I went to Seattle for a family reunion which brought family members from all over the world such as Australia, Singapore, Florida, Texas, and more totaling to nearly two dozen people. Our last reunion had been in ’99 in Orlando, Florida when most of us were adolescents or younger. Stuffed in a giant AirBnB, I was a bit skeptical from the start because I didn’t see how we were all ever going to be on the same page coming from different time zones, having different agendas and interests, the struggle to find transportation simultaneously for all of us out-of-towners and finding establishments like restaurants where they wouldn’t roll their eyes at a huge party expecting seating without a reservation in advance.
Unfortunately, my suspicions were correct and the reunion was about as unorganized as you could get seeing as some had already visited Seattle, some weren’t interested in barhopping, several, including myself became sick, and some just weren’t interested in sightseeing but just wanted to stay at home. That being said I got to do several things such as take advantage of the legal marijuana and indulge in some toffee edibles, explore some of the local dives, and try some local eats such as their Seattle dog, award-winning chili, and some crazy interpretations of biscuits n’ gravy.
Pike Place Market:
I ended up in the ER in Seattle as well as Orlando due to complications stemming from tonsillitis which I had dealt with previously last year while living in Taiwan. If left untreated or not treated fast enough peritonsillar abscess occurs, this is a bacterial infection that creates a pus-filled pocket in one or both of your tonsils. If caught early on, which I thought I had, it’s easily treatable and not considered serious albeit very painful. If left untreated, it can become life-threatening, as it swells the throat enough that drinking, eating, swallowing and, eventually, breathing will become impossible. Furthermore, if the swelling becomes too severe the tonsil will literally erupt and force blood and poison down your throat and into your chest and lungs which can spread the infection. I was unlucky enough to have this happen to me.
Why and how did this all happen is probably the question you’re asking yourself. To be blunt, it was because no one understood the seriousness of my condition, besides myself, and we did a crap job of communicating with each other for the entire duration from start to finish. This was partially my fault because I was physically unable to communicate the seriousness efficiently and because I didn’t put my foot down and go with my gut when push came to shove. They were all caught up with the family reunion – which I understood, but out of all the years I’ve traveled and gotten myself into sticky situations from bar fights in third world countries to getting into motorcycle and car crashes, this was the closest I came to dying and the first time I was afraid since I can remember. I’m a loner, always have been, and this is just a reminder not to count on anyone but yourself when the smoke clears.
To put it all on a timeline I had started getting symptoms Wednesday morning in Seattle, went to the Seattle ER Thursday, ignorantly flew back home to Orlando Friday, and then went back to the ER, this time in Orlando, Friday night where I was hospitalized and wasn’t released until Sunday afternoon. I lost eighteen pounds because I was unable to eat or drink four of those five days despite being on an IV while I was kept in the hospital in Orlando from Friday until Sunday.
When the symptoms first began I didn’t think much of it, but after I had broken my fever twice and it came back the third time I started to get very suspicious. These suspicions spiked when I drank some ginger tea because you can feel it passing your throat due to the spiciness. It only burned on my right tonsil which reminded me exactly what I felt and experienced when I had peritonsillar abscess in Taiwan last year. So, I almost immediately took a Lyft solo to the Seattle ER where I had a cat scan done which showed that there was no abscess at that point in time, just tonsillitis, was given some antibiotics and some hydrocodone, and was sent home with some medical sheets and a warning to return immediately if any of six symptoms listed on one of these sheets occurred before the antibiotics could kick in.
The next day, I woke up having five out of the six symptoms and knew that the antibiotics hadn’t kicked in in time. I couldn’t speak at all, had to spit in a cup because it was too painful to swallow, and wasn’t able to breathe normally through my mouth. I had that feeling where you want to clear your throat and hop a loogie but was unable to because of the pain. I was utterly unsuccessful in convincing my parents and other family members, who I had the most faith in, that I needed to go back to the ER because my condition had worsened significantly. Instead, in so many words, they told me to suck it up, not ruin the family reunion, that I was clueless, and to get on the flight home. I’ll never forget that. Like a fool, I listened, but if I could go back in time I would’ve flipped them the bird and gotten another Lyft back to the Seattle ER where I would’ve avoided one of the worst experiences of my life.
With my condition worsening throughout the day, I still somehow convinced myself that, like they said, I needed to suck it up, until the next day when I would then go to the doctor. Instead, I woke up in the middle of the night choking on my own blood. My infected tonsil had erupted while I was asleep and the only thing that had saved me was that I fallen asleep on my side instead of flat on my back. Panicked, I called my dad, who was the only person home, and banged on my own bathroom door because I couldn’t scream or yell. I also had to call my nurse friend to convince my father to drive me to the nearest ER because he didn’t understand how serious the situation was. Imagine holding a cup of your own blood, not being able to speak and breath properly through your mouth, while looking up and giving directions on how to get to the ER. Not a fun experience to say the least. If I had been physically able to I would have thrown him in the backseat and driven myself in a heartbeat.
To attempt to make this long story short, I ended up being kept in the hospital overnight because when I tried to take a sip of water I instead ended up hacking up blood right in front of the doctor who said it wouldn’t be safe to go back home when I can’t take in any fluids. After being looked at by a specialty doctor that morning, called an ENT for short, I was put on an IV with anti-inflammatories, steroids, antibiotics, painkillers, and saline. My tonsil was in such bad shape that I could tell my ENT was stunned examining it by the look on her face and when I told her to give it to me straight through writing on a mini-whiteboard she bluntly said she had hoped for better. I looked at my tonsil myself in the mirror after and saw what looked like a purple gumball covered in white spots. I was mortified and agreed to an operation to drain my tonsils while I was awake, which I had had before in Taiwan.
After being on an IV for several hours I was able to speak but sounded exactly like “The Godfather” which I quickly made into a running joke with the hospital staff. I made light of the situation and when the operation began I was mentally prepared. It consisted of spraying a type of numbing agent which felt like several shards of glass stabbing into my throat initially, then having a suction tube put in like you’d see at the dentist for the fluids. Lastly, a long syringe had to be inserted and drain my tonsil and I just had to sit there and let it happen basically. After three, long syringes inserted into my tonsil, a ridiculous amount of blood and pus and whatever else that I can’t describe exited me. I was absolutely mortified because the operation I had had before in Taiwan wasn’t anywhere near as bad. I didn’t need an IV or to be hospitalized and had only spit out a little bit of blood and bile during the operation then, but in Orlando it was so much that I needed a throw up bag and the suction tube had to be replaced because it was getting clogged with my blood.
The saddest part of the operation was it wasn’t the worst part. For me, the worst was that all I could think about the entire time I was in the hospital was how I should’ve just listened to myself and no one else. And with nothing to do but sit there as an old movie plays you can’t help but build up the anger and rage and hurt inside you. I felt let down more than I had ever felt in my life and couldn’t get over that this was all very preventable. I could’ve died in my sleep not knowing true love, starting a family, and accomplishing so many life and career goals.
My ENT agreed to release me Sunday morning and I simply returned to life like nothing had happened for the most part. I’d say the thing that bothered me the most was that neither of my parents wanted to take responsibility, but pushed it back on me instead nor did they want to admit they were sorry. After some convincing and explaining, which shouldn’t have needed to be done in the first place, my parents owned up to it. However, I have to say. I’ll never forget that experience and deep down inside the worst part of me can’t look at them the same for it, because although I moved back to America to finish my MEd as a full-time grad student, it was also to be a part of my infantile nephew’s life, be with my family dog again, who I rescued back in 2009, in her senior years, and reconnect with my family – now I don’t have that latter desire anymore and regret turning down not one but two very lucrative job offers in Myanmar and France. I don’t plan on going to next reunion – that’s for certain.