Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Dengue It! Lessons from a disease.

On the first day, it started with a splitting headache and early-to-bed. So early-to-bed that it was early-to-bed-without-dinner. I should have known then that something was desperately wrong. Because -- let's be serious -- have I EVER missed a meal? I think not. Not one that I can remember.

And the second day I did not rise from bed until 1pm. I dragged myself from bed to pee. And it was not normal pee. It was, shall we say, highly concentrated. I'll save you from further description. Then it was back to bed until 4pm when I rose for a snack of yogurt, raisins, and walnuts and to remind Brynn that she needed to be at swim practice five minutes ago. That went off famously, as she was in the middle of watching 101 Dalmations and was quite sure that she wasn't going anywhere until Cruella DeVille flew off the cliff.

Day three was more of the same -- in bed all day. Not much peeing happening, and no eating either. Except this time, my husband joined me in bed for a bit. He had the same symptoms as I did. Splitting headache like someone punching your eyes out from the inside. Lower spine in tight, aching knots. Fever.

Oh, I have the flu. I gave it to you, too. Let's hope the kids don't get it.

That's what I was thinking. Sucks to be us. Two parents with the flu and nobody to watch our kids.

Oh, if it were only THAT simple. Because, no, it was no flu. That would be too easy, too...normal. And I think that, if nothing else, at this point I've made it abundantly clear here on Our Little Family's blog that we are not normal. Normal people don't pick up and move to Mexico "just for fun." Normal people don't make their own yogurt. Normal people don't eat...kale! Ahhh! Not the kale!

Sometimes being normal sounds soooo attractive. What a lovely, normal disease the flu would be. What a relief, even. But, no, the flu doesn't last nine days. The flu doesn't have the nickname "breakbone fever." The flu doesn't send your platlet count diving along with your blood pressure and leave you in the hospital. No, my friends, that is Dengue Fever. And Dengue it, we both got it.

Dengue (pronounced DEHN-gay) Fever is spread by mosquitoes (much to my children's delight as they read about Mary, Laura, Ma, and Pa Ingalls getting malaria in Little House on the Prairie). We are surrounded by mosquitoes here in Mexico. There is no escaping them -- at least not in our house where we have no air conditioning and no screens on most of our windows. Slathered in herbal non-DEET repellent made with ingredients like lemon and eucalyptus oil, we now spend our days in fear of the next bite (okay, Scott spends his days in fear and I just get annoyed by how he is over-reacting). The last thing either of us wants is to get Dengue again. And, yes, you can have it more than once. Most people we know here have had it at least twice. If only it were a one-and-done disease like the chicken pox or the measles. Dengue doesn't let you off that easily.

I finally gave in to Dengue on Friday night and let a friend hijack me and take me to the hospital where, as the nurse was attempting to get a blood pressure reading on me, I passed out and started convulsing from...you guessed it! Low blood pressure! 76/36 to be exact (she did, with much determination, finally get a reading from my nearly-dead body). Then it was determined that I had a bladder infection (remember all the trouble peeing? Apparently that happens when one has a fever and doesn't stay properly hydrated -- go figure) to go along with the lovely Dengue. And so it was that I started my first of three days in the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad public hospital. I was hooked up to an IV, given tylenol and Cipro through the IV (which did knock the bladder infection right out), and made privvy to some of the most torturous sounds humankind is capable of making.

Scott also got to spend some time in the hospital -- which was, by the way, the worst I've ever been in and remember people, I had Typhoid in Kathmandu. Luxurious by comparison. Scott was required to stay with me the first night to act as the errand-boy for the doctor. Since the hospital is not allowed to keep drugs on hand for patients (WHAT?? You ask, shocked. True, I tell you,) there must be a family member available to run across the street to the pharmacy to pick up drugs -- the kind that go into the IV. We're not talking about normal drug-store drugs here. Never mind that those two adult family members have two miniature family members depending on them who cannot realistically spend the night on a yoga mat on the floor of the hospital like Scott did. Thankfully, we have two AMAZING friends here who selflessly cared for our children while we were in the hospital all weekend long. Friends we've known for only a month. They bless us unbelievably.

So Scott (remember, he was sick, too) spent most of the night in the fetal position on the floor next to my bed while I slept in fits, shaking from the sudden air conditioning, to which my body is not accustomed. From our much needed slumber we were awoken by a man in straits much more dire than ours. We could hear him screaming and then the nurses yelling, "No te levantes. Te vas a caer! Te vas a caer!" I finally snuck a peak at him as I passed on my way to the bathroom. The man was skinny like a skeleton and missing most of one leg. And probably eighty something years old. And not coherent. I saw him several more times during my stay as I hobbled back and forth to the bathroom. The image of him clinging to his stump of a knee, the heart-rattling desperation of his screams, those are the memories of Dengue that stay with me. They haunt me.

What if I end up like him? Legless, without family, without even the dignity of clothes? That man has a legacy somewhere. A history. Someone cared about him once. Someone still might. His momma loved him and held him and dressed him. He had a first day of school. He probably got married. And he has been reduced to a one-legged, skinny, clotheless man who is screaming at the top of his lungs and getting yelled at by nurses not to get up because he'll fall over.

And so the lesson I've taken from Dengue is this: be continually thankful for how healthy I am, and for the health of my parents and my family. Thank God that three of my grandparents died with dignity and that the one who is left lives with dignity. Thank God that Dengue, as bad as it was, didn't force me to live like that poor man.

Isn't it strange that God would use an experience like Dengue Fever in a nasty public hospital in Mexico to teach me a lesson about thankfulness and dignity and love? I don't even have my thoughts in order yet but I know that the images of that man are significant ones that God is using to teach me some significant lessons, but I am still reeling after encountering those lessons in such an unexpected place.


Court said...

When I got sick in Mexico, Club Med no less, my biggest fear was going to a Mexican Hospital. I think after your story it still is one of my biggest fears. I think it is more the language barrier more than anything. Glad to hear you are at least doing a bit better. I always get a tad bit concerned when you are quiet for too long.

lucythevaliant said...


1) I'm so sorry that you were that sick! That is crazy!

2) That has been the theme of my spirit lately - that God has a purpose for everything that happens to us, and if you look carefully you can find it in even the most horrible stuff. Probably more.