Friday, September 18, 2009

Dengue Fever

Dengue Fever

The reason I have not updated my blog in about two weeks is because I may have had the Dengue Fever. I became violently ill on Wednesday September 2nd. I had a massive headache at night but thought it was because I drank a Coca Cola that day and had not had much caffeine since arriving in country. (The coke is made with real sugar here in Belize and is muy delicioso!). So I took two Advil and went to bed. I woke up the next morning shivering at about 5 am. By the time I managed to get out of bed, I was super hot with a fever. I told my host mom that I was not feeling well and I thought I had a fever. She said that everyone in the family had been sick over the past month with a fever- sometimes lasting 3 days, sometimes lasting 7 days. Great. She also said that her husband, Benjamin (host dad) just started to feel poorly as well and had the fever. I decided to not go to school that day and stayed at home to see if I could rest it off. I spent the entire morning alternating between fever and chills. My body ached with muscle and joint pain. At one point, my teeth hurt so badly that I cried in pain for an hour. It was the strangest sensation. By this time, I had notified a fellow PCT, Christen, that I was not feeling well and she had relayed the message on up Peace Corps. By lunchtime, the home stay coordinator had driven out to check on me. She contacted the Peace Corps Medical Officer, Nurse Jackie. She left, but I only continued to get worse. My APCD, Jay, was coming out for a site visit and was told to check on me in the afternoon. By then, I was feeling terrible and felt as though I might pass out from exhaustion, inability to eat, and headache and muscle pain. Nurse Jackie said to bring me in to Belmopan. So I packed a quick bag and hopped in the jeep with Jay. The 1.5 hour car ride was so horrible. I was desperately thirsty and sick to my stomach on top of the previously listed aliments. By the time I reached Jackie, I was not looking good. Her assistant, Kent, drove me downtown Belmopan to have blood drawn to make sure I didn’t have Malaria or Dengue. The clinic is a small building in an alleyway right in the heart of the market place downtown. It was kind of sketchy but was clean and sanitary nonetheless. I had blood drawn and the results were to be ready in the morning. Kent drove me back to the Garden City Hotel and checked me in. Jackie gave me some liquid Nyquil so I could sleep. I crawled into bed at 6 pm and slept until 6 am. I awoke, feeling a bit better than the previous day as the chills had stopped. It was Friday, and everyone was due at the office for core training. I packed up my bags and walked the 15 minute walk to the PC HQ. After arriving, I began to feel sickly again. Nurse Jackie said my blood work did not show Malaria or Dengue, but that Dengue can sometimes not show up right away. I spent the day resting on a couch, sitting in the back of training, and visiting with the Doctor. Every Friday, Dr. Craige comes to the Peace Corps office and sets up shop so everyone can filter in with their various alignments of the week. He is always super busy but is a very nice guy and very thorough. I had a terrible headache all day and was given 1000 mgs of Naproxen, yet the headache persisted. I spent Friday night at the hotel again as I did not feel well enough to make it back to San Antonio. On Saturday, I felt better and was driven back to my site. I still had hardly eaten anything for 3 days and was feeling weak and tired. I spent the weekend resting in bed. The muscle pain and fever was gone, but I still had no appetite and thus was very weak. I did manage to make it on the field trip to the Iguana Sanctuary on Sunday, but felt as though I was going to pass out the entire morning. As soon as I got home, I collapsed into bed and stayed there most of the day and night. My host family was good about taking care of me, aside from the time my host mom served me a plate of cauliflower and a boiled egg for dinner while I was sick. I don’t know if she thought that would make me feel better or what.. but no way. Then the itching began. I spent Monday night wide awake in bed aggressively itching the palms of my hands and my feet. It was unlike any rash or itch I have ever experienced. I took Nyquil, and two Benadryl, but still could not sleep. I lathered my hands in cortisone itch cream, but still I had to itch. It was so incredibly uncomfortable and annoying that I spent most of that night pissed in bed with tears of frustration. The itching on my palms stopped, but continued on my wrist and my feet for the next few days. I was starting to feel a little bit better and able to eat more during the week. On Friday, I went back in to Belmopan feeling 90 % better. I saw Dr. Craige again to show him the strange rash. As soon as he saw it, he said to me in his Belizean accent “ AHHHH, I think you had the Dengue.” How do you contract Dengue?? It is transferred by mosquitoes. A mosquito has to have bitten someone with Dengue and then must have bitten me to infect me. There is nothing you can do about it but treat the flu like symptoms. If you get it a second time, it can be lethal. Kent took me back downtown Belmopan to have more blood drawn to send it to the states to check for Dengue again. So this is where it stands now. I am awaiting the results of my blood tests in the states to confirm that I had the Dengue. I am now feeling 100% better and am back to normal after spending over a week in bed and missing out on some training.


This past weekend was also super exciting as we all got to travel to spend it with a current Peace Corps Volunteer. Some people went way up north to Corozol district, while others went way down south to Toledo. I went down south to a small village called Blue Creek where a PCV, Heather works for a school called Tumul K’in. A group of 8 of us were dropped off at the Belmopan bus station on Friday at 4 in order to catch a bus down to Punta Gorda Town. PG is on the coast in southern Belize. It is a 5 hour bus ride and we didn’t arrive until past 9 pm. The bus was hot and long. We all stayed in a hotel in PG town on Friday night before dispersing to visit current volunteers in Toledo district the next morning. We all woke up and had breakfast at a little restaurant run by an expat. In fact, the entire seaside, chill town was filled with expats- Brits, Americans, Canadians and Germans. We saw a ton of Gringos all over the town. It was strange but PG has a great feel. It is know for moving at a much slower pace than the incredibly slow pace of the rest of Belize. Thus, it is a true sleepy seaside town. Taylor, a fellow PCT, Heather, the PCV we were visiting, and I caught the noon bus out of PG to Blue Creek. It was about an hour ride on a dirt road with a bus filled with Mayan people. They were all really traditional Mayan people wearing bright colored dresses, and most of them were not wearing any shoes. Blue Creek is a village of about 250 people. Most people live in thatched roof houses with limited electricity and no running water. There is, however, a large river that runs through the town and is its namesake. We spent the afternoon hiking through the jungle that surrounds the river to visit some caves. We had to wade through the river and climb along the side of it to reach a view of the caves. The water was too high so we could not go swimming in the caves but it was a great trek in the jungle. Heather lives in a cement house with running water and electricity on the edge of town. She lives on the Tumul K’in campus. It is a boarding school for high school aged kids. On Sunday, we woke up at 5 am to head towards Rio Blanco waterfalls. We paid a villager with a pickup truck to drive us 30 mins down a dirt road to catch the bus. We arrived at the falls at about 8 am to have the entire park to ourselves. It was like a scene out of the movie, The Beach. The jungle surrounds these beautiful waterfalls. We explored, hiked, waded and swam. Another PCV, Patrick and PCT, Kevin met us there. They walked 4 miles from his town to get there. We spent the entire morning swimming and jumping off the falls alone in this natural wonder. It was an experience that people can only ever imagine. Shortly before noon, we decided to head out. There was no bus for us to catch so we were going to try to Hitch our way back to Blue Creek. The boys headed off on their 4 mile walk back to Patrick’s Village and we started walking. It was hot, we were tired and thirsty. Once reaching the first village, we asked around of there was someone that could “charter” us back to Blue Creek. Chartering is when you pay someone with a pickup truck to drive you somewhere. I suppose like a taxi, but they are not exactly advertised. Most people with a pickup truck will drive you anywhere for a price. Considering we were hot and tired, we paid someone to charter us back to Blue Creek. Riding in the back of the pick up truck was another one of those only in the movies experiences. The road is rough, so you are bouncing around in the bed of the pickup truck. But the sun was shining high and there was a perfect cooling breeze. Heather, Taylor and I spent the rest of the day resting in the hammock. We made amazing guacamole and fried chicken for dinner at Heathers. The Avocados are so amazing here. They are so flavorful and unlike any avocado I have had before. In Kriol, they call them Pears. We woke up at 4:30 am on Monday to catch the market bus at 5 am to reach the junction to pick up the express, air-conditioned, James line bus back to Belmopan. It was a quick ride with the air conditioning and we were all back in Belmopan by 10 am. It was an awesome weekend and I am so glad that I felt well enough to go and didn’t have to stay in Belmopan for the weekend. The Dengue itch has subsided and life is good. We all stayed the night in the hotel in Belmopan Monday night because we had Spanish class all day Tuesday at the PC Office. On the bus home to San Antonio on Tuesday, I couldn’t stop smiling. I had an amazing weekend and was really excited to be heading back to San Antonio. I actually missed my little room and my host family. Since I have been back, feeling better, they have been so great. I have had super meals, no more cauliflower and boiled egg whites. Tonight I had homemade Tomato soup and flour tortillas. It was one of the best meals I have had since arriving in country. It was literally mashed up and boiled tomatoes with onion, lime, and pepper. So yummy. And I told my host mom that in the states I eat oatmeal everyday, so now she will make me oats for breakfast. Which is far better than the mornings I was served Raman noodles with the 6 year old children. My host mom said that I only have 18 days left here in San Antonio. I was surprised to know that she had checked on that and seemed sad to find it out. I am really feeling comfortable and happy in my house on a hill in San Antonio. And after seeing the families in Blue Creek, I am content in knowing that my family actually has a lot going for them in San Antonio. I have made great strides in integrating into my host family and am deeply saddened at the thought of leaving them in 2 weeks.

Netti Pot

My host dad has discovered my Netti Pot. They have watched me rinse my sinuses a few times and are super intrigued by the thought, just as I was when Bruce first introduced me to Netti pot in Seattle. My host dad kept asking me why I did it. I told him about my sinus problems and that it helps me to breath through my nose. He said that he too had problems breathing through his nose. I told him he should try my nettipot. And try he did. He was choking and coughing and the whole family was watching him and laughing. This was before I left for the weekend to PG. I then asked him when I returned if he had been netti potting and he said yes! That it had helped him !!!

SO I think I will give him my netti pot and have someone mail me a new one... hint hint...

peace and love!

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