Sorry guys, this is gonna be a gross one. It all started one particularly hot week in Hanoi... er... well, the symptoms did at least.
It was 43 degree Celsius (about 110 degrees Fahrenheit) and humid everyday for the full week. In my infinite wisdom, I neglected to drink so much as a cup of water for that entire week. It sounds dumb, but it wasn’t a conscious choice; every time I had the thought “I’m thirsty,” the thought that followed was “I have Coke in the fridge!” or “I could really go for some coffee right meow!” and slowly, I became more and more dehydrated.
It didn’t take long for me to start feeling under the weather. There was one night in particular when I really started to get sick – on this night I drove all the way across Hanoi through the exhaust and fumes of rush hour traffic. I was so dizzy that my bike must have been all over the road. I was aware that it was because of dehydration so I bought 3 bottles of water and chugged them before my class. I managed to rally and have an okay class, but that night on the way home I pulled over to dry heave.
Needless to say, I was dead to the world the next day. I was in bed with a fever for 2 days. Classes were canceled. Don’t worry, I did all the things you do when you are dehydrated – I drank water like it was my job, I stayed inside with my A/C, and I got lots of rest. It took a few days for me to recover
Except that I never really did. And I couldn’t figure out why. I had been a fiend for water ever since, so it couldn’t still be dehydration. Many of my adult students often complained about the weather making their children sick. The weather was hotter than hell, so that might have had something to do with it. But then again, I’m not a child. I’m a man.
First of all, I was pooping all the time. The feeling of needing to go was just always there, so I took the browns to the super bowl a lot. They were making Cleveland history!
Second, I was always both hungry and not hungry at the same time. I was hungry, but paradoxically never really wanted to eat anything. When I did finally eat, the food never really made me feel full. It just wasn’t as satisfying as I remembered. This was likely causing me to lose weight, although I mostly just felt like I was getting soft because I had stopped going to the gym almost entirely.
And about the gym – I was just weak. I had been going to the gym all the time prior to getting dehydration sickness, and after recovering, I just never had the energy or life force to go. I dragged my feet all day, and then when I got home I would just crash.
Everything was just a little bit worse. Teaching took more effort. Driving my bike through Hanoi’s crazy traffic was more draining. Exercising would put me on the brink of a coma. Social interactions were just so much work. I fell out of touch with the people around me by choice.
Last, I was anxious. This is just one of my ‘things’ though. I have always had issues with anxiety. I will be doing some extended traveling through some pretty gritty places very soon, and in my new, sluggish reality, the thought of my upcoming travels was not exciting me like it had been when I booked my tickets. It was causing me severe anxiety. It was bad for a while. It got bad enough that I was relieved when I had a moment of feeling nothing, as opposed to the constant uneasiness that had taken ahold of me.
The thing is though, that this was all very low-key. None of these things were enough to send me running to the doctor. There were good days and bad days, and the good days were enough to prevent me from taking an steps to see if there really was anything wrong. It was a solid 2 months of this before I realized what was wrong...
I had fucking worms! Like my dog would get worms back in Ohio!
I just hit me one day. I remembered a friend telling me early on in my time in Hanoi that you have to take de-worming pills every 6 months. Well here I was 11 months later, and I had never taken these pills. During this conversation I recall somebody telling me that a person with a certain kind of worm in their butthole could squat over a cake and the worm, smelling the sugar of the cake I think, would stick its head out. Ew. Better call Myth Busters.
So I went to the doctor and got the pills. You can buy them fairly easily at any pharmacy, but after 2 months of demoralizing malaise, I wanted to talk to a doctor. He gave me the pills and told me to come back in a week if things weren’t better.
There were only 2 pills. They were huge, and they were to be taken at the same time. They were supposed to kill the worms in 4 to 7 days. In addition to these pills, he also prescribed me a pretty aggressive multi-vitamin to help me get back on my feet, which I now take every morning.
I was waiting to see a giant parasite in the toilet, but unfortunately I never had the satisfaction of seeing my tormentor’s corpse in my stool. You don’t always see it – there are many different kinds of worms, some very small. But sometimes you do see it. If I had, rest assured there would be a picture of it here, but as fate would have it, we have all been spared that picture.
What are worms exactly?
Here’s the run-down:
You will most likely pick them up from eating street meat (probably beef), or contaminated water. That makes SO much sense in my case. First of all, street beef is one of my main food groups in Hanoi. Second of all, you cannot drink the water in Vietnam, and there is really no telling where the ice in your drink came from when you eat out. All you can do is hope it didn’t come from the tap.
But the thing is that it could have happened anywhere in the past year! Worms can live inside you for a long time without showing symptoms. It could have been the food I was served in the H’mong Village this winter. It could have been something I ate in Bac Ninh with the Viet Cong Veteran. It could have been something I ate during my almost 3 weeks in Indonesia. Who knows!
There are different kinds of worms. These are the most common in humans:
- Pinworms / A.K.A. Threadworms
All of these have different symptoms, origins and treatments, which are all pretty disgusting. You can go to Web MD if you really want to know. I read through all of it though and I think that I mostly likely had some sort of tapeworm. There are many different kinds, but I guess I don’t really care which kind I had, because it’s been a week and a half since I took the pill, and life is good again. The worm is dead. I think.