Ailment Abroad

I am dying. That’s the only plausible explanation for why I am feeling like this.  My chest is tight and aching, my throat feels like it has been gradually...

I am dying. That’s the only plausible explanation for why I am feeling like this. 

My chest is tight and aching, my throat feels like it has been gradually closing since I arrived, and my nose is so blocked that no oxygen seems to be traveling to my lungs. Worst of all, I feel like I am losing sight of myself. 

The year 2015 was by far the most challenging of my life, and I thought travelling abroad to Spain over winter break would be my saving grace. I thought this trip would serve as the pivotal moment in my junior year that would end the poor health streak I have been riding first class on since January. But instead I felt numb, confused and defeated.

It was Dec. 26 and I was in the hospital for the third day in a row in Seville, Spain. I felt like I’ve become far too acquainted with rock bottom this year, but this time I have surpassed being a visitor — I have hit this low so many times I can start applying for citizenship.

Being sick in a foreign country is an interesting experience, to say the least. It makes you stronger because mom and dad are not there to coddle you. You have your friends and maybe a housemother that solely speaks the language of the designated country.

But then you have yourself.

You acquire grit and tenacity almost instantaneously, two characteristics you may not expect to develop while on a 29-day study abroad trip.

My story begins on Christmas Eve. After our screenwriting class, I asked two of my girlfriends if they would take a taxi with me to Hospital Fátima, which was only about a mile and a half across town. I had not been able to breathe fully and deeply for the past four days, and it was making me nervous. When I reached the front desk, I desperately said in broken Spanish, “I cannot breathe well and I need help.”

After some paperwork and scrambling around, I got into a room where I explained to the doctor, to the best of my abilities, that I thought I might have allergies. A smile of acknowledgement spread across his face, and he held up his hand, making pumping motions with his thumb.

A shot, I thought. Needles never bugged me. But when he brought the fake shot to his butt, my badass demeanor plummeted.

In Spain, there is no personal space. Or privacy, I soon learned. With the door wide open and an incredibly attractive doctor watching me, I had to pull down my pants in order to get a large needle inserted into my left butt cheek.

After that whole endeavor, I picked up an allergy medication at the pharmacy. Luckily, there were plenty of pharmacies on my street; however, many were closed on Christmas Eve. Breathing heavily and limping from a terribly stiff butt cheek, I finally found one open about a mile around the block.

Ah relief, I thought. Unfortunately, that was just the beginning of my decline in Spain.

The next day rolled around, and I woke up feeling even worse than I did the day before. I struggled to take a deep breath, I couldn’t eat much and it felt as though I was hit by a semi-truck. But the show must go on, no? I’d made a promise to the other students on the trip that I would book an epic restaurant for everyone to eat Christmas lunch. So I spent the next hour calling places around town to see if they were open and could seat 11 people. After I booked the reservation at Rio Grande, I decided to go on a 30-minute walk to relax. When I came back, I immediately regretted my decision. I climbed the four dreaded flights of stairs to get to my room, and before I could make it to the bed I collapsed onto the hardwood floor.

Cue hospital trip number two.

My roommate, Rylee, and our translator, Fabio, escorted me to a new hospital. At that one I was prescribed an inhaler, which I again picked up at the pharmacy. Unfortunately, the only pharmacy that was open did not have the proper prescription, so instead she gave me an inhaler with a smaller dosage and told me to take four puffs every 12 hours.

Easy. All was well, until I took my third round of four puffs and went into an uncontrollable shaking spasm. I really couldn’t breathe, my face was crimson red and my body was so cold that it felt like I was submerged in the Arctic Ocean.

Somebody just kill me.

I sat in a wheelchair at a new hospital and waited to be seen by a doctor. I looked like I just skied down the slopes of Mount Everest, wearing three layers of clothes with a face the color of a burner on high heat. In the room I begged for a chest x-ray, and I got it.

“Bronquitis,” the doctor muttered in Spanish.

Gee, I never recovered from the case of bronchitis I had over Thanksgiving break. Feliz Navidad to me.

I finally got the antibiotics I needed and by the time New Years Eve rolled around, I gathered enough strength to enjoy the night with my friends in Albufeira, Portugal. Shortly after the clock struck midnight, I leaped into the ocean and let the water heal me of all the bad that happened in 2015.

Coming down with an ailment abroad is not, by any means, ideal. However, it helped me get back in touch with my inner strength, and I could not be more grateful for that. And it sure makes one hell of a story.

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