Jonathan hesitates outside my bedroom. He enters my room: not without his reservations and shuffles a little closer to the foot of my bed, and consequently where I am currently lying. He’s holding an assortment of notebooks. My little brother has picked up a week’s worth of missed homework and I’m too tired to care. My hair is knotted and matted to the sweaty nape of my neck, where the beginnings of a dread or two have most definitely started to take shape. I tell him there’s no point to his efforts because I am too sick to do any of it. I am in grade four and Mrs. Simpson obviously doesn’t fully comprehend the severity of just what’s going on with my body. What is going on with my body? It hates me. It is trying to expel the 80% of water my body is made up of, and it is the dysentery that is doing it. A is for amoebic dysentery: the illness I have somehow contracted.*
There is a lot of sweating in my corral sheets; a lot of stomach cramping; a lot of getting up (with assistance!) to go to the bathroom. And a lot of vomiting. My nine year old self hopes to make it out of my bedroom alive. Dr. Prescott has prescribed pills to help dissuade said vomiting, but I throw those up too. And, being nine, I hide any further administered anti-vomiting pills under my pillow. It is a nasty time.
This went on for ten days and ten nights. And on the eleventh day, my mother wheels her grey office chair into my room, finagles me into the chair and pushes my fever subsiding self to the kitchen where I join the rest of my family in an evening meal. Health is not to be taken for granted. I eat a few precut pieces of beef and manage to keep the contents down. We rejoice!
My mother can be a little dramatic: she tells me, almost in an aside, “Grown men die from this you know?” And while the disease isn’t to be taken lightly, I think: Fantastic! I am the opposite of a grown man. I am a little girl —who had access to modern medicine— and I have survived to tell this tale!
*By possibly eating or drinking contaminated food, or contracting dysentery from an infected person. A bit of science: amoebic dysentery is caused by Entamoeba histolytica – a single-celled parasite that clump together inside the body to form a cyst. Once passed into the intestines it breaks open to have a party. That party being, infection: burrowing into the intestinal wall and creating small abscesses.