The Worst Christmas Gift Ever

I got the worst Christmas gift ever this Christmas – stomach virus. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one. Babies to great-grandmothers and all in-between have been hit with the bug in our family that packs quite a punch.

We gathered at mother-in-law Jo Ann Denley's for our annual Christmas Eve gathering with the full family in attendance. We were warned upon arrival that great-nephew Jackson Hillhouse might be suffering with a stomach virus and niece Abby Rea was suffering as well.
After opening a couple of marvelous gifts – Southern Miss related – I had to offer a hug of thanks to Abby.
"You know Abby has a stomach virus?" Lisa warned.
"I know and I don't care," I responded.
I've never had a stomach virus in my life, that I can recall. I suffer from sinus related illnesses a couple times a year, that are incapacitating enough for me. But that's it.
Christmas day Lisa and I headed out to Clinton to celebrate with the McNeec-es. We exchanged gifts with my parents, Larry and Lana McNeece, brother Jeff and wife Melanie, and their children Chad and Maddie.
From there it was off to Bolton to my grandfather G.L. McNeece's home for another Christmas gathering. We returned home to Bruce late that night to receive reports of more family members going down with the virus, including nephew Colby Hillhouse and his wife Amanda, brother-in-law Lanny Hillhouse, mother-in-law Jo Ann Denley, daughter-in-law Whitney Bailey and even granddaughter Addi Claire Bailey.
I didn't sleep great that night, waking several times dripping in sweat. I didn't think much of it because with the blankets Lisa keeps on the bed in the winter I'm often hot. Kicking one foot out from under the covers is a key temperature-control method I routinely practice.
Saturday morning I went to the car wash to take advantage of a car-washing kit my mother gave me. I was half-way through when like a sucker-punch in the gut, I had an urge that couldn't be stopped. I doubled over and up came breakfast. (I would be more hesitant to share such details, but I recall numerous columns by my late father-in-law S. Gale Denley where he gave more detail of his conditions than I could ever imagine.)
Obviously frightened by the wretched sound, a man came running around the brick wall from the neighboring car wash stall to ask if I was alright. I assured him I would live as I loaded my Jeep back up and made a bee-line for the house. A similar episode in the flower bed beside our drive-way preempted my making it inside.
I called Lisa, who was gone investigating some after-Christmas sales, to alert her I was the latest victim. By the time she arrived home that night I was curled up on the bathroom floor conducting last rites.
I ended up in the emergency room at Calhoun City later that night getting a shot from Nurse Angela Long. That's about the limit to my memory before returning home and crashing.
I awakened Sunday not feeling great, but realizing I would live. I didn't know you could feel that sick. I always heard about the stomach virus and just thought "tough it out." Needless to say I gained a new respect for the virus.
Dehydration was apparently a leading contributor to my extended discomfort. I don't understand, however, how you're supposed to put liquids in when they keep coming out just as fast, in greater volume. I've heard of women going on 48-hour liquid diets to lose weight fast. I felt like that's what I was on, only all my liquids were going out and in a very violent fashion.
I have survived and hopefully the rest of the family is coming out of it. Reports are it is widespread around the county. My sincere condolences to all who suffer its wrath.
And next year, if there's any trace of stomach virus in the air, Abby's not getting a hug no matter what she gives me for Christmas.
You may email Joel McNeece at

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