociraptors around a wounded brontosaurus, separated from the herd.

When I got off shift on the second day, I asked my medic about something for my throat. He examined my throat with one of those little lights and felt my swollen lymph nodes to see just what was going in and asked about my other conditions. LOL, just kidding. He said if I got any worse, they’d have to send me in. I told him that my sore throat was really my only problem now, so he suggested gargling with salt water and gave me another DayQuil/NightQuil set.

That night’s sleep wasn’t too great either.

Doing better now though. My throat’s still a bit sore, but I’m eating (mostly) solid food again, and I even had a popsicle. I used the stick as a tongue depressor and with my maglight and a mirror I looked at my mouth. It’s pretty red, and I’ve even got a white spot on the left side of the roof of my mouth (towards the back, where it gets mushy). 

Doesn’t hurt when I poke it though, so I’m feelin’ pretty good about that.

[1]With, of course, the caveat that much of what I do is to compile and distribute written records of things that we reference later in case something goes wrong, so if I did screw something up it might be a few months to a year when we need it for legal reasons that we realize I did. Ha-ha!

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