Cholera In The Time Of No Cholera
Living in Pacific Palisades in the greater Los Angeles area, I was only 12 years old at the time. I was in what is known as the Marquez Knolls, and my school, the Marquez Elementary School, was only a block away. If I recall correctly, it was on a Friday, just at the beginning of the weekend, when I began to feel weird. I had one episode of upchucking, followed by intestinal cramping like you wouldn't believe. Then, after only a couple of hours passed, I had to make a mad dash for the loo. It was the beginning of the worst episode of diarrhea I have ever had in my life!
It seemed that just as I thought I was through using the loo, I had to go back to it. The stools eventually devolved from melted yellowish chocolate ice cream to diluted potato purèe, or rice water.
Quite naturally, my family was concerned. So I was driven to the nearest medical center where, to all of our surprise, I was diagnosed with -- of all things -- cholera!
I shall always remember the strain: Vibrio cholerae O139. Since then, I have done some research on this, and this strain is extremely rare in the USA. It is most common in southern Asia, in places like India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. How I had contracted this strain -- especially in an affluent area of Las Angeles such as Pac. Pal. -- I shall never know! The only possible thing I can think of is that my dad often patronized a shop specializing in goods from southern Asia... perhaps one of these goods he had bought had the bug in it? But still, why just me? Why was it just yours truly that had to come down with cholera?
I must say however, that I was very lucky. I had only a mild case of the disease, and was just below the borderline of having to be admitted to hospital. I was able to hold down the vast amount of fluids to fend off dehydration.
The actual disease of cholera BY ITSELF is not necessarily deadly -- if so, I most certainly would have never been around to offer this topic! But I am here (quite obviously) as a survivor of the disease. What DOES kill is the other major symptom: DEHYDRATION. Cholera is endemic in the third world areas where fresh, clean water tends to be scarce. The fatalities commonly come from the water being contaminated with the pathogen, thus making matters worse. So with either the bad water, or the lack of enough water, the problem of dehydration becomes the killer.
As was my case, in an affluent area within an affluent country, not only was clean water plentiful, so were drinks such as Gatorade, Pedialite, various juices, etc. My chances of becoming fatally dehydrated were slim.
Unlike in the nineteenth century, cholera is virtually unheard of in the States today. Granted, there may be isolated cases from international travel, but it is extremely rare in the USA and Canada. But as I proved, that doesn't mean that it would be impossible to contract such an illness. So far as the gory details are concerned, as one can imagine, having to defecate so frequently (multiple times within an hour) not only exhausts the body (let alone of depleting and upsetting the electrolyte balance), it makes it hard to get sufficient sleep -- being 'married' to the loo was a real problem. It became a chore to get out of bed to make the frequent trips to the bathroom. In fact, there were a couple of times when I had some rather nasty accidents in bed! It was suggested (and almost decided) to acquire a cot and bucket, cut a hole in the cot. and evacuate through the hole into the bucket, but that was expensive and unnecessary; plus, it presented a potential problem of the, well, fragrance.
This lasted about week and a half or so, until I began to gradually get better. I was able to get much needed sleep (without accidents), and eventually made a full recovery.