Attack of the Killer Strawberries

March 23, 4:45pm: Rusty appears in the living room, where I’m sitting on the textbook-strewn loveseat with a laptop and a cat on my lap, trying to touch-type through the mound of purring fur while eating a bowl of delicious sliced strawberries. “Ack,” I say, watching him put his shoes on. “Were we supposed to be there at 5:00 or 5:30?” “5:30,” he reassures me. “I have to pick Laila up on the way.” Whew. “Okay,” I tell him. “Seeya there.”

4:50pm: Strawberries devoured, I set the bowl aside. Elliott gets up to investigate, leaving my keyboard cat-free. “I’ll just finish a few more of these questions,” I think to myself, “before it’s time to head to Christine’s house.” My friend Christine, Laila’s mom, has a PhD in biochemistry, and is a practitioner of NAET. She’s also the one who introduced me to Quantum Touch. She’s invited me over to sit in on another Quantum Touch class, just for fun, and tonight is the last session.

5:00pm: A sudden attack of vertigo interrupts my typing mid-word. Sheesh, that one really hit hard and fast. Darnit! I guess I shouldn’t have eaten any of the green bean casserole, I knew it was too high in sodium. But I only ate a little bit, I thought I could get away with it. Rats. Closing my eyes, I lay back on the loveseat and wait for the familiar spinning feeling to subside.

5:03pm: I open one eye, cautiously, and quickly squeeze it shut again. My living room is defying all the laws of gravity and three-dimensionalism, and my stomach’s reaction to that nanosecond glimpse is more than unpleasant. This is really feeling a lot worse than my typical Meneire’s Disease-induced sodium reaction vertigo. I fumble at my waist for my cell phone, flip it open, and blindly feel for the “1” button. Jeff‘s voice at the other end is comfortingly solid. “I’m having a dizzy attack,” I tell him. “I’ll have to wait until you get here and ride with you to Christine’s, because I can’t drive like this.” He’s instantly worried, because it’s been so long since I’ve had a bad episode, but I assure him I’ll be okay, and hang up.

5:05pm: The world is simply refusing to stop rolling and twisting, even with my eyes tightly closed. Even though I know it’s all inside my head, I find myself gripping the loveseat so I won’t fall off as it pitches and rolls. A single salient thought crawls precariously through the tangled chaos in my brain. “VALIUM!” it shrieks, as my stomach heaves again. Valium helps to stop the spinning. The problem is that my bottle of valium is in my school bag, which is two whole feet away from my right hand, and at the moment two feet is just way too far away. Inching forward along the arm of the loveseat, I grope around for the bag. I try again to open one eye, and instantly regret it. Eyes squeezed shut, I feel around in the bag, pulling out books, wallet, pencil cases, notebooks, and dumping them on the floor. Valium. Finally, there it is. I pull out two pills, and my stomach threatens dire consequences if I dare put them in my mouth. Leaning back again, I wait for it to calm down for a moment, then quickly swallow them with a sip of tea.

5:15pm: A weird buzzing feeling starts crawling up my arms from the backs of my hands. I flex my fingers, or try to, and discover that they have gone stiff and aren’t real interested in doing anything I want them to do. The buzzing is growing stronger, like electricity running through my arms, hands, and fingers. My stiffened fingers want to draw together. I touch the skin of my left arm, and it feels like someone else’s arm. I fumble out the cell phone again, willing my fingers to bend. “I think I need to go to the hospital,” I tell Jeff. “This isn’t Meneire’s.” I suddenly realize that my entire body is drenched in cold sweat.

5:20pm: I need to lay down. Gathering my strength, I lean forward, grabbing the empty strawberry bowl as my stomach responds by trying to turn itself inside out. I’m beginning to think that getting the strawberries out of there might not be a bad idea, but my retching produces nothing but air. Opening my eyes, I lunge desperately for the floor, and manage to catch it and hang on despite its efforts to elude me. I roll onto my back, arms out to the sides, and let the cold air hit my sweat-soaked body as I try to will myself back to normal.

5:25pm: My cell phone rings. Fumbling it off my waistband with my stiffened fingers, I flip it open. My friend Stacy, a fellow nursing student, is over at Christine’s house, and they’re wondering if I’m on my way. “Nope,” I tell her weakly. “I’m flat on my back on the floor.” I briefly tell her what is happening, and she consults with Christine. “It’s the strawberries,” Christine tells her. “Christine’s going to treat you,” Stacy tells me. “Do you need us to come over?” I tell her that Jeff is on his way, and hang up. NAET, to some extent, at least, can work from a distance. The logic of it is still a bit elusive to me, but within a few seconds I feel the buzzing subside to a faint tingling. The numbness is gone and I can bend my fingers again. The living room stops rolling around, and I don’t have to hang on any more to keep from falling off the floor. I lay back, flexing my fingers, and try to slow my breathing and relax.

5:30pm: My phone rings again. This time my fingers cooperate. Christine is on the other end, wanting more details. I answer her questions, and tell her I’m feeling better. “Have Jeff bring you here,” she tells me. “And bring the strawberries.” We hang up, and I feel good enough, I think, to go to the bathroom, something I’ve been needing to do for quite some time now. I cautiously start to roll over, and the floor lurches threateningly, taking my stomach along with it. Bad idea. I lay back again, and call Jeff to tell him I’m getting better, so he won’t worry too much.

5:35pm: Jeff arrives, and I send him to the kitchen for a barf bucket, then he helps me down the hall to the bathroom. No way I could have made it myself. I heave repeatedly into the barf bucket, rewarded for my misery with nothing but air. He brings me a cold rag for my face, and the heaving finally subsides. My phone rings again. Rusty is worried and wants to know what’s going on, he just left and I was fine, and they’re trying to tell him I’m flat on the floor. I’m really weak and it’s hard to talk, but I assure him they’re not pulling his leg, and tell him I’ll be there soon, and we hang up.

5:40pm: “This is bad. I’m taking you to the hospital,” Jeff says. It’s hard to talk, I need all the air I’m gulping in just for breathing. “Christine first,” I gasp at him. “You need a doctor,” he tells me. “This is neurological, we can’t waste any time.” “Christine first,” I insist. I’m trying to imagine sitting in the ER waiting room for 3 hours like this, and I know I wouldn’t make it. “Christine… five minutes… then doctor.” He isn’t happy about it, because he thinks I’m lookimg shocky, but he gets the strawberries and my coat, puts me in the car, and we start out for Christine’s. The motion of the car starts the world rolling around again, and I lay the seat back and bury my face in my wet rag and concentrate on breathing. I’m drenched with sweat and freezing cold, but the cold feels good. Ice would feel even better.

5:55pm: We pull into Christine’s driveway. Jeff half-carries me up the steps, and we walk in without ringing the bell. I half lurch and half stagger across the entry and collapse onto the couch while Jeff goes to find Christine. Stacy is there, playing Legos on the floor with her boys. She reaches over and rubs my leg comfortingly. I’m exhausted. I feel safe. I sink into the softness of the couch, damp hair stuck to my face, wet clothes clinging to my skin, breathing huge gulps of air. I hear Christine’s voice, but I’m too tired to open my eyes. Someone takes my hand, and I know Christine is treating me through a surrogate because I’m too weak to muscle-test. I don’t know how that works either, but it does. I feel vials being put into my hand, and hear voices, far off. My breathing eases, and I relax more. The nausea subsides. More vials. Someone puts a strawberry into my free hand. It’s like ice, and suddenly I realize that I’m cold. I’ve stopped sweating, my lightweight cotton clothes have dried, and I’m freezing. I’m too tired to say anything, but it doesn’t matter, because Christine feels it. She brings a heavy comforter and covers me with it, tucking it around my feet and all the way up to my neck. I curl up on my side, nausea gone, vertigo gone, breathing normally, and drift off to sleep.

6:15pm: I open my eyes. Jeff is there. He sits beside me and pushes the dried curls back off my forehead. “You look a lot better,” he says. “You sure had me worred there for a while.” I smile at him. “Thanks for bringing me here,” I tell him. I know this is all even stranger to him than it is to me, because I’ve spent so much more time reading and researching and investigating, and have gotten more comfortable with the new ideas and new ways of thinking. Nursing is a very holistic profession. “I trust you,” he tells me. “It’s not easy sometimes, but I do.”

6:20pm: I get up, comforter draped around me like a shawl, and wander into the family room where the class is watching their video. Someone gets up and gives me a chair, and Christine brings me a cup of hot chamomile tea. I’m still a little weak, but other than that I feel fine. Jeff pulls a chair over and sits beside me. Stacy looks over and lifts her eyebrows in a silent question, and I smile at her. “You have color,” she pantomimes, gesturing at her own face. Later she tells me that when Jeff and I first got there, I was grey.

I looked online today to see what kind of toxin I might have ingested. The symptoms of vertigo, nausea, numbness and buzzing in the extremities, diaphoresis (sweating), and rapid breathing didn’t bring up much, other than it was definitely some sort of neurotoxin. As far as I can tell either there were shellfish in my strawberries, or I had a sudden brief attack of Lyme’s Disease, or I was exposed to something called a “happy fun ball,” which strikes me as a strange name for something that could cause what I had. Jeff sent me this quote that he found somewhere:

The fresh, sweet strawberries you buy in the supermarket are the single most heavily contaminated fruit or vegetable in the U.S. Seventy percent of all strawberries tested contained at least one pesticide, and 36 percent contained two or more. Strawberries are also laced with endocrine disruptors. According to research, strawberries can receive a dose of 500 pounds of pesticides per acre. Out-of-season strawberries are the most likely to have been imported, possibly from a country with less-stringent pesticide regulations.

Whatever it was, I’m really glad it’s over. I wonder if I’ll ever crave strawberry shortcake again!

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