This is the story of the day I somehow didn't die.
It's a month after Hurricane Katrina. My daughter's apartment sat under six feet of toxic sludge for several weeks, which has now drained off. I've volunteered to help her go back into her apartment to try to find something--anything--salvageable, since she's lost absolutely everything she owns. When you go into one of these post-Katrina wrecks, you have to wear full protective gear: respirator, gloves, heavy boots--and you don't take anything that may get contaminated (no cell phone, no wallet, nothing). So my daughter and I go to her apartment. She drops me off, but has to go and pick up a marooned friend twenty minutes away. She wants to take me with her, but I'm feeling fine--and I convince her to leave me there to go through her soggy possessions.
There's nothing open for ten miles in any direction. No restaurants. No private homes. No water service, anywhere. No electricity. The front and rear doors of each apartment have been taken off, and each apartment is covered with toxic black mold; anything left inside is still damp, smells awful, and is full of mold, mildew, and stains from the toxic chemicals in the water. There are a few other residents, all male, wandering around, trying to pick up the pieces of their lives.
And then the Crohn's attack comes, with its usual urgency. And I'm totally stuck. What am I supposed to do? I'm sure as heck not sitting on the disgusting, moldy toilet. I don't know how I'm going to run outside and do anything in the parking lot, with the guys hanging around. I have nowhere to run to and nobody to call. I can't strip off my pants, because I'll get contaminated if I have to take off the boots (covered by impermeable booties). I am seriously stuck.
Oh yeah--and I'm on immunosuppressant drugs. Even better.
Finally I grab a moldy shoebox. hide behind an interior door, lower my jeans and do my thing in the box. But now I have an even worse problem: what am I going to wipe with? I keep toilet paper in my purse, but you can't bring a purse into such a contaminated, dangerous environment. I realize I'm standing next to my daughter's dresser, whose drawers have swelled and exploded, spilling her soggy clothes onto the muddy floor. At the top of the pile is a white t-shirt: damp and smelly, but not stained with mold. Regretfully, I use it to wipe with, feeling as if I'm signing my death warrant. (I've heard about people who have handled moldy family photos and gotten ill and died within 48 hours.) I put the dirty t-shirt into the box and take the whole thing outside into the parking lot, where I leave it in a pile of debris that smells even worse.
And then I go home and wait to see if I die. And I don't.
And I never tell anybody this story . . . until now.
This is without a doubt the worst Crohn's experience I've ever had. The others have just been mortally embarrassing; this one could have been fatal. I'm really really glad that it wasn't and that I'm still here (to enjoy 2008's hurricanes, I guess).