Moving Madness – Nothing says welcome to the country like food poisoning

Moving Madness is an ongoing series that features the craziest moments our writers and readers have experienced during a move. Have an anecdote that you want to share? We want to hear it! Contact us at

In 2011, my family of three had to relocate from rural Tennessee to Alberta, Canada for my husband’s job. We bought heavy-duty snow boots and braced for a severe climate change. But no amount of shopping could prepare us for what Canada had in store for our family in the first 24 hours.

It took several days to get from to the Canadian border with two grownups and a one-year-old crammed inside our packed SUV.

Border cars

By the time we reached the border, my husband and I were filled with excitement, anticipation and serious hunger pangs. Unfortunately northern Montana isn’t exactly a culinary cornucopia. So once our paperwork got the green light from the Canadian border agents, we were back on the road and in search of a quick bite to eat. It was snowing and we wanted to reach Calgary before the roads turned treacherous.

We pulled up to a Subway in Lethbridge, Alberta thinking that we were making a wise decision – fast, fresh and familiar. Wrong. After scarfing a couple subs, we were on the road to our new home.

Once we arrived, we quickly checked it out and then ventured out for a quick trip to the store for some essentials. The movers were scheduled to arrive with our belongings in the morning so we wanted to be set for the day ahead.

My husband was in the checkout lane when I started to feel nauseated. I went to the bathroom and tried to calm myself but my mind was racing. What are we doing here? Will people expect me to speak French? Am I sick or am I having an anxiety attack?

Addy Canadian flag

On the way home, I practiced deep breathing and tried not to overthink things. Yeah right.

Before long we were back at home and my head was hanging over my new toilet. Thank you, landlords, for making sure it was clean. Too bad it didn’t stay that way for long.

Meanwhile, my husband was pacing the house with our daughter, Addison, and eating a healthy dinner of Oreos. He kept trying to convince me that I was fine, but the raw flesh at the back of my throat begged to differ.

By late evening I was feeling weak and there was no sign that my symptoms were improving. So we Googled “hospitals in Calgary.” In case you’re wondering, that is never a good way to start your life in a new country.

We were debating whether or not to head to the hospital when my husband, Tom, suddenly tossed his cookies… literally… remember the Oreos? Ew.

No more signs needed, universe. We got the hint. Go to the hospital.

With two puking parents, our daughter was doomed. We couldn’t find her coat and couldn’t waste any more time. We tossed a light jacket on Addison and went tearing off to the hospital.

When we arrived, reality hit. This was NOT an American hospital. Panic was setting in again. Am I exposing my baby to people who are contagious? Why didn’t we look around more for her coat? Or at least shoes? Will our American insurance cover this? Where is the bathroom – I need to puke again!

When it was my turn to register at the Emergency Room, I did my best not to upchuck on the hospital worker. The woman at the desk told me that we would have to pay all fees upfront and submit it to our American insurance company later to see if we would be reimbursed. Gulp. With no other option in sight, I signed all the necessary paperwork.

Like a typic3 of us hospitalal proud man, my husband was convinced that his vomiting (now more frequent than mine) was a fluke and unrelated to my illness. I begged him to admit himself and eventually he couldn’t deny the obvious any longer. He was sick.

The nurses started our charts and then wheeled in the manna from heaven – IV fluids. That little rolling cart of salvation nearly brought tears to my eyes.

The doctor confirmed our suspicions – we had food poisoning. We were just grateful that our picky daughter wouldn’t eat at Subway and managed to avoid it.

We kept trying in vain to care for our kid but in our weakened states and with tubes hanging from our arms, it was no use. The kind-hearted nurses took turns passing Addison around the hospital and entertaining her.

By 4:30 a.m. we got the all clear to leave but not before settling our bill. The doctor felt so badly about having to charge us that he gave us a “two for the price of one” discount on his physician’s fee. The final bill was around $2,000. Ugh, can I go throw up again?

Just two days later we got our Alberta health cards and paid next to nothing for medical expenses during the rest of our two-year stay in Canada.

Once we were all paid up, we woke Addy to take her to the car. The nurses took pity on us one last time and brought warm blankets to tuck around our baby. We asked if the blankets were just to keep her warm while we walked to the car. “Oh no, you can take those home. They’re just property of the hospital. No worries,” the nurse told us.

So off we went on our merry, hydrated way. Back to our empty house for almost two hours of sleep before the movers arrived to unload all of our belongings. That day, when our daughter took her nap in her pack-and-play, I took a long nap on the floor of my new closet.

Sometimes life is just about survival.

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