It was a busy Friday at work. I was the receptionist at a small insurance company – a job I loathed, but was too insecure and full of self-doubt to do anything about it at the time. I’d been ignoring the urge to pee so I could finish distributing the mail and putting people’s used coffee cups into the dishwasher before my boss could find something to nitpick about.
When I finally made it to the bathroom, I was surprised that, although I felt like I had to go urgently, not that much came out. And it burned a little. Weird, I thought, but I ignored it and made a mental note to drink more water.
By the end of the day, after multiple uncomfortable peeing episodes, and a few WebMD articles later, I realized I was likely coming down with a bladder infection. I’d never had one before, so I figured I would just make sure to chug a bunch of water and flush it out. It would be like a having a cold, right?
I hopped in my car and drove straight to Vermont. I’d been looking forward to spending the weekend with my family. I sipped on water as I drove, but was careful not to drink too much because I didn’t want to stop too many times. By the time I got to the rest area in Vermont, I thought I might die. I rushed into the bathroom, only to struggle painfully to release the contents of my bladder.
Nevertheless, I persisted. I continued on my journey to the family home, which was another hour and a half drive away. Once there, I was relieved to be in close proximity to a toilet at all times, and I made an attempt to drink more.
The next day was the same. It was uncomfortable, but I could bear it. I chatted with my parents, and played games with my brothers. We ate lots of food and took a leisurely walk down to the pond and back again. I convinced myself that it wasn’t really a bladder infection and that I was probably fine.
That night, I tossed and turned. I got up to pee multiple times. In the morning, I felt horrible. I went downstairs to have breakfast but the nausea was so intense that I couldn’t keep sitting upright. I was also freezing cold. I wrapped myself in quilts and lay on the couch.
My parents looked at me with concern. I told them that I thought I had a bladder infection but I wasn’t sure because I’d never had one before. “It hurts to pee!” I cried as I shivered uncontrollably under the blankets, unable to get warm.
After a little convincing, I agreed to let my mom take me to the emergency room. I must have looked like death warmed over. When we arrived and explained the situation, I was given a collection cup and told to provide a urine sample. I stumbled to the all-inclusive unisex/handicapped/family party time bathroom that was just off the waiting area and squeezed out what I could into the cup. It was the color of apple cider. (Sorry if you like apple cider.)
The nurse laughed when I handed the cup back to him. “Uh, yeah, looks like you have a bladder infection!” he said. Then he told me to sit and wait.
Before long, they put me in a private room with a bed. I changed into the hospital gown, got into the bed, and collapsed onto the pillow as they covered me with warm blankets. It was a surreal feeling to be in a hospital bed with my mom by my side. Talk about a throwback.
The doctor came in and stood at an awkward distance as he asked me about my symptoms. He agreed that it was a bladder infection, and the urine sample was ample evidence. He said that if I had waited any longer, it would have become a kidney infection. This was alarming news. If I hadn’t been with my parents, would I have had the sense to get myself to a hospital for treatment before it got that bad?
The painkillers and fluids in the IV worked wonders, and soon I was feeling much better. Even the nurses commented that I looked more alive. My dad stopped in to see how I was doing before he headed down to Philadelphia for work. Normally I would have been heading back to CT myself, but decided to go back to the family home and get a good night’s sleep first.
The next day dawned to snowy/icy conditions. I called out of work, a legitimate sick day, and began my drive south. I was feeling a lot better – the violent, painful urge to pee had subsided, so I felt confident I could make the trip. I drove along, being careful on the icy roads, but not fearful. I’d driven in worse.
After about an hour of driving, I began mentally drifting off and forgot to pay attention to my speed. I was heading for Proctorsville Gulf, on Route 103 (if you’ve ever driven to Ludlow to ski, you’ll know the part I’m talking about). It’s a section of road that goes between two mountains, and it’s somewhat steep and curvy. In the wintertime, the sun barely reaches down to the road, so it’s the perfect spot for icy conditions to form.
I came out of my daydream long enough to notice that the road was pretty slick and that I needed to take my speed down a notch. Absent-mindedly, I pressed my foot on the brake, and immediately the car began to slide on the ice. I veered into the oncoming lanes of traffic (fortunately no one was there) and pressed my foot harder on the brake out of desperation. I yanked the steering wheel to the right, anxious to get back in my lane. The next thing I knew, the car was sliding sideways down the road, and I was heading straight toward a guard rail.
I braced myself for impact – squeezing my eyes tight and clutching the steering wheel. BAM! The car slammed into the guard rail head on and bounced back a few feet.
Surprisingly, my airbag did not inflate. I sat in stunned silence for a second. The car had shut off. I quickly restarted it so I could get my car off the road before someone else lost control and slammed into me. I pulled over after the guard rail ended and got out to look at the damage. One headlight had popped out and was dangling like a zombie eyeball. The license plate was bent, but otherwise the car looked unscathed. I could hardly believe it.
Another car slowly drove past and pulled over a few feet in front of me. A young guy leapt out. “Are you ok?” he looked at me incredulously. “I saw you lose control and I was so scared!” I admitted that I was a bit shaken, but physically unharmed. I refrained from telling him about my bladder situation.
He asked if he should call the police or an ambulance, but I said I was fine and I just wanted to get home. He popped the headlight back in for me and went on his way.
Back in the car, I noticed that the bottle of juice I’d been drinking had coated the entire stereo system, the cup holders and the gear shifter, and that all the stuff I’d had on the seat next to me was now on the floor. I wiped up the juice and situated myself as best I could, and proceeded with the journey.
An hour and a half later, I stopped for gas in Springfield, MA. I went to the Pride station just off of 91, which was one I often went to with my brother Kris when we’d drive to Vermont together. He lived nearby, and I wondered what he was up to as I began pumping gas.
All of a sudden, a gruff voice behind me said, “Give me all your money, bitch!” I froze for a second. I knew Springfield had some problems, but could I really be getting robbed in broad daylight in the middle of a busy gas station? And wasn’t this just my luck – I’d been gravely ill, nearly killed myself in a car accident and now I was being harassed at a gas station.
I turned around warily to face my attacker. I was in such a mood that I was ready to tell them to go rob someone else. It was Kris! I almost cried with relief. I was glad to see him, even if he did try to scare the crap out of me.
I managed to make it the rest of the way home without any more dramatic incidents. Once there, I collapsed into Dave’s arms and drowned my sorrows with cranberry juice and antibiotics.
I never did figure out why that February weekend in 2009 was so cursed for me – was it karma for something I had done? Who knows. I did learn that if I ever feel burning when I pee, I’d better get myself to the doctor ASAP and not assume that I can heal myself with water and a prayer.