Prepare for the Survival of the Sickest

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Remember when you were in grade school and getting sick was the best thing in the world? You got to stay home, watch movies and sneak cookies between bowls of chicken noodle soup. Then all of a sudden you get to college and realize getting sick is actually the worst, especially if your parents aren’t there to take care of you.

The summer after my sophomore year, I stayed with one of my best friends and her family in our small college town. I landed an internship there, and the first four weeks were smooth sailing.

But one Sunday morning I woke up with a sharp pain in my stomach. I used to get awful stomachaches all the time, so I didn’t think much of this one. All I thought was, “Great, so much for a fun Sunday.” The pains felt like cramps but then the nausea came and I started wondering if I had food poisoning. Wishing my mom were there to take care of me,  I went downstairs and tried taking Advil, but my stomach basically said, “No way José.” Half an hour later I found myself back at the toilet.

I tried calling my mom to see if she had any advice, but she was 200 miles away in Canada and didn’t answer her phone. All I thought as I laid down was how of course I would get sick while away from home. When my friend finally came home work, she gave me an apple because apart from the agonizing torture I felt, my stomach also grumbled with hunger. I was about halfway through the apple when the pain consumed me. I had this jabbing, sharp, excruciating pain—it felt like that scene in Alien but the alien threatened to bust out of my stomach.

As my friend’s parents got ready to leave the house, I headed for the toilet yet again. I kept wishing my mom could be there with me, but at least I had my best friend there to help. After the fourth or fifth trip to the toilet, I felt about ready to pass out. I asked my friend about appendicitis symptoms, because at this point I knew this was no longer food poisoning. I told her the pain felt localized, so we both headed off to the hospital.

By the time we got there, it was around 2:30 p.m. and I felt disgusting. I was still in my pajamas and I don’t even think I had time to brush my hair. Apart from the agonizing pain in my poor stomach, I couldn’t have felt more self-conscious than when I semi-walked/crawled into that ER.

Once I laid down in the ER bed, the nurses didn’t hesitate to inject me with morphine. Whoever said morphine was great couldn’t be more wrong. I felt like I was pinned down to the bed and couldn’t even lift up my head.

I needed an ultra-scan and a CT scan to see if I indeed had appendicitis, but before I could get the CT scan I needed to drink this horrible disgusting liquid. That’s when the homesickness really started to creep in. After my ultra sound, the doctor came into the room and said, “Well you can stop drinking that liquid because you have appendicitis.” Great.

I called my mom and told her the wonderful news. For the first time that day, I started tearing up because I just wanted my mom there with me and I shook at the thought of getting surgery for the first time. I tried to pull myself together, especially when the surgeon came in the room because he was actually pretty cute. He told me how the procedure would go and got injected with some more medication that made me super sleepy and the rest of the night became one hazy blur.

I can now say that appendicitis was probably the worst “stomachache” I’ve ever experienced and getting surgery for the first time felt terrifying—but the worst part was my mom not being able to take care of me. It’s like when you move away from home for the first time and the first wave of homesickness comes in. Literally.

But at the end of the day, I was in great hands and I had the best friend in the world take care of me (she even became my emergency contact #friendshipgoals). At least now I know that in the future if I ever get another terrible stomachache, it can’t be appendicitis. So when your nose starts to run in college and you feel like the world will end if you blow your nose one more time, remember it could be much worse.

Antonia Jaramillo is a junior at Penn State University majoring in Digital and Print Journalism. She is originally from Colombia but has lived in the United States her whole life until her parents moved to Canada her freshman year of college. In her spare time she likes to watch soccer, play water polo and go scuba diving!

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