When a Grad trip became a question of life or death

When it comes to high-school experiences, it doesn’t get much more stereotypical than grad trip. We had just finished our exams, and the entire Class of 2019 was headed for a week of riotous revelry on the renowned Greek party island of Ios. We were going to luxuriate on the beach by day and take the clubs by storm at night. It was going to be the best week of our lives.

And it was, for most people – just not for me.

We set off at various times the morning after the night of Prom – some people’s flights were so early they didn’t even go to bed. Not one to miss out on my beauty sleep, I joined some of my friends on a relaxed 11.00am flight to Santorini, followed by a 45-minute ferry journey to Ios and to our hotel. My group and I finally arrived at half-past ten in the evening, at which point I called it a night. The next day, as predicted, we spent the morning under the sun with my friends’ questionable music mingled with the crashing of the waves. Lunch: snacks, cocktails and gossip on the beach – total paradise. The morning melted into the afternoon, and we ushered in the evening at a hilltop bar with spectacular views of the sea and sunset.

And then suddently it was night. Which meant it was time to go clubbing… for the first time in my life. I was excited and terrified – feeling as thought I was about to be initiated into an unknown world. I loved to dance, but it had mostly been to Tchaikovsky – or Einaudi if the choreographer was feeling edgy – not to any of the popular artists of summer 2K19.

We dipped in and out of each one of the eclectic collection of clubs were lined along one quaint cobbled street; there were ones with tables to dance on, ones where you got knocked on the head after each shot and ones with too many middle-aged men. We returned at 4 a.m. Exhausted? Yes. Worth it? Totally.

Although I felt little drained on waking up, I had enjoyed last night more than I had expected. Due to a sore throat, I only managed to get out of bed at midday for a brief trip to the pool and lunch. In bed again during mid-afternoon, I started feeling rather dizzy. Then I decided I couldn’t hack another night of clubbing and went to sleep early.

At two in the morning my heart was racing, I felt feverish, and was struggling to breathe because of my throat. The hotel drove me to A&E, all the while others clamoured to be let onboard so they could be driven to the clubs and not have to wait for a taxi. The doctor who saw me – a no-nonsense lady who was having none of my “shenanigans” – initially assumed I was drunk or high. After assuring her I was not, she checked my temperature. Having taken Ibuprofen, I had no temperature, and she told me I was fine. She gave me the address of another doctor who would test me for strep throat at a more appropriate hour of the day.

The next day, I went to the new doctor  who proceeded to charge me sixty euros for peering into my throat, not giving me a proper strep test, and assuring me I was fine. The hotel staff, ever the optimists, kept telling me that the Greek sun could cure anything. Unconvinced, I spent the rest of the day in bed. Now battling the most painful sore throat ever, someone knocks on the door at 11am. It takes me a while to get it. It was a maid. I asked her to please clean my room later.

“No, no!” She yells, “You evacuate! Everyone! Fire, fire!”

And so the entire hotel left their rooms immediately and walked fifteen minutes in the midday heat to the beach. The gas leak and fire could not be fixed; so we were transferred to another hotel. We left the beach at 10pm, freezing and still in my nightwear from the morning.

Over the next few days, I had an incessant chesty cough – my roommates were annoyed and everyone was becoming a little less sympathetic. I didn’t leave my room and ate nothing. By nine in the evening I had sufficient strength to go to the pharmacy, where I was given an ineffectual homeopathic cough syrup. One morning, I go to the beach with my friends and sit down for brunch when my nose starts bleeding. I am very squeamish, so I am carried off to the bathroom where I momentarily lose consciousness on the floor, my bloody nose wiped at by a desperate friend in our clumsy rendition of the Pietà. I vaguely remember a random group of holidaymakers from another school singing to me through the delirium. I go back to the hotel, and the bleeding continues.

The time has finally come to leave. I am coughing my lungs out and my nose runs blood more than anything else. I’ve most definitely got a fever but I need to pack and cannot miss the ferry. At breakfast my father reassuringly yells over the phone that my organs are failing because I haven’t eaten. With that in mind, my friend hauls me onto the ferry and back to Santorini we go. Hardly off the bus from the port, my nose bleeds again – we find a pharmacy. They give me a special cotton to put in my nose and tell me that if I hold my left hand up it’ll stop bleeding. I get some weird looks. Finally we go to the airport – my nose bleeds again and we get to skip passport control and get straight on the plane. Icepack in hand for what promises to be a crimson-tinted take-off, I prepare for the last five hours of hell.

The flight goes above and beyond my expectations. I run out of tissues and have blood-stains all over my clothes. My friend (a true angel without whom I literally would have died) dabbed at my nose with bloodied tissues during a particularly unsettling bout of turbulence. We land, drive home, and I collapse into my mother’s arms. She calls a doctor and he says to put me on the highest dose of antibiotics we have in the house. I had 39˚C of fever, and if I’d had a thermometer, it turns out that had probably been the case all week. A few days later (about which I remember precious little) I go to the doctor. It’s pneumonia and he doesn’t even need a stethoscope to tell- you can feel the cracking just by touching my lungs. I would have died if I’d left it much longer. Antibiotics for a fortnight, physiotherapy for my lungs and absolutely nothing else for the next month.

A couple months later I met up with some friends and they asked me “how it all went”. And they were shocked, because it had generally been agreed that I had just massively overreacted. So that’s how Grad trip went. One wonderful day, my first ever night out, and then a near-death experience. But everyone else had a blast, so at least there’s that.

It’s fair to say that I don’t think I’ll be going back to Greece any time soon.