Agony of a vacation sickness

By Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

DOMEYROT, France — How typically British. Even if a person isn’t feeling well it must be somehow be connected with the weather — that subject of eternal fascination for the true Brit. In my case, however, at least to the best of my knowledge, it didn’t have anything to do with the weather.

We flew from London to France, drove for a couple of hours, picked up some provisions in the nearest Carrefour supermarket on the way, and installed ourselves in our summer abode. The next day I cooked, did laundry, and functioned more or less normally.

It was on the day after that that I could barely drag myself out of bed in the morning and only by dint of tremendous willpower managed to make myself a cup of herbal tea to drink with my morning biscuit (viva McVitie!). The very thought of coffee, which is my usual beverage of choice, made me feel even worse. I spent the day in an armchair, unable to move, eat, or function in any normal fashion.

The next day was more or less the same, only my one thought, after flopping into the armchair, was how to get back into bed. The thought of the expanse of mattress, pillows, and the biggest, softest eiderdown (duvet) I’ve ever seen seemed extremely tempting, and that is where I spent the rest of the day, dozing and coming to from time to time. In most uncharacteristic fashion, I couldn’t even have the radio on with classical music. The idea of food of any kind revolted me, and the only thing I was prepared to drink was, of all things, Coca-Cola, something which I generally eschew. I was unable to think of eating anything, or even taking my prescription pills (ten in the morning, five in the evening). I felt a terrible weakness in my entire body, and could not even stand up straight.

On the third day, I was in a similar state. My one thought was of being horizontal in my lovely, welcoming bed. But then along came another thought. What must my grandmother have felt as she lay dying of starvation and neglect in the Theresienstadt concentration camp some seventy-odd years ago? She undoubtedly had been used to a comfortable bed and clean linen in her Hamburg home, and was now probably reduced to a wooden bunk bed and who knows what rags with which to cover herself (we know that she took some bedding along with her but that was almost certainly stolen upon arrival). And was there anyone to bring her a cup of tea or even a drink of water? Probably not.

And my other grandparents, my mother’s parents, didn’t even have that when they were murdered in Auschwitz.

What was this terrible disease to which I had succumbed? Yigal thought it was flu, which is something I’ve never experienced. . It felt to me as if something or someone had taken over my body and extracted every iota of strength from it.

So on the fourth day I started taking the antibiotics I always have with me, and I even allowed Yigal to take me to eat something (half a Happy Meal) at the nearest McDonald’s The idea of anything heavier or more substantial was anathema to me. The institution of McDonald’s is not a place where I would normally choose to eat, but to the aliens that had taken over my body it seemed like a good idea.

Eventually my appetite began to return to me. For almost a week no coffee or anything stronger than toast with a thin layer of butter passed my lips. My strength began to return, and I was even able to stand up straight and walk at more than a snail’s pace.

“It’s a funny thing,” said an English friend who lives permanently in France. “Many people who come over by plane from England fall ill soon after arriving.”

So it wasn’t aliens who took over my body but a bug that was somewhere in the plane when we came from London. I hope there’s some way of preventing this happening again as we’re planning a trip to the USA which will involve several flights. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know. I don’t want to go through anything like that again.

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Shefer-Vanson is an author and freelance writer based in Mevasseret Zion, Israel.  She may be contacted via dorothea.shefer@sdjewishworld.com

 

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