When I’m being rational I know that just exceptionally bad luck. But really, it’s hard not to take it personally.
Last week was my second visit to Bhutan in six months. I was attending this three-day literary festival—on someone else’s dime, which always contributes a certain frisson to travel—and then I was going to do a week of travelling on my own. This was going to make up for the last time when, regular readers of this column may remember, I fell sick on my first night, coughed my lungs out all over Bumthang and Thimphu, and ended up being ordered back home by the Indian military hospital doctor. This time I was hale and hearty and raring to see everything I’d missed.
We took off from Delhi in 41°C heading up to 44°, and landed at the international airport in Paro at 22° in a blessed drizzle. We climbed into the bus and started the forty-five minute journey to Thimphu. I couldn’t stop smiling. There it was all around us, Bhutan, unspeakably lovely Bhutan: ethereal green clefts, scudding iron-grey clouds, pristine air, breezes that you’d sell your mother for. Everything was perfect.
About fifteen minutes into the bus ride I felt the first twinge, a painful spasm in the upper abdomen. Twenty minutes later it happened again, like a fist grabbing my insides and squeezing hard. My belly began to gurgle and twist in a dangerous sort of way. At the hotel I lunged into the bathroom expectantly but nothing happened. We had a bunch of speeches to sit through, so I popped a Digene. Things settled down, but the pain returned soon enough with such intensity that I found myself sweating in a cold evening.
I dragged myself through the festival with frequent doses of Digene, and two doses of antibiotics. On Thursday evening the worky part of the trip was over, the antibiotics seemed to be holding the fort, and I was looking forward to a week of skipping up and down mountainsides with an imaginary scarf billowing prettily in the wind. Everyone else was flying out early the next morning.
That’s when the pain got so bad that I began to beg for a doctor. I was hustled into my jacket and driven to the local hospital through the rain at 10pm with a hot water bottle pressed to my middle. I think I was walked from room to room in search of a bed and a doctor, and am dimly aware that someone had a minor altercation with a doctor who resented being pulled from a critically ill patient to tend to someone who seemed to have a mysterious case of cooped-up gas.
I do clearly remember ending up on an antibiotic drip and two injected painkillers. I reacted to this by involuntarily leaping around on my bed (convulsions, someone said), speaking in sentences that came out as ‘gaaah’ and ‘bleugh’ (incoherence, someone said) and throwing up at regular intervals (gross, someone said). I think my doctor cousin in Delhi was on the phone with various people all night, and I know that it was he who, discovering that a CT scan couldn’t be had where I was, ordered me back home, on an airplane seat that the Indian embassy was kind enough to arrange at the crack of dawn.
The CT scan in Delhi showed that I had—get this—roundworm. After five days of deworming meds and unusually ablutionary vigilance I haven’t yet had the pleasure of spotting the little creep, but the doctor assures me it’s dead as a doorknob, and I’m right as rain.
So, Bhutan. Feels like déjà vu all over again. I know it’s just bad luck, but it’s hard not to take it personally. Take your deworming tablets regularly, children.