Life lessons learned from LifeStraw

When a typical SPU student gets an intestinal infection, it probably happened while studying abroad or on a SPRINT mission trip. Not me, though. I was lucky enough to contract one because I drank from a toilet on Christmas morning.

Disclaimer No. 1: I know I am an idiot.

Disclaimer No. 2: Please read the rest of the story before you peg me as a dog because it will be quite entertaining, possibly revulsive, and it has a good intention. I promise.

Over the last year or so, I’ve been drawn to LifeStraws — an awesome invention that serves as a personal water filter.

Essentially, this straw allows you to drink from any water source, regardless of how contaminated it is. It has won an array of international awards, including the “Best Invention of 2005” by Time Magazine. Whether it is a convenience for adventurers in the backcountry or a resource during a disaster crisis, I thought LifeStraws were sweet, and I was always telling people this could be a key to solving water distribution worldwide.

I had a goal of buying some for people who needed access to clean water, but I wanted to try it out first. So you could imagine I was pretty stoked when I received one for Christmas.

After opening the box, I tossed aside the instructions and went straight for the straw. I had seen countless videos and photos of people using them, so I knew all I had to do was find some water. I swiftly made my way to the nearest watering hole — the bathroom down the hall. Like many plungers in the past, down into the freshly-flushed toilet I went. My puzzled family looked on in disbelief to see a 21-year-old college student drinking toilet water through a straw. After a few massive slurps and swigs, I proclaimed, “It tastes just like normal water!”

Fast forward 10 days and I am back in my bed in Seattle. I wake up with a painful stomachache, like a-family-of-angry-hornets-nose-diving-into-my-belly-button pain. Within a couple of hours, I sat in front of a toilet once again. This time around, however, no straw was needed. I began puking. It was black. And liquid. I was puking BLACK LIQUID.

Initially I thought it was a rotten tater tot from the greasy basket I had the night before. As the aches, chills and diarrhea persisted, though, I knew it was much more than a measly tater tot.

I ended up having to leave a wedding early (sorry, Kaitlyn!) to go to the doctor. The doctor was confused that I hadn’t traveled recently because I had contracted an intestinal infection that is usually only picked up in developing countries. I had driven from Idaho the previous day, and, contrary to popular belief, it actually isn’t a Third World country.

The doctor concluded it must have been an unlucky and random occurrence, so he gave me some antibiotics. It wasn’t until afterward that my brother-in-law brought up the LifeStraw, which I quickly dismissed. I hadn’t touched it for 10 days, and besides, those things are super effective!

As conversations progressed, though, his claim was starting to become more realistic. Because of the bacteria’s incubation period, it didn’t affect me immediately. But how come the straw, which claims to filter 99.99 percent of bacteria, didn’t even work on the first try?

Finally, I gave in and faced my worst nightmare — I Googled the instructions from the manual I tossed aside that fateful holiday morning. Sure enough, there was an entire list of steps that needed to occur before it was used. They were simple steps… I just didn’t follow them. I may as well have been drinking toilet water from a bendy straw.

Disgusting, right?

So the moral of the story is to follow instructions — a lesson I should have learned years ago when I used a pen on a Scantron. Even in the haste of excitement, be sure to read the directions (especially when it clearly says “read manual before use”).

Furthermore, this story’s purpose is to highlight the awesomeness of LifeStraws. For only $20, people can drink up to 1,000 liters of purified water. It currently provides 4.5 million Kenyans  access to clean water. Through humanitarian efforts, these devices have been distributed in response to natural disasters since 2005. Twenty bucks can go extremely far.

See, it’s not like I was going number-two then decided to turn around and quench my thirst.

There was an actual reason behind it, even though it was carried out ineffectively. If you’d like to make a big impact in an inexpensive way, invest in a LifeStraw for someone who needs one. Hopefully the instructions will be followed.


Sports Editor Danny Ciaccio is a junior journalism major. 

This article was posted in the section Opinion.
Danny Ciaccio

Sports Editor Danny Ciaccio is a junior journalism major. He has been sports editor for The Falcon since March 2012. Danny is also a PR assistant for Sounders FC and the marketing intern for ROOT SPORTS. He plans on finishing school in March 2015 and is a projected first round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft.

One thought on “Life lessons learned from LifeStraw

  1. Thank you for this. It is a challenge to find Life Straw gone bad stories because of how effective it is when used a directed. I did read the directions and forgot to prime it, drank from a stream in the backwoods, and got Giardia. Didn’t have symptoms initially because of the 1-2 week incubation period. I agree that Life Straw is great if used as the directions say. Our fault is not in vain; we can teach others to read the directions and folow them.:-/

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