22 Jul

Warning! Gross content ahead. This is a real life event and there are many not-so-pretty facts. However these are things no one speaks of and I think it is important for planning for being ready the unexpected.

Five days ago was a bad day on the trail. It was very unfortunate because it was my favorite section of trail thus far. We had beautiful ridge line hiking on a nice open trail. The weather cleared late in the morning and the views were fantastic. I should have been elated.
Instead I felt weak. I have slipped and fallen more times on the AT than I have in my entire life. That includes my time guiding on a glacier! Every time I fall it hurts more than the last. So when the rocks are slick I get scared. We used the word gripped in climbing, and that is where I am. Every time I see a steep slick downhill I freeze. So my steps are uncertain and unweighted and that results in more slipping.

On top of that I have had quite the upset stomach since starting the antibiotics. So every morning since the sixth of July (and the afternoon, and the evening) I have had painful loose bowel movements. I kept a lot of this down low, but Jen was aware I was suffering in the mornings. I have also been losing nutrition and that has not done well for my overall feeling of weakness. That day I fell three times, one of which was very bad. I slid 15-20 feet down a rock slab and then sat on the side of trail crying for the pain I was feeling in my body and for my pride. This was not how I envisioned my journey. I trained hard. I am in good shape. However, the days had been beating me physically and emotionally. By the time I met up with Jen at lunch I was in full breakdown mode. On top of that, while in the privy, I discovered my menses had started. All feminine products were, of course, in the bounce box that we don’t have. We have a small roll of toilet paper, I am bleeding, and having diarrhea. Awesome.
So I did what every woman has done some time in their life and used the tp for double duty. We hiked more miles that day, but were five miles short of the goal. On our way down the trail the next morning we met a hiker named Rocky who told us the hostel in Andover would pick us up on route 17. They would. For $45.00. Unfortunately I needed to pay the money. I needed a drug store. So we had a shorter mileage day, got an amazing care package, ate fattening foods, and enjoyed the heck out of some indoor plumbing.
The next day we had big plans to “slack pack” 23 miles. Once at the trail head I needed a pit stop. Fourty minutes later I needed another one. And that was how our day started. We were able to get 16 miles in then added our full weight to our backs and eked out another one to two miles. The last of which was a steep downhill equipped with rock slide and rebar ladders. We were headed for a lean to but some north bound hikers said it was gross with no water and to camp at the site near the stream.
We were both happy to be putting down our packs for the day. My body was aching and my stomach was upset, but I just thought it was the same old thing. Jen was tired and also had an upset stomach. She went to bed without food. I ate some Ramen, but that night things turned sour.
I had a horrible night. Rigors and sweats so bad that I had to continuously turn my sleeping bag to the other side because it was soaked. I had to all but strip because my clothes were soaked. I tried to keep myself uncovered, but it was too painful. In the morning my stomach was worse. Straight up dehydration happening from the sweating and the liquid bowel movements. I had been alternating Tylenol and Motrin with no relief. We decided to rest a bit more and see if I felt better in a few hours. Only I wasn’t better, I was worse. Poor Jen had finished her book and was forced to literally just watch me be sick and stare at her dog and the sky. She even started my book, one which she has already read. The hours crept by, she tried to feed me. I refused to eat. It just hurt too much. So she made sure I always had water or electrolyte replacement. When it was bed time for Jen she tried to get into the tent but she was not able to stomach it. Inside the tent smelled too bad.
On this trip, our bodies have created odors that I did not know were humanly possible, and I worked in an inner city ER! So here I was stinky, sick, and sweating consistently from every pore in my body. All of this was zipped up in a small silicone nylon shell. To top it off when I wasn’t sweating I was shaking violently. So Jen attempted to sleep outside. But she was eventually forced inside, simply for the added bit of security and privacy the tent is able to give to our psyche. Sleep is too precious and no matter what we can not afford to lose a minute of it.
Last night was awful. There is nothing more humbling then not being able to get to the bathroom, or the right patch of woods, in time. Last night the odor became one I recognized. C-difficile. C-diff, for short, is a natural bacteria in our gut. Sometimes when we take antibiotics we kill all of the other flora that keeps c-diff in check. In 2006 I had a three month bout with c-diff. I kept testing negative on my cultures and it it took a colonoscopy to diagnose. It was horrible, and I feel the way I did 2006 now on the trail. It is awful. So today we hiked seven miles to a road. I could not get cell service and was starting to panic. It was a long seven miles with many pit stops. Eventually a family pulled up the road and were headed to a local waterfall. After asking about a hospital and them looking one up on their Garmin they offered to cut their day short and take us to the hospital. I almost cried. They loaded our packs and our dog and never once made us feel bad for being so grimy and gross. They dropped us off at the Rumford Hospital so I could seek medical attention.
The nurses and the doctor were awesome. They took my sample right away and took me straight back. The doctor waited for my culture results and then came to see me. The results…negative. The doctor however was not in a hurry and listened to his nurses. When he came back he asked for my 2006 story and really listened. He told me of his concerns that if it is not C-diff it could be Giardia. Giardia is a parasite found in waters outside. The good news is, same treatment. So he gave me the prescription and one for Jen just in case. He also gave me Bentyl to help with the cramps and slow down the process. We took a $5.00 cab to a local hotel for the night.
After taking the pills to slow down the process I have been in the bathroom every 30 minutes. Still with cramps and chills, but at least I can take a shower and we can wash our clothes and air out my sleeping bag.
I am scared that there will be another zero mile day tomorrow the way things are going. It is not looking up quite yet. Jen and I talk and we are ready for consistency. We want to do the thing that will allow us to get up when this is over and start cranking out the miles. She feels good, and I want to feel good with her. We need days that are equal in mileage and back to back. We need to see ourselves make progress.
I hope to feel better soon, and I truly hope this is the last of it. While Maine is trying to get us down we remain optimistic. We believe we will live through Maine. We believe we will get stronger. We know we will make it to Springer.

3 Responses to “Really?”

  1. Wilderness Escapades July 23, 2012 at 6:43 am #

    How did you get Giardia? I hope you feel better soon.

  2. Gail Gibson July 23, 2012 at 9:11 am #

    Emily, I’m so sorry to hear that you’re sick. Thank goodness you got to the ER for treatment. I have faith that you two will still make it to the end. This is just a bump in the road – a big bump but not insurmountable. Hang in there – if there’s anything we can do to help please let us know.

  3. Mike Carr July 23, 2012 at 10:04 am #

    Sorry to hear about your difficult time getting through Maine. Better days are ahead but take your time and get well. This hard enough when you feel your best.

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