Ever since I first started living the rural Australian life near Tamworth 10 or more years ago I have been drinking tank water and relishing it. In Tamworth the water was pumped from the huge dam in the old lime quarry on the neighbour’s place or fell from the sky. In Kangaroo Valley it was trickled down from a spring in the bush behind the property or gifted by God in the form of rain (which there was plenty of!) and here, at Avalon, it is pumped from the river until we put a rainwater tank after Pickle was born. But I relish the fresh, sweet, water we drink here and from the river or creek on a run. I love just dipping my hands in and gulping it down on a hot day or just to cool down a hot flush. I don’t want to stop that. We have a horrible Richard Scarry book (we call it ‘the torture book’) about how the world works and we tell Benno that we don’t believe in coal powered electricity (it is old-fashioned) and that we don’t understand why they treat the water with all the chemicals . . . only now I do!
Before Christmas when the river was very low because it hadn’t rained for three months, we had friends to stay and for lunch and the following week we all had dodgy bellies of varying degrees. Then in February I felt sick all the time and had an ache in my tummy and foul diarrhoea and burping. After a couple of weeks I even went and saw our divine Doctor who, of course, prescribed antibiotics, thinking it was a bug. I was so sick that I went on holiday in The Tree House to rest, and I took the antibiotics for the first time in well over 20 years.
I did feel a bit better for a few days after that but then the symptoms came back and I was exhausted! Dragging myself around and sleeping after lunch in ‘quiet time’ every day. Then I figured it must be an ulcer because I’ve had one before and all the symptoms were similar – constant nausea, loss of interest in food etc. So I started myself on the heal ulcer diet – bananas and natural yoghurt all day. My tummy felt a bit better but my symptoms kept getting worse. Then we had all the floods and in addition to dragging myself through each day, I was hauling Ben and I over the raging river every day, hand over hand, on the flying fox. Every inch a huge effort, with a few rests on the way, and Benno counting me in for the last 10 metres each way.
It was a bit like morning sickness – constant nausea, feeling that there was a snake rolling and twisting in my belly, feeling a bit better with the first mouthful and worse thereafter. I was losing weight, listless, exhausted. It was horrible. Finally I turned to Doctor Google and found all my symptoms matched those for Giardiasis or ‘Beaver Fever’ as they call it in the US. Back to the Doc and as soon as I told him my symptoms he said ‘Giardia’ and printed out the prescription and the stool sample forms. I didn’t want to take the potent pills without a positive diagnosis but I got the script filled just in case (after all, we’re a long way from a pharmacy) and popped my poo into pathology.
Three days later, just before knock off time on the day before the Easter holiday, the surgery rang to say I had tested positive for Giardia. Thank goodness I had the pills to hand. I waited til Benno was asleep then downed them with some food and took myself off to bed (my very favourite place for this whole nightmare). Half an hour later I was bent double over the toilet bowl vomiting for the first time in many years. Those pills tasted truly foul coming up the other way. Sleep was the best way to process and I crashed out long before Ged came home.
The next morning I was up early and making everyone breakfast and tea and barking out instructions for the day. Ged and Ben looked at me in amazement. When I saw their blank and uncomprehending faces I said ‘what’s better – sick Mummy or bossy Mummy?’ With one voice, united, they replied ‘Bossy Mummy!’
She’s back . . . ! It was our very own Easter miracle, my own resurrection from the almost dead. Thank God.
Then we had Ben and Ged tested. Ben was positive, but Ged negative. Regardless, we decided they would both have the medicine, and in fact that week Ged started to feel sick and snake in the belly. I was tempted to let him suffer for a few weeks so he would have more sympathy for how I had felt for over 6 weeks, but relented in the end and organised the drugs. My symptoms then returned – obviously all the eggs had not been destroyed by the first batch, maybe because I threw up.
I was beginning to think that we would never be rid of this parasite. I felt like Sigourney Weaver in Alien, or maybe the colleague with the beastie erupting out of his belly . . . when would this nightmare end?
We all took the toxic chemicals, gladly if they would kill the uninvited guests. We all got our energy back, Ben started being happy again after I don’t know how long of crankiness, and Ged came home on the Friday night with a clear complexion after about a year of some strange, increasing, blotchy, spotty, red rash all over his face.
It looks like we had been hosting these little Aliens for a long time. Who knew how long?
Water is the most common source and I am now pretty neurotic about only drinking double filtered or boiled water. I hope I can and will relax my vigilance as time heals my body and the memories ease. I hope that this was an aberration, maybe caused when we have, by necessity, pumped still muddy water after a flood, or too low to the riverbed during the dry times last year. Or maybe it’s from drinking milk straight from the cow. Or maybe just from all the lovely poo we work into the veggie patch and simply not cleaning our hands carefully enough. Or maybe Ben had it first and Ged and I got it from wiping his bum and not scrubbing up enough or me cleaning the loo without rubber gloves – who knows. I don’t want to become OCD about hand washing or all Hyacinth Bouquet about Marigolds but I am becoming surgeon like! We will never know where it came from. We can only have all the water tested for E coli, not for giardia, so we will get the rain water tested and maybe the river water just to see . . .
We have some pretty vile herbs from Angela at The Horse Herbalist to make sure all the eggs are dead, and I have even been taking homeopathic arsenic so keen am I to make sure they can’t survive.
Fingers crossed it was an aberration and we will never be visited by these horrible parasites again – they are not welcome here!