This is “Lucky”, a five-year-old red-eared slider that we’ve had since he was just days old.
We have always been good to this little fellow, buying him bigger tanks when he outgrew his old ones, getting him a floating shelf to bask on, a tunnel to hide in, a UVB lamp that provides him with the artificial sunlight he needs to grow a strong, healthy shell, and daily food and attention. So why, when “Lucky” seems to be a truly lucky turtle would he try to kill me?
For those who don’t know, turtles carry salmonella that is harmless to them, but if contracted, will make a healthy adult pray for death, and can kill a young child or weakened old person. (I know some of you are thinking that I am a weakened, old person. Fuck you.)
I know about the risk of salmonella. Every time I handle Lucky, or clean his tank, I thoroughly wash my hands with soap and water.
Last week, when I was doing a tank cleaning, I corralled Lucky in the smaller aquarium that he used to live in, which happened to be outside. Before that, I always just set him in the bathroom sink or tub (which I subsequently cleaned with sanitary wipes) while his primary habitat was getting refreshed.
When I went to return him to his abode, I found him sprawled out on some rocks with every appendage stretched as far as it could out of that shell, sunning himself in the real sun, and I swear, I have never seen a happier looking turtle in all my life.
So, I had the bright idea, that most days, in the late afternoon sun, I would take Lucky outside to his summer vacation tank and let him enjoy the natural world.
As previously stated, I always wash my hands after holding Lucky… or so I thought. Maybe I got distracted once and didn’t, or as my husband, the veterinarian, says, “Salmonella is hard to kill.”
Warning: Graphic content ahead.
If you are sensitive to descriptive images of body fluids, you should stop reading now.
Last night after dinner, I started to have some intestinal cramping, sharp searing pains that went all the way around to my kidneys. I went to bed, curled in a fetal position, and hoped to fall asleep. I have had food poisoning twice before. Never-ending, rolling waves of labor-like cramps that go on for hours, then at some point, I throw up, and I feel better.
Oh, but apparently salmonella poisoning is a whole other funhouse of horrors. When the vomiting started, not only did the cramps not stop, neither did the vomiting… for the next ten hours. The first dozen rounds of puking found me head down over the bowl spewing purplish liquid like something from The Exorcist. At some point, it seemed to me that I was evacuating far more than I had consumed at dinner. How was that possible?
All I know is that it will be a long time before I have sangria or blueberries again. I saw individual pieces of corn from the salsa, there were distinct greenish shapes that appeared to be cilantro… as a matter of fact, it may be awhile before I eat anything again, and I think there is definitely a moratorium on fajitas, through no fault of the fajitas, themselves, it’s just when you’ve seen some things a certain way, you can never go home again.
During the last fifteen rounds of violent evacuation, there was nothing left in my stomach, so the rib-shattering contractions only brought up bile, that I think came from my toes, plus just plain old dry heaves.
Now, here is where the fun really begins: As a late-in-life mother, as I have mentioned numerous times before, an energetic sneeze or profound belly laugh can cause me to piss on myself, so what do you think serial convulsions did to my bladder? Yep, the last several rounds hanging over the Porcelain God also had me simultaneously giving myself a Golden Shower as I sat in my urine soaked underwear on the cold tile floor. Did I mention I was praying for death?
Thankfully, my husband was up with me all night, getting me fresh cups of water and dry panties. Bless his heart, several times he suggested taking me to the emergency room, but after the week-long, what I like to call “migraine incident” of 2010, where two emergency room visits, plus MRI and CAT scan cost us $5,000 out-of-pocket after our insurance covered their part, there’ll be no more emergency room visits for me. The only place I’m going after-hours is the morgue.
Somewhere around 7 a.m., after telling my husband that the pharmacy opened in an hour, I drifted off to sleep.
I’m certainly not firing on all cylinders yet, but the retching has stopped. I have had tea and dry toast and made a few changes in my life:
#1 – Lucky will not see his vacation place until I have purchased thick rubber gloves dedicated solely for use with the turtle. When the gloves are not in use, they will be kept securely in a Hazmat container.
#2 – After removing said gloves, I will wash my hands with the thoroughness of a heart surgeon, in the hottest water I can stand.
#3 – I will never complain about my husband again, or at least until the horror of this night subsides. I can only hope that he can someday UnSee the sight of me spewing my guts up, weeping, in a puddle of my own urine on the bathroom floor.
The good news is that I am alive and as of this morning, I weigh three pounds less than yesterday!
Please note: I am in no way recommending reptile-acquired salmonella poisoning as a diet plan. Please do not try this at home!
Cheaper Than Therapy is a blog and live storytelling show in Montgomery, AL. FOLLOW the blog, LIKE the show on FB, FOLLOW me on Twitter @ReneaDijab or come check out the show!