In Sickness And In Health
We experienced three challenging but fruitful years in South Sudan, including a full spectrum of highs and lows. From housing issues, civil war, and language learning to new children, salvations, and churches planted. They were great years, but we gained every inch through pain and struggle.
The final days in South Sudan were the most stressful. We were leaving, possibly for good, but nothing seemed to be lining up correctly. Our flights were canceled twice, we didn’t have a place to stay, The war was ramping up, and we needed to find some way to get our families out of the country. So when the 13 seat Cessna Caravan finally reached our tiny airstrip, we were overjoyed.
The outbound plane was completely full. Our two families, including five children, the pilot and one poor Sudanese lady who had no idea the experience she was about to live through.
I squeezed my 8-month pregnant self into the tiny seat towards the back of the plane and tried to fasten my seatbelt. The four-hour flight was usually bearable, but not having a bathroom (or privacy) was a more considerable challenge in my current pregnant condition.
Unbeknownst to me, I had recently acquired a giardiasis parasite that was secretly wreaking havoc on my intestines. Those microscopic hellions would make themselves known soon enough. But we were so desperate to get out of South Sudan that I just put the mild stomach discomfort in the back of my mind.
That was not a wise strategy because when tragedy struck, no one was prepared for it.
It all happened so quickly. One minute I was chatting with coworkers. The next minute I was facing an in-air disaster that made us all wish we had been swallowed by the Bermuda Triangle.
10 minutes into the flight, I started feeling some mild cramps. I ignored it.
After enduring another 10 minutes, all hell broke loose. I had a gastrointestinal experience like nothing I’ve ever imagined. I had full-body cramps for the first time in my life. I was sweating like a nervous teenager on a first date, and nausea and chills were rolling over me like the tide. I’ve had food poisoning from bad shellfish, and that was like a skip in the park compared to the civil war raging inside of me.
It became clear at that moment that everyone on that plane was in serious trouble. I whispered to myself, “I don’t think this is gonna pass.” I told my husband that I was in trouble and I really needed to poop; I could not hold it. He assured me that I was fine and it was no big deal. It will pass. “You can hold it.” He said.
He didn’t believe my desperate cries for help. The funny thing is that just minutes after trying to convince me that I could hold it, it was, in fact, him that was HOLDING IT. Let me explain.
30 minutes into a four-hour flight, I finally convinced my husband that whether he liked it or not, I was about to bake a batch of vegan brownies! We needed a plan.
He spoke to our boss, who was seated just inches from us. As the men were taking their sweet time concocting an elaborate plan to help me avoid embarrassment and humiliation, I spotted a plastic cookie jar full of individually wrapped cookies. I took charge and told my husband to empty it, NOW!
At that point, nothing mattered except expelling this ungodly presence from my bowels.
I tried to get to the back of the plane, but our suitcases were blocking my way. Plus, I was afraid if I moved my body in the wrong way, I might blow the entirety of my intestines out of my body!!
The only place available was a ten-inch aisle between the seats in the last row OF A FULL PLANE. I couldn’t hold the cookie jar myself, so my husband rolled up his sleeves and took his position directly behind me. As he prepared to catch the devil’s coffee that was brewing in my colon. I pulled down my skirt and panties, and I wedged my naked butt between the seats.
My butt hovered unsteadily over the empty cookie jar, with a tiny 3-inch hole in the top. My aim would have to be precise. The plane bobbed and weaved through the sky. What happened next was like something out of Dante’s Inferno!!! My butt became an upside-down volcano!!
My husband tried in vain to catch the high-pressure streams of fire erupting from my colon. The very first rancid crap grenade that landed in the bucket informed the closest passengers that we had a stowaway on this plane. The giardia intestinal parasite had hitched a ride out of South Sudan in my intestinal tract. And the foul stench that it inflicted upon the passengers was revolting.
My poor husband tried his best to catch the vile liquid in the rocking plane, but there was no way he could contain the violent and unpredictable explosions.
The sounds were loud and unmistakable even over the drone of the engine. People started turning around to see what was happening. I could see their faces filled with horror after gazing upon my situation.
There were grown men, mothers, and children looking at me. I could feel their questions and comments. “What have you done?” “We still have 3 hours left.” “Dear God, Please divert this plane!”
Then came the gagging. My brave husband was doing the best that he could, but every time he turned his head to gag, the bucket’s position would shift, and the proverbial basketball would bounce off the rim.
As the smell wafted up to the forward seats, the wave of gags continued. People covered their noses with their shirts. The pilot was the bravest of them all. He had an oxygen mask within arm’s reach, but he never used it out of pity for me. He suffered with the rest of the passengers.
I thought the floodwaters would never stop. There was stuff coming out of me that I ate at my wedding in 2007.
When my ordeal had eventually run its course, I was left panting for breath and wobbly-legged, half-crying, half-laughing with relief, barely lucid, and feeling as if I had birthed an elephant.
Through sobs of relief, I heard the sound of dripping. When I turned to look, it looked like a crime scene. I had managed to fill the cookie bucket half full. But at the same time, it was apparent that it was also half empty because remnants of my poop soup were everywhere, the seats, the floor, and even my husband. We sealed up the jar and used a whole packet of baby wipes to clean up the mess. Then we settled in for the remaining 3 hours of the flight.
Our boss leaned over to my husband and said, “After that, Hell holds no surprises for me anymore.”
I was the first person off the flight after we landed. I carried the cookie jar to the toilet. There was no trash can to be found, so I stuck it behind the toilet.
Surprisingly, I handled it well. After all we had been through together over the last 3 years, I was above embarrassment. We had endured so much as a team; there was something cathartic about this final experience. I think We all needed that poop.