Monday, March 5, 2012

Dengue Fever

Are you ready for a really long post about my horrible experience with Dengue Fever? Dengue Fever is also known as "Breakbone Fever", because as I so intelligently explained to my sister, your bones hurt so bad that your leg could break off and you wouldn't even know it. So obviously I'm not the greatest at explaining the disease, so I'll tell you my understanding, and you can read more here, if you want a more scientific explanation.

Dengue Fever is caused when you're bit by the certain mosquito that can carry the Dengue virus. 7-10 days later you begin to show symptoms. Usually it begins with a sudden high fever and body aches. Both of these worsen as the disease takes its course, and are followed by headaches, nausea, and eye aches. The Dengue virus attacks your white blood cells and your platelets, throughout the course of the disease your platelets continually drop, your blood thins, and your liver begins to work overtime. It can take a month or two for your liver function to return to normal, and it can take a month for you to get your energy back to normal after the Dengue virus is gone from your body.

So here is the story of what happened to me when I got Dengue.

Day 1:
 I looked like this:
I started out the day totally fine. I was in my provincial town for a spelling bee (more on that later) and we decided to stay the night to hang out with some friends. That afternoon my hips started aching, but I didn't think anything of it as that happens from time to time. That night my whole body started aching. I took some medicine, I was fine. Fast forward to the middle of the night with the worst body aches I've ever felt and a high fever followed by body chills when the fan was placed in front of me. More medicine, finally fell asleep

Day 2: (platelets 230,000)
My friends finally talked me into calling the PCMO (Peace Corps Medical Officer). She told me to go to my provincial hospital and get my blood drawn. Hal went back to site and packed our bags for Phnom Penh. My friend went to the hospital with me. There were 10 medical staff just staring at me while I had my blood drawn and my friend distracted me by telling me a story about Giraffes (Thanks Garrett!).  There were 12 medical personnel standing around us while we waited for the results. He said my platelets were in the normal range and didn't think I had dengue. By the time we made it back to our friend's house my fever was at 102 and I felt awful. Medical officer told me to come to Phnom Penh in the morning to be tested. My friends tried to test to see if I had malaria. I had my finger poked by the most awful poker ever 5 times, and I couldn't produce enough blood for the test. That night was rough, real rough. I felt like my body was being ripped apart. I just remembering saying to Hal over and over "I can't do this anymore." I remember telling my friend, "as much as I don't want to have Dengue, I hope this is Dengue, because I can't imagine having Dengue and feeling even worse than this."

Day 3:
We just missed the 7am bus to Phnom Penh. Boo. I cried in the bus station over the next 2 hours until the next bus came. The Khmer people gave me very strange looks and kept asking if I was OK. I got on the bus. Not our bus, I got off the bus. We were assigned new seas and we got on the bus. Some people showed up and we had to get off the bus. Hal was mad and was practically yelling at them in Khmer. Next bus, got on and was able to stay on. I ate 2 crackers as the bus left at 9 am. That's all I ate due to nausea. 8 hours later we made it to the PC office. Blood drawn. 5 minutes later was confirmed I had Dengue. I kept hiccuping and the PCMO ran into the room thinking I was going to throw up. Nope, I just hiccup, a lot. Lots of Tylenol. PCMO bought me real tiger balm for my aching back, since every medicine she had was also a blood thinner, which you can't take when you have dengue. Hal rubbed it on my back and I had the best nights sleep of all my dengue experience.

Day 4: (Platelets 100,000)
Still in Phnom Penh. I ate 2 bites of papaya before nausea overtook me. PCMO came to the hotel to draw my blood. They came back to the hotel to give me an IV and tell me my platelets were dropping too fast and they had to send me to Bangkok. I cried. I cried about everything that day. Because of the IV I had to use the bathroom, but I was so nauseous. Every time I used the bathroom I vomited. It was horrible. I had eaten nothing all day, but was still vomiting. This was by far the worst day of my dengue experience.

 They came at 4pm to take us to the airport. Hal was my escort. I couldn't walk. I couldn't sit up straight in the wheelchair. Hal was amazing. He took care of everything. He was so nervous we were never going to get through security because I couldn't sit up. We had no problems getting through the airport. We were so blessed. I thought I was going to die when they wouldn't let me lean my seat back until take off.
We made it though! They were really nice on the Thai side and I was able to be miserable and huddle over in a wheelchair the whole way. There was a man pushing it the whole time who knew where we needed to go, which saved us so much time. He got us into a taxi and we were off to the hospital. Bumrungrad hospital is amazing. It felt like America being there. I went to the ER, got my IV and went to the nicest hospital room I've ever been in.

Day 5: (Platelets 82,000)
This is where the days begin to blend together for me. Every few hours I was interrupted for blood pressure and temperature check. They finally put me on anti-nausea medicine. Hallelujah. I ate my first bites of food.

Day 6: (Platelets 76,000)
I ate for the first time in days. I had a few bites of mashed potatoes. I got excited to eat and ate a bit too much. I had a really rough night with my stomach and didn't sleep much.

Day 7: (Platelets 63,000)
I threw up in the wee hours of the morning. Rough night indeed. They finally got the medication right, and my stomach finally settled down, but I didn't eat anything this day either. Hal was supposed to go back to Cambodia this day, as we had a training meeting, but I was only getting worse and my platelet level was getting dangerous so they let him stay. They gave me mouth wash, I was no longer allowed to brush my teeth or do anything that might lead to bleeding. This is when the itching started, just a slight itching in my hands and feet.

Day 8: (Platelets 53,000)
I was so glad that Hal stayed with me. I was so nervous that I was never going to get better at this point. I could still barely walk. Hal still had to help me to the bathroom every single time. I couldn't shower alone either. Thank goodness for that little chair in the shower. He had to help me with everything at this point, I was very unstable. The itching increased and I was constantly scratching at my hands, feet, and legs.

Day 9: (Platelets 75,000)
Platelets went up. YAY!! I was so excited that my platelets finally came back up that I celebrated by washing my hair for the first time in over a week. I still couldn't sit up straight at this point, so seriously Hal and that shower chair were life savers. I could slowly feel my strength coming back. The itching was really bad this day. I tried not to scratch, but it was driving me nuts.

Day 10: (Platelets 112,000)
I walked to the bathroom for the first time by myself this day. Pretty exciting stuff. My IV came out. I had that IV in for over a week and my hand was hurting and swollen (if you see my hand in the light you can see it is still like one big bruise) I could hold down food and water pretty well at this point. Hal had to go back to Cambodia, which made me really sad. I kept waking up that night expecting him to be asleep on the couch. The itching finally stopped, but because my blood was so thin while I was scratching my legs started to look really gross, the blood had come to the surface of the skin and my legs were splotchy red for days.

Day 11:
I was finally discharged from the hospital this day. I was so emotional this day. I couldn't handle anything without being on the brink of tears. Checking out was real rough for me. They moved me to a hotel across the street from the hospital. It was more of a tiny apartment. When the man led me in, and then left I just bawled. I felt like they were never going to let me leave. I didn't want to be alone. The hotel didn't have wifi, but from my bed, with my hospital internet code I was able to get a tiny bit of internet. Hal told me how to make it to the 7/11 around the corner. Just walking to the 7/11 and back I was exhausted. They weren't lying when they said it takes a while to get your energy back. I spent a really lonely night there, and thanks for Harry Potter 7.1 on the TV I was able to sleep.

Day 12:
I hatched a scheme to try and get home to Cambodia. It didn't work. They wouldn't let me go back. Good thing the movies on the 2 English channels were ones I hadn't seen. The PCMO of medvacs (medically evacuated volunteers) told me there were 2 other medvacs in the hotel. I went to dinner with a volunteer from Mongolia. It was nice to have some company after a lonely day.

Day 13: (Platelets 300,000 finally back in the normal range)
I had my check up with the Dr. at the hospital. I was weighed for the first time, holy cow I had lost 10 pounds. The Dr. cleared me to go back home. I wanted to go back so badly, but PC had to write a report and they thought there wasn't enough time for them to write it and me to make it to the flight. Boo. I met the other medvac from Ukraine, and went to dinner with her and two COSing (close of service) volunteers from Thailand. She was super nice and showed me how to use the sky train.

Day 14:
I went to the PC office in Thailand to pick up my medical record with the medvac from Ukraine. We met another COSing volunteer there. We went to the biggest most fancy mall I've ever been in. I got subway and dunkin doughnuts. Holy cow, we don't have anything like this mall in Cambodia. Good thing, or I don't think PCVs would have any money. I took the sky train to the airport and finally made it back to Cambodia. It was hard not to dance in my seat on the plane when we landed. I was exhausted by the time I made it to the hotel.

Day 15:
I had a check up with the PCMO. I was cleared to go back to site! She and everyone told me I looked so much better, but I just felt exhausted.

So there is an overly long explanation of my experience with Dengue Fever. My case was definitely not the normal. Most volunteers aren't medically evacuated to Thailand, I just had a rather bad case of it. I was seriously so blessed through this whole time to be surrounded by people who were so helpful, and so willing to help me. Hal was superman, and took such good care of me while I was delirious. The staff at the hospital and the PC staff in Thailand were so helpful and took really good care of me while I felt like I was dying.


Krysten @ Why Girls Are Weird said...

Oh my gosh that is HORRIBLE. Remind me never to get that ;-)

Jillian said...

holy cow Sam! I'm so glad you're okay! Sounds pretty scary and horrible. i'm sure Hal is super happy your okay too! ^_^ Don't get sick anymore.

chloƩ said...

that is so scary! i am so sorry you had to go through that sam! i am so glad you had Hal to take care of you though and that you are doing better!

Kell said...

Holy cow.. scary! I'm pretty sure I would have been a huge baby through it all. I'm so glad you're better!!

Maddie said...

OH my gosh, this sounds TERRIBLE Sam!! I'm so glad you are feeling better! This reminded me of being at college in St. George, I had several terrible infections within two weeks time (throat infection, ear infection then kidney infection), the worst of which was the kidney infection, and I just kept getting sicker and sicker and the antibiotics they gave me did NOTHING. So, after a full week of fever/chills/aches/dehydration, etc., I checked myself into the emergency room and just bawled. I felt so defeated and like I was just never going to get better. Thank goodness, they found an antibiotic that would work for me, and after a few hours on the IV and the antibiotic, I started to feel much better. I know this is NOTHING compared to what you went through, so I feel so much sympathy for you! I'm glad to hear you're doing better! :)

Torrie said...


Although my experience was nothing compared to yours, I know a tiny bit of what you went through. So glad to know that our Father in Heaven was watching over you, and that all is well now. We'll still keep praying for you :)

Crazy Shenanigans-JMO said...

What a horrible thing to have to go through and without anyone being with you for a few days. That's so great that they let Hal stay with you for the majority!! I'm so glad to hear you are doing better!

kate said...

oh man girl! so glad that you did make it back here- we missed your smiling face! this is the craziest experience ever and i hope it ends up being the worst you ever have to go through. :)

Selma @ Crazy Little World Of Mine said...

I read it on my phone when you posted it, but never got to glad you are back, and so glad things worked out as they did.
I was always thinking of you and praying things would work out. YES. So glad. :)

And I think that you literally put this whole story into a blog post is awesome. It'll be soooo good to go back and read it later on!


tokyoman said...

I hope you are feeling better now dear. I got denque at the start of October and its now October 27 and I still feeling very tired and unwell.
On my blood test my ALT came back at 125 for my liver and I think that it is the main reason for my symptoms. Now you mentioned that it took a month or too for your liver function to improve. Can I ask if you had high ALT levels and how long it took for them to return to normal? I am wondering if what I am experiencing is common with other denque patients. Thanks in advance and God bless you both.

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