Infected.

Louisiana State Health Officials passed out questionnaires specifically designed for ReachOut. They asked us specifics about what we had eaten in the past 48 hours and also if we had come in contact with anyone who was sick prior to leaving Chicago. The officials were especially interested in what happened on the bus ride down. Where we had eaten, where had we stopped, and if we’d used the on-board bathroom. As twisted as it sounds, the officials seemed genuinely excited about the disease. One couldn’t stop smiling when she talked about finding the cause of the illness in our stool samples. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

I had been feeling unwell all day, but I thought it was just my body fighting off the sickness. I imagined an epic battle in my stomach between the virus and T-cells. I also imagined it looked something like 300, but I took a little creative liberty there.

Well, as we were filling out the specialized form the tides of the battle began to turn. I barely got done filling in what I had for breakfast that morning before I had to run to the bathroom. The virus had won.

I had almost all the symptoms but I hoped this would be a one and done deal. I expunged whatever was inside and now I’d start to feel better. Boy was I wrong.

After the initial vomit, you get a blinding headache. Lights and noise cause considerable pain. Your stomach usually starts cramping again and the only thing that helps is laying down. After trips to and from the bathroom, you begin to feel the muscle aches. For most, it’s from the middle of the back down. A few even say it’s painful to walk. The only thing you want to do is sleep, and ultimately that’s the only thing that brings you any comfort. It’s a miserable experience.

Compound that with us having to pick up everything and move and you have a truly crappy day. In an effort to not spread the virus to any other camp members and to make those who were ill more comfortable, we were being moved to a hotel in downtown New Orleans. So we had about an hour to pack up all our stuff, sterilize our rooms and beds, and load up the bus.

Once at the hotel we had to be debriefed and put into rooms based on level of sickness. We didn’t want to risk getting more people sick by putting the healthy with the infected. After discussing the game plan for Tuesday, most people went to bed. It had been a long two days for everyone.

It must be noted however, what an astoundingly amazing job the chaperons and executive board members did. From the moment this whole thing started, they’ve been working diligently to care for the sick, but also to remember the healthy. Most haven’t slept since the bus ride, yet they were still up all night taking care of us. Many were sick but fought through it to help out. Considering that we had no returning chaperons and most came on at the last minute, I don’t think they could have done a better job. Also, the response from Columbia College was impeccable. Within a day, they had reserved hotel rooms for 46 highly contagious students at a gorgeous and highly accommodating hotel. So a big thank you to everyone who’s helped us, we hope we can return the favor.

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