Thursday, November 21, 2013

Food Poisoning

A few weekends ago I got food poisoning.

During my brief stint in culinary school I was required to take a sanitation class where I learned everything there is to know about food-borne illnesses: the symptoms, how they spread, the causes, the fact that there has to be a certain amount of documented cases from the same place before it's considered for investigation. Those things are burned into my memory because of the sheer grossness of learning them.

I can also tell you - off the top of my head - what temperature any meat needs to be cooked to in order to kill pathogens. It's a skill my family utilizes on a weekly basis, generally for Sunday dinner. Fact: any ground meat needs to be cooked to 165* F to kill the bacteria it houses. Your burger doesn't need to be charred, but it does need to reach 165 to kill E. Coli.

 Such knowledge is how I know I had food poisoning. I went to dinner with Bridget and Laura at a restaurant that rhymes with "bed bobbin". It's a place I've eaten at many times, and a place that catered tailgate events when I was an undergrad. I've never gotten sick from eating there. Until now.

We had dinner and went to see Thor: The Dark World (which was way better than the first one) and when I got home, I got ready for bed and my stomach started to ache. I went from fine to puking in one half hour. And the latter continued at half hour intervals for five hours. It was awful. I thought I could possibly die.

It was the first time I'd thrown up since before I had my kidney transplant. It was really the first time I'd been any kind of sick since my transplant, which is saying something when you take into consideration the low concentration of my immune system for the last 20 months. I haven't even had a real cold since 2011.

Now, no one like puking (and I'm pretty sure no one likes to read about it either. Sorry but not sorry) but it's especially scary for transplant patients for several reasons. A transplanted organ keeps functioning and not rejecting because of anti-rejections medications taken twice a day, twelve hours apart. If you forget to take them (not a problem when you have my memory and utilitarian routine-following) or can't keep them down, things can turn bad pretty quickly. That, not dying, was my main concern.

I got really lucky. Zofran (anti-nausea medication) doesn't do anything for food poisoning nausea because your body vomits to try and get rid of the pathogen. My body managed to do what it needed to do before 9:30 the next morning when I needed to take my meds. As a precaution, I took a Zofran an hour before. I kept my meds down and stayed in bed for two days.

Then the secondary condition arose. Dehydration. Anyone who's ever thrown up a lot or been really sick knows dehydration comes on quick. I was being careful to drink the at least the 60 ounces of water I consume everyday to stay hydrated. This is necessary for kidney transplant patients. Hydration means a happy, working kidney and a normal, good creatinine. I didn't worry about dehydration because I was doing a good job of drinking what I needed to.

But for the next week I was kind of nauseous all the time. Especially after I'd eat anything but toast. And it had to be toast on white bread with butter. Toast and ginger ale started to be breakfast and dinner. I'd take soup to work for lunch. If I ate anything else, it was two solid hours of nausea. I couldn't figure out why. Zofran helped, but I don't like to have to take pills that aren't required.

Monday morning I got my monthly labs drawn. Dr. Habib's secretary emailed me the results. I instantly panicked when I saw my creatinine. It was 1.2. That's the highest it's been since I had my transplant. 1.2 is still good, it's in the normal range of 0.5-1.5 but it's high for me, and .09 higher than any creatinine I'd had in the last 20 months.

A little later Dr. Habib's office let me know that my labs also showed I was dehydrated and that was causing my creatinine to rise. I realized that, while I was maintaining my fluid intake, I hadn't ever made up what I'd lost when I was so sick that night and the following day. He told me to increase my fluid intake by at least 16 ounces a day for the next two weeks.

I started keeping a running total in my head. About 4:00 on Monday afternoon I realized I hadn't had that much water that day, so I pounded 24 ounces in the hour before I left work. I figured I needed around 90 ounces a day to be safe. For a visual, that's about 3 Big Gulps a day.

When I woke up Tuesday morning, the difference was palpable. It was the first day in over a week that I hadn't been nauseous when I awoke. The human body is incredible.

And re-hydration came just in time, too. It's Catching Fire week.


  1. Whoa dude. You know so much more about how the body works and functions than, I think, like 90% of people. I got sick when I ate at 'bed bobbin' last time too, so if I ever have to go there, I make sure to get chicken or a salad! Glad you're feeling better!

    1. Actually, I didn't want beef so I ordered a chicken sandwich. The chicken was cooked through, but there must've been some cross contamination because I'm 99.9% sure I had salmonella. #sogross