Journal, Travel

Day Eight: Dengue

February 5, 2015

*Note: due to the fact that I was hospitalized, sick, and without internet for the majority of days 9-16, these posts are being published after-the-fact.

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Sometimes plans change. Sometimes you’re not prepared no matter how prepared you are. Sometimes you get bitten by the one mosquito out of ten thousand that is carrying Dengue Fever and end up having to be on bed rest for three days and in the hospital for two.

It started out with a rash on my knee that both Kelly and Emily were worried about and Danu and I both ignored. The rash spread across most of my body after a full day in the sun at the beach, and after a little research on the web we determined it was most likely prickly heat rash and that my Minnesota-bred body wasn’t thrilled about the heat. It wasn’t irritating or anything, so I ignored it.

A couple days later after a two hour ride on a packed bus to have lunch with some friend’s of Danu’s I began having a fever and pretty harsh headaches, which we chalked up to heat exhaustion. However, when things didn’t improve after a night’s sleep in an air conditioned room and plenty of fluids, Kelly insisted that we go to a doctor. Thus began my short tour of Sri Lanka’s medical system.

First we went to a government hospital since it was the closest. We stood in line for 15 minutes and then were directed to stand in line at the door to the OPD office. Lines are treated much like traffic here. First come doesn’t necessarily mean first serve; it’s the person who is the most aggresive in asserting themselves that gets the right of way. Eventually we pushed through and sat down at a small square table in the small square room for about a minute while the doctor asked several questions, checked my pulse, said that she thought I might have viral fever, and motioned for us to leave, handing us an illegible prescription. It ended up being for 5 different drugs, all thoroughly non-descript and generic. The total cost, 500 rupees (about $4)

We left the government hospital feeling none too confident about the diagnosis and the drugs, so later that evening we drove to one of the private hospitals in Galle city and were able to see one of their doctors after only a 10 minute wait. The contrast was drastic. We spent about 15 minutes talking, he checked me over, and said that I most likely had viral fever but that we should do a blood test to make sure it wasn’t Dengue. He prescribed two drugs, one for the for the fever and one for the headaches. Total cost, 3200 rupees ($25).

Turns out it’s a very good thing that the blood tests were done. The results came back Dengue positive.

Dengue’s no fun and can have potentially deadly¬†complications if you’re unlucky enough to get one of the worse strains like Dengue Hemmorhagic Fever, nick-named breakbone fever due to the intense muscle and joint pain accompanying the fever. A couple patients I read online talked about feeling like their legs were broken. Apparently the nick-name is serious.

Thankfully the more serious forms of Dengue are fairly rare, and even they are only rarely fatal. So far all I’ve had is some splitting headaches, dizziness, and overwhelming tiredness that’s made me sleep probably 16 hours a day for the last couple days. No fun when you’re supposed to be out enjoying the beaches and local markets.

Tomorrow we’ll go back to the hospital to get a doctor’s advice on what to do. Hopefully I’ll be healed soon enough that we can continue on with our trip around the island.

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