Dengue part Deux and the Community in a Panic!
Trip Start Sep 05, 2005
48Trip End Nov 07, 2007
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So since getting back from the United states, I had made all sorts of plans to continue my work with a positive note. I had started preparations to start an English class (since people have been bugging me since I arrived in Pimentel to start one) and I had also started working with a group of very motivated youth who wanted me to help out with a March for Peace they were organizing. My Estrillitas were also going strong, ready to start more community service projects. Things were looking busy, and I was glad.
The week of September 15 was the week of the Patron Saints festivities or Patronales of Pimentel. This basically meant lots of fun, live bands, and a lot of alcohol and boozing. Of course, all within the peramaters of honoring the patron saint. I was excited to have a visitor, Jill, a Peace Corps trainee visiting me to see what I did in my site, and boy, I was going to make it worthwhile. I couldn't beleive that just a year ago I had gone to visit my volunteer, Laura, in Barahona and wondered what it would be like a year from then, and now here we were. I made all sorts of plans. I involved her in our Peace March, which was a big success. We made sure to enjoy the festivities with Neal, and took a trip to the river with some of my youth for a day of fun in the sun.
Things were going great and we had made plans to go visit another volunteer, Juan, in his sight, where a beautiful white-sand beach lay tranquilly awaiting us. The night before we were to embark, I started to feel a bit feverish with some body aches and pains. The next day, I could not get out of my bed and had a 105 degree fever. I was going to "tough it out" and stay home while everyone else enjoyed the beach. When the fever wouldn't go down with ibuprofen, I figured a call to the PC medical officer, Lisette, was in order. She told me to come into the capital right away(something I always dread since by the time I get to the capital I always feel better and tests are run, only to find nothing and have wasted a few days there). I went back with Jill the next day and checked myself into the clinic. The next thing I knew I was hooked up to an IV and getting sonograms, blood tests, x-rays and everything else you could think of. They found that indeed, I had Dengue fever. Again. Only this time it was the severe kind...Hemorrhagic Dengue. They call it this for several reasons, so no, I was not bleeding out of my ears or anything like that, though they told me that without medical supervision, it may have been likely. I failed to understand why most people I know have lived here their whole lives and not once ever suffered from Dengue, but I was lucky enough to get it twice in less than a year. I like to think that since I am not stuck in the middle of Africa in a hut like the "real" peace corps volunteers, I should have to suffer more diseases to earn my badge of courage.
I stayed positive despite the pain and nausea and enjoyed being in my private air-conditioned room with cable TV and hot shower, a slew of appreciated volunteer visitors and food at the snap of a finger, but after several days, I E! entertainment television just wasn't fulfilling my needs and I wanted nothing more than to get out of there. The doctors told me after the fourth day that I could leave the hospital the next day and I was jumping for joy....until the next day I woke up with a fever again and feeling horrible. They found out that while Dengue had left me, a nasty lung infeccion had moved in and taken up residence. There would be no escape for me, unfortunately. Another day in the hospital passed and I was allowed to leave, but I would have to stay with an Embassy family for four days to get more rest until the following tuesday when I would have to get more tests and x-rays. This however, was not what I wanted to hear. I had things to do that had already been postponed a week and I would have to postpone them another week in Pimentel! But also, our big Camp Glow, a camp to empower girls (i would be taking four girls) was to be held the next weekend and I had to get them informed and their permission slips signed. This of course was MUCH more important than being healthy..didn't they understand?!!!
The Doctors said I could go back to Pimentel, ONLY if I promised to take it easy and not go anywhere or leave my house and have someone bring me meals and get plenty of rest. I agreed, though I knew that being back in Pimentel would not be restful, because of the hundreds of people that would be coming to visit me once they had heard I had been hospitalized. But I figured I would do my best.
I got back to Pimentel on a Saturday (almost a week later) and told everyone what I had, and that I needed my rest. I went to Los Limones with the Padre to give the girls their permission slips and went right back home to rest. I arranged with Anna to bring me meals so I wouldn't have to leave the house. I was feeling weak and a bit short of breath because of the lung infeccion, but other than that I was doing great...no fever, no body aches, no cause for alarm. All was great. But then, I realize that I am in an entirely different country.
The next day, Anna came knocking on the door telling me to get up. She brought me my first meal of the day and asked me how I was feeling. I told her I was a bit tired, but felt pretty good. I mentioned how hot it was (due to the fact that there was no electricity and therefor my fan wasn't on, AND the fact that we live in the tropics). She told me not to take a cold shower (the belief is here that if you are hot and take a cold shower, drink cold water, anything that would give you comfort if you were hot, you will surely die a sudden death). I nodded, humoring her, as she left the door and I sat down to eat the breakfast she brought me.
One hour later. Neighbors from a block away appeared at my door. Then more neighbors. Then my old host mother. Then more people. Oh, here we go, I thought. The next thing I know, they are telling me how terribly sick I look and that I should go to the capital right away and go back to the hospital. I told them to calm down, that I was fine, just a little tired, but they wouldn't let up. All of a sudden, Anna runs to me with Juan Carlos behind and they tell me that Lisette, the PC medical officer has called them and told them that I need to come into the capital right away and check myself back into the clinic IMMEDIATELY! Incidentally, my phone was broken and would not charge, so it seemed very likely that Lisette would call Anna, being that she was my emergency contact. I became very scared thinking the worst...they found out I had lung cancer, or for the most part, the Dengue was actually some sort of flesh-eating bacteria and I had only moments to live. I started getting dressed and packing a bag, a million things running through my mind.
At that moment, Neal had decided to come for a walk with Keisi (who was staying with him while I was sick) and was going to stop by and say "hi" when he saw 20 people gathered around my house. "Neal!" one neighbor guy yelled to him. "Come quick! Lisa is very sick!" Of course, Neal didn't know what to think either. When he came in and saw me darting around to pack a bag, instead of lying on the floor with gunshot wounds, he became suspicious. At that moment, Lisette called him on his phone and asked to talk to me.
"Lisa," she said "are you feeling ok?"
"Yes," I replied, waiting for her to tell me my diagnosis of death. "I feel a little tired, that's all. But what's going on? Why did you call Anna?"
"What are you talking about, Lisa?" Lisette replied a bit confused. "I didn't call them, they called ME. Anna said she went to visit you and that you were unable to get out of bed and barely breathing."
At that moment I was ready to strangle someone. Of course, I could see how being a little sweaty and saying I was tired could easily have been mistrewn as practially in a coma and not breathing, by Dominican standards anyway. Lisette told me that I could stay in Pimentel if I wanted to, to which I replied "Are you crazy? And stay here with these lunatics?! Forget it!"
At that moment, the Red Cross ambulence arrived at my house, full with volunteers dressed in their white polo shirts, ready to speed me to the Capital. I was horrified at the sight of them and all the unnecessary chaos told everyone to go away and that I could take a bus to the capital before the helicoptor arrived to medivac me.
My counterpart, Neyhira, convinced everyone that she and her husband could take me, and that I was in-fact, going to make it afterall, not to panic. Glad to have her as my P.R. person, I finished packing and went with them to the capital, as finally my hectic day..no, WEEK would finally be graced with peace. Of course that was not going to happen.
Along the way, the car made some noises. After breaking down 8 TIMES on the way to Santo Domingo, it was determined that there was something wrong with the gas pump. PC had agreed to reimberse me for the gas, so when I asked them how much it was going to cost, Neyhira told me "Well, round trip, about 1500 pesos, but given that it was leaking a lot of gas, 2500". I gave her the 2500 pesos (thinking about how a bus would have cost me 135 and I also would have arrived three hours earlier).
After everything, I arrived safely in the Peace Corps office with a fun yet irksome tale to tell all the volunteers. Thus ends a hectic two weeks and I will be away from my site for 3 lovely days. But soemthing tells me that it's far from over.
All in all, I try to look at the positive side...the next time I am graced with a cold or paper cut, it will be good to know that prompt emergency care will be there in an instant!
Ok, so for those of you who felt sorry for me and compelled by my last post, I have brand spakin' new carepackage wish list!
Peat moss pellets by Jiffy (ask someone at home depot)
Body wash and gel
Dog treats and toys
Nalgene water bottle (go to camping part of sporting goods store)
Liquid hand soap
educational stuff (molding clay, craft kits, finger paint, anything)
storybooks in spanish
used and new sports equipment!
seeds (vegetables and fruits, but flowers are ok too)