Peacefully napping in a hospital bed crammed into Vassar Hospital’s emergency room hallway with an IV needle stuck in my arm was the last place I expected to be in on a Saturday morning.
“How did you end up there?” you ask. Was it because of a long night of binge drinking at Cuddy’s? Nope (I was only 20 at the time and, hence, no bars for me). Was it an allergic reaction to something? Guess again.
I’ll paint the picture for you.
It was late in the spring semester of 2019 when I developed a dry cough. “No big deal,” I thought. “It’s a cold. It’ll pass in a few days.” Yet, this was not the case. My sore throat and cough lingered without any other symptoms of the common sickness I thought I had.
As it progressively worsened, I grew more concerned. I went to the campus health center and explained my predicament. The doctors, suspecting that I had strep, shoved a cotton swab down my throat to test for it. Much to my surprise, the strep test came back negative but I tested positive for tonsillitis. With the doctors reassuring me that it would pass quickly with medication and a few days of rest, I went on with my life.
Little did I know my life was soon to be turned upside down.
I was only able to sleep in one-hour increments in the early morning hours of April 13. It was annoyingly painful for me to swallow. I knew my restlessness was really bad when I started having hazy dreams of Fenway Park from a bird’s eye view while I was half awake. At 5:30 a.m., I figured I would just wake up fully and take a shower to relax.
I was under the steaming hot water for five minutes when I began to feel nauseous. Throwing up is a major phobia of mine, so I began quietly talking to myself to reduce my anxiety.
“This has happened before, no big deal, just sit on the toilet and calm down, it’ll go away.”
I turned off the shower and trepidatiously wrapped my towel around me. Yet something terrifying began to happen.
My vision was disappearing. A white aura surrounded my eyes as I slowly stepped out of the shower. Yet I was still determined to reach the safety of the bathroom stall.
Then it all went black.
I woke up laying on my stomach, staring at the bathroom floor. I had passed out.
Bewildered, I slowly flipped myself around. Immediately, a rush of nausea hit and I felt like vomiting. In a strange turn of events, I heard the birds chirping outside my suite’s common room window and, unexpectedly, the nausea vanished. The birds made me realize I was not totally alone that early in the morning and instantly calmed me down.
I then felt something wet on my face. I wiped my finger under my nose and examined it. Blood. I shakily stood up and propped myself against the sink to look at the mirror. There was blood on my right eyebrow, under my right eye and under my nose. Feeling lightheaded after seeing the damage, I layed back down to regain my composure.
So there I was, naked on the bathroom floor with blood on my face and clueless about what to do. I called my friend Cay for advice, and she frantically tried to provide suggestions but, being as shocked as I was, came out of the conversation empty-handed.
I phoned my mom afterward and jovially told her, “Hey, Ma! I passed out in my bathroom and there’s blood on my face and I’m not really sure what to do.”
My poor mother did her best to remain calm but I could feel the fear in her voice. She ordered me to call UPD, put some clothes on and wait. Although I felt like I was being a nuisance, I called UPD. The dispatcher was skeptical that I passed out without being remotely drunk, but within minutes there were two police officers and two paramedics in my common room. They asked me a litany of questions, took my blood pressure and stretchered me out to their waiting ambulance.
Amazingly, through all of the commotion, none of my suitemates woke up.
I was driven to Vassar Hospital in Poughkeepsie, where I was wheeled into a bed in the ER’s hallway and got my blood drawn. After hours of vibing and resting, a doctor approached me and explained that the reason I was there was not because of tonsillitis.
I had mono.
“Lovely,” I thought. He comfortingly assured me I could take no medications to help my pain and essentially told me, “Good luck!” before allowing me to leave. My “first responder” from earlier, Cay, graciously drove for an hour round-trip in her super radical green PT Cruiser to pick me up and help me buy all the liquids and food I needed for recovery.
I was extremely weak when I returned to my suite. I could barely stay awake for longer than half an hour for the next few days. My throat was still killing me. I returned to the campus health center where they prescribed me steroids to alleviate my aggravated throat.
I was down and out for only a week, which I considered a blessing considering the stories I’ve heard of people being incapacitated for months with mono. Even though I couldn’t work out for a month, I was completely back to normal by early June.
To this day, I have no idea how I contracted my case of mono, but frankly, I don’t really care. Funny enough, the fall I sustained was so heavy that still, I have a narrow numb spot on the left side of my head.
The experience left me not just with a heck of a story, but it also gave me a really cool black eye for a week, some neat looking scars and the most extraordinary ride in the back of a vehicle of all time.