Quinn’s 2021 Caribbean Food Poisoning Island Extravaganza (or, Traveling from Punta Cana, DR to Chicago, IL while Suffering from the Worst Food Poisoning of my Life)

Heyo — Quinn David Furness here and I am coming in HOT with another new ‘instant classic’ sort of Beantown Blog post. Today is probably the first day in my overall recovery where I feel like can have any humor about the situation I’m about to describe, so pull up a chair, buckle up, hold onto your butts, and do all the other metaphorical things you need to do. Oh, and total vomit / diarrhea content warning, if that wasn’t already obvious. If reading about that stuff is going to make you sick, you might want to sit this one out. Or not. Because you know who couldn’t sit this nightmare out? Me. And also, Rachel. Let’s start there.

Rachel is an absolute champ and the total MVP of this situation. If you don’t know her, first off, where have you been living for the past year and half? We’ve been dating for that long and this was our first big international trip together. A common question when I describe the following incidents are whether or not Rachel had it too — She was fairly healthy during our trip thankfully, and I don’t think she had anything close to what I am about to describe to you. But throughout my entire fiasco, Rachel was amazing. I constantly woke her up due to a whole panoply of unnatural noises emanating from my body (if they’re looking for a sound effects guy for that next Jurassic Park sequel, I am your man). She bought us seats together (seems dumb but thanks Frontier!). She also dragged my ass through the Punta Cana airport as well as O’Hare, including bag check, customs part one, boarding, de-planing, customs part two, baggage claim, and securing a ride home from ORD. She bought me more gatorade and powerade than I can even remember. She even gave me her jean jacket to wear on the plane when I was getting slammed with fever and chills. She is my rock and I love her so much.

So let’s set the stage. We get to Punta Cana on Tuesday afternoon, and we were there until Sunday morning. The food in this place was…not amazing. Lots of buffet stuff, and nothing ever felt too fresh. Nevertheless, we were both able to pretty consistently find things we were willing to eat, and up until Saturday night, besides an upset stomach or two, we never had any major issues. Just sun, pools, beach, jerk chicken, drinks, more sun, and a lot of silly pictures. That is, until…

Saturday night / Sunday morning – 12:25 a.m: I awake. We went to bed around 10:30 or so. Bear in mind that we’d been living off of gin & tonics more or less for the last 5 days, so I figured those were finally just catching up to my stomach a little bit. So off I go to the toilet. Now, it’s important to understand that we were not only in a small hotel room, but the walls in this place were non-existent from a noise barrier perspective. Additionally, the bathroom had this weird pane of glass (like a frosted window) in the shower, and it was positioned such that when you were sitting on the toilet, you were looking directly into the shower at that pane of glass, and the bed is on the other side of it. When you turn the light on in the bathroom, the whole hotel room lights up (awful design), so I did everything you’re about to hear about in darkness so as not to wake Rachel with blinding lights, which isn’t vital to the story, but it just adds to the sense of despair I felt this entire time. And also blinding lights was the least of Rachel’s worries — The blood-curdling cries of a boyfriend in distress were probably more distracting.

I draw first blood, diarrhea style. Then I start thinking to myself, ‘Hey, is that nausea I hear?’ Oh yes, it sure was. Thankfully, the two garbage cans in our room were large, solid plastic ones, and may I say, great for vomiting. Perhaps the high quality of these trash bins was what kept me coming back for more! So I grab one “just in case” and head back to bed.

Five minutes later, 12:30 a.m: Boom – I sit up, and I am one of those people who when you know you know: Baby it’s vomit time. Let’s just say the floodgates opened. I am very glad I grabbed that garbage can because I was keeled over on my side of the bed doing my best niagara falls impression. From this point forward, I’m 97% confident neither Rachel nor I would sleep again until about 10 p.m. the following night. 22-hour travel day, nice!

Now, the remainder of this story will go on without timestamps, because let me tell you, the amount of delirium I was experiencing rivaled anything I’ve ever felt before. I was struggling to remember where I was. I kept going in and out of visions of the resort food in my head (which made me more and more nauseous). My head was playing a bizarre playlist of some of my favorite artists, including Chopin, The Killers, and Ben Gibbard. No I am not joking.

Very quickly, I developed my routine. I would head to the bathroom, shit my brains out, then about 3-4 minutes later, vomit my brains out into the garbage can while still sitting on the toilet (and occasionally the side of the bed, you’re welcome babe!), then immediately after, get the most intense sweat of all time for about 5 minutes. This all took about 15 minutes per cycle, and I would then go lie back down. After each time, I would sip a little bit of water, because you know, I really didn’t want to end up in a Dominican hospital bed hooked up to an IV. Yeah, there was no way water had a chance in hell of staying down for longer than 30 minutes.

This whole cycle occurred SIX TIMES. This was a new record for me. I’ve probably had diarrhea around 5 times in the span of a night after some bad Indian food or something, but a steady and consistent cycle of diarrhea, vomiting, then a quick yet intense sweat session six total times? Interspersed with wild, wacky, and miserable spells of delirium? Best slumber party of all time.

My last vomit posted at about 6 a.m., and if you’re curious, no, there’s really nothing left to puke up at that point, other than blood and what I assume were unnecessary sections of my small intestine. The diarrhea didn’t stop until well into Tuesday. Around 7-8 a.m. or so, Rachel gets up and gets moving (breakfast, packing, etc). I continue to lie in bed battling wicked fever and chills. The reality of our situation is finally starting to set in — Our shuttle is coming to get us at 10:20 a.m., and that’s just the start. We have to go from a remote island resort in the Dominican Republic to the north side of Chicago today. Dear God…

From 8 – 10 a.m., I sporadically force myself to stand and pack for our long journey back. I am not kidding you when I say I could only manage being up for about 2-3 minutes to collect and pack things before I physically felt like I was going to pass out. I tried my best to get a little water down here and there, but I really was not interested in vomiting in-transit (which was going to be from approximately 10 a.m. eastern until 8 p.m. central, so about an 11 hour travel day). Eventually, 10 a.m. arrives, and I just had to make the mental commitment to myself that this was happening. We were NOT going to be stranded in the Caribbean panicking while I was hooked up to an IV trying to figure out when and how to get back home. We make our way to the lobby, check out, then pack ourselves into a shuttle van with some of the least amount of legroom known to man. At this point, I really feel like I’m tempting fate. I wasn’t sure what was most likely to happen first — Explosive diarrhea, vomit volcano, or just casually passing out from dehydration. The worst part was the van had multiple pickups from different resorts, and each time you enter and exit a resort here, there are quite literally one million speed bumps you have to go over. These are always a nuisance, but when you’re feeling ready to just give up and die, they become extra irritating.

Eventually we make it to the airport. Thankfully, the line for check-in isn’t terribly long (probably 20 mins total for us). Rachel got us a spot in line and I casually sauntered over to the bathroom to shit my brains out again. I’m not even sure where all this shit was coming from at this point — Did the 10 gallons of gin I drank throughout the week just hangout until then? Unclear. As I returned to our place in line, I really started to notice what the rest of the day’s primary physical ailment nemesis would be, and while it is consistent with food poisoning symptoms and doesn’t sound as bad as what I’ve described already, it was by far my least favorite part of the whole experience: My body ached like I have never experienced before. I could hardly stand. My hips felt like they had just been sucker punched by Floyd Mayweather. 50,000 times. My calves were on fire. My internal temperature remained more or less actually on fire. My shoulders/neck area were probably similar to what Atlas feels like when he carries the earth (I don’t care if he’s a Titan, even those guys hurt). Any sort of walking / standing in line, which you do a whole hell of a lot of in airports (check-in, customs, security, boarding, etc) felt like the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. At one point, I believe I told Rachel I thought I was going to die, but to be honest, I don’t really recall anything I said that day. I am sure this was comforting for her to hear.

We get to our gate, and there is a lot people, noise, and food. Any scent of anything made me feel like I was going to puke out more of my non-existent stomach contents. Another bad part about the body aches? I wasn’t even comfortable sitting down. Like it didn’t matter what position I was in — If I stayed in the same body position for longer than 5 minutes, I would be in unbearable pain. So you can imagine how much fun I had on the plane, right? I spent the 4-hour plane ride with my eyes closed alternating every 5-10 minutes back and forth between sitting upright and sitting forward with my elbows on knees and head in hands wondering what I did to deserve this. Again, Rachel was a champ throughout all of this, and I’m sure sitting next to me this whole time watching all this unfold was a SUPER FUN and NOT AT ALL STRESSFUL experience for her. Love you babe. Oh, and if you’re wondering, no I could not even whip out Toon Blast and play that on the flight, my mind would not allow it. Oh, and Frontier seat technology should definitely be sold to the US Military for their labor camp experiments. I don’t know if we have those, but it seems like we probably do.

Finally, the 4-hour nightmare that was the flight was over. I could legitimately write another blog post about the flight alone, including the screaming kids 2 rows behind us who just LOVED to raise the armrest, drop it, let it bounce a few times, then repeat. For 4 hours. And so many other nice and pleasant things these kids did, but we should finish up here. Everything at ORD went relatively smooth, although again, it felt like we had to walk a 5k, and when you are feverish, nauseous, holding in diarrhea, and not completely aware of where you are or what you’re doing or what the meaning of life is, it’s a lot. Special shout-out to Betty and Jose Ramos for picking us up and driving us back to the north side — Much love and appreciation.

Around 7:30 p.m. local time or so, I finally arrived home. I threw my clothes off, grabbed a glass of water to have next to bed, got the puke bucket ready to go in case, and crashed. Recovery in the following days was very slow-going; I went from Saturday around 7 until Monday at 7 without eating anything (I think, hard to remember). It is now Friday, 5-6 days after the incident, and I think I am ok. I took a sick day on Monday to sleep / catch up on emails, so shout-out to my coworkers as well for putting up with my extra-extended time away. Yesterday, Thursday, was the first day I had without an awful sore throat from the six lovely puking sessions. Apologies to my esophagus / trachea / whatever.

This was not my first food poisoning adventure — I’ve had bad Chinese, undercooked tilapia, and at least one or two other bad experiences, but this was far and away the worst ever in 26 years of living. Rachel was amazing — Strong, confident, helpful, and a total babe throughout the entire experience. Thanks to all who read this far — I feel tough as an ox now.

Can’t wait to go back! Maybe!!!!!