Chronicles of A Conjunctivitis Casualty
By Meghan Koushik
The recent conjunctivitis epidemic has spared no one. It all started when Jall contracted it in Bombay during Exeat, and passed it on to his fellow travelers, and it hasn’t stopped spreading since. This is a shortened chronicle of my week-and-a-half-long sojourn in the med center.
I awake in the morning with a strange itchy sensation in my eye. As I stumble, bleary-eyed, towards the bathroom mirror, I vaguely wonder why my lashes are semi caked shut, but my brain is too sleepy to comprehend that I shall soon be one of the red-eyed zombies inhabiting the hallows of the med center. Upon gazing at my admittedly not-so-perfect reflection, I discover to my horror that one of my eyes now matches the color of the caf’s tomato soup. Without pausing to think, only grabbing my i-pod, I race towards the med center in hopes that the god of medical matters, a.k.a. the doctor, will have some sort of magic medicine that will restore my eyes to their former whiteness.
The doctor, upon seeing my condition, pronounces the dreaded word, ‘ISOLATION’. Three days (at least). One room. No visitors. What atrocity did I commit in my last life that I should be made to suffer so?
But on entering the room, I’m thrilled to realize that I’m not alone, that my two of my fellow exeat companions too, have eyes that resemble something from a horror movie.
My eyes burn. I sleep, praying that I will be greeted, on waking, with eyes white as snow.
The toll reaches five. The nurse, our single connection to the outside world, enters to put midmorning drops in our eyes. Within seconds, the room is full of screams of ‘TISSUES!!! WHO THE HELL HAS THE TISSUES??’ as we desperately try to prevent the runoff from entering our ears. After five minutes of lying down (to increase the amount of fluid going into the eyes), everyone gags as the taste of the drops enters their throat, a flavor much worse than anything the caf could provide.
The day passes by. Some sleep. Some stare at the ceiling. All pray for deliverance. Or at least permission to use their laptops.
At night, the nurse comes by to test out a new form of torture. An thick, gooey, ointment that glues our eyelids together, completely disabling us of our vision. Within minutes, the room is silent, as people drift off to sleep, aided by their tightly glued eyelids and the soothingly dimmed lights of the room.
As our roommates succumb as well, we become eight. The med center is filled to capacity, and we hear of infected second years, with their SATs in a few days, refusing to stay in the med center with all us ‘severe’ cases and being accommodated in the nurse’s quarters instead. Its official: it’s an epidemic. And our allotted three days are up, but our eyes show no signs of recovery. No, now my right eye is as inflamed as my left eye is, and the disgusting yellow pus shows no signs of reducing. The doctor tells us that it’s a case of viral conjunctivitis, and congratulations, it’s the first ever case in MUWCI. We should be so proud.
Ah, mealtimes. The few minutes of every day that we are allowed to see the outside world, albeit momentarily. But then we realize to our dismay, that whether there are two, or twenty ill people in the med, we receive virtually the same amount of food, and the banality of the cafeteria daal, bad enough on ordinary days, gets downright depressing when combined with inflamed eyes.
It’s 6:45. Much past lunch, but too early for dinner. And the eight of us are starving. When we ask the maid for some form of nourishment, she comes back bearing a large white plate. For a few seconds, we are delighted, envisioning platters of delicious tidbits. But on that vast whiteness is placed exactly eight Marie biscuits. We fall back on our pillows, the disappointment too great to bear. But then, we receive succor. Our uncontaminated friends on the outside world respond magnificently to our online pleas. (God bless the wireless in the med center) and come, bearing bottles of Coke, Kit-Kats, and packets of chocolate bourbons. We fall on the food like people deprived of nourishment for days together. Just as we finish pigging out, the maid comes in, and announces that dinner is finally here.
Sometimes it seems as though we’ll never be out. With ten people now in the same room and two extra beds squeezed in, it seems like the epidemic will never end. The blank baby-blue walls of the med finally seem to be getting to everyone. ‘There’s a hospital in Bombay,’ Someone-who-refuses-to-be-named mentions contemplatively. ‘It’s called the Bombay hospital.’ ‘There is silence for a moment. Then we burst into near-hysterical laughter. Is this the effect of the drops, or can isolation for nearly a week actually drive you insane?
The first victims are finally released. They stumble out into the blinding sunlight, scarcely able to believe that their troubles have ended. But it’s only then that we realize that our troubles have only just begun, as we have, in fact, missed, an entire week of school, a fact that our co-years take great pleasure in constantly reminding us about. On seeing us, they start rejoicing in our release, follow it up with, ‘Oh, did I mention we have a math test tomorrow on everything we’ve done since the beginning of term? But don’t worry, it can’t be any worse than the biology test you missed yesterday, or the English presentation we all did the day before……… ‘
What a wonderful welcome-back to MUWCI!
– United World College Student Magazine –