“Ugh” I thought one morning a couple weeks ago as I swung my feet to the floor. Everything just kind of hurts. Not too surprising really, it happens. I live in the jungle, it’s been unbearably hot for the last few weeks and, I had to admit to myself, I’m just getting older. But that day I struggled to keep up with the dogs on our morning walk, my steps slowing considerably, and by the time I had done the rest of my morning routine and taken a shower the pain had started to intensify and I wasn’t feeling so swift overall. A quick check of my temperature showed it at around 100 F. Not high, but enough to realize I was a bit ill. I groaned and collapsed into bed. How on earth, I asked Jason, did I get the flu or a cold? We barely see anyone around here and no one else I knew was sick. He was the first one to say the words “Dengue Fever.” I paused for a moment then laughed it off. By the end of that day, however, I had cried at least twice.
Look, this is not the post I wanted to write. I’m completely serious when I say I had started to write a post about ways we have fun here in Xcalak. AWOL Americans is not supposed to be a blog about all my injuries and illnesses procured while in Mexico. No one wants to keep reading about another trip to the doctor’s office or about those weeks spent laying around in bed. But Dengue Fever happens in the tropics and it happened to me, I got Dengue Fever in Mexico, and so here we are.
I have an irrational hatred of Phil Collins. I hate his music, his voice and just everything about him overall. I don’t know why, it makes zero sense (like I said, irrational) but I hear a song of his come on the radio and it’s like nails on a chalkboard to me. I tell you this because Dengue Fever is bad, so, so bad, that I would not wish it on good ol’ Phil nor would I wish it on my worst enemy. I truly cannot think of anyone I loathe or dislike enough to wish what I just went through also happened to them. Dengue Fever is really that bad.
As that first day progressed my temperature kept increasing. Every hour it rose another degree going up to 101 then 102 and then finally landing at 103. I was huddled under a thick blanket shivering with the chills and the pain in my body kept spreading and increasing in intensity. My feet hurt, my hands hurt, my hips hurt, my back hurt, my eyes hurt, but most of all my head hurt. Oh how my head hurt. And then I threw up and that is the first time that day I cried. I cried because there wasn’t a single part of my body that didn’t hurt. I cried because every position in bed I tried to lie in was so extremely painful. I cried because I couldn’t stop shivering and that made everything hurt more. I cried because I couldn’t focus on anything because my eyes hurt so bad. I cried because I was so physically depleted and exhausted that it felt like I had weights tied to each of my extremities and getting up to go to the bathroom required a herculean effort. I cried because we were in the middle of nowhere, at least an hour away from a true medical clinic, and the Tylenol and cold compresses were doing little to ease the pain or my temperature.
That first night was a blur of pain and alternating between chills and sweat and feverish hallucinations. I didn’t think it could get worse until I realized the next day that I needed to get in the car for the trip to the doctor. The doctor at the clinic in Mahahual which is an hour away down some very bumpy roads. That, my friends, well that trip was another low point with more tears shed.
For those who are unaware, Dengue Fever is a virus spread by mosquitos. There are four different kinds of Dengue, including Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever which can cause bleeding from the eyes and be deadly. There is no vaccine to prevent Dengue Fever and there is no cure, meaning you can only treat the symptoms and ride out the illness. After the doctor in Mahahual was able to determine I did not have the bad kind of dengue (truly, I sympathize with those who have it worse, I really, really, really can’t imagine what that feels like) he wrote out my prescription with directions to Jason to try and make me as comfortable as possible. My prescription?
And so back to bed I went where I have been for the last two weeks and where many more tears of pain and frustration have been shed. I developed a rash on weird parts of my body, my skin became super sensitive and itchy and the bottoms of my feet peeled off. But after a week my fever finally broke, my appetite started to return and I was able to sit up for a few minutes at a time.
I am a pretty independent, and stubborn, person who hates having to ask for help. After having to lean on Jason and other people while I healed from my conch shell injury it was humbling and debilitating having to depend on him all over again. Thankfully, while Jason was taking care of me (and everything else around here) our community of friends here in Xcalak were helping to take care of both of us. They brought food for him and hydrating fluids for me and kept him company so he didn’t go absolutely stir crazy. It’s great to know that even way out here in the boonies we’ve got wonderful people we can count on!
It’s still amazing to me how swiftly and completely Dengue took me out. Within just a few hours it had decimated me so badly that I am still recovering two weeks later. It is by far, the most debilitating, exhausting and painful illness I have ever experienced. I am still constantly tired and get frequent headaches and there are days that I feel really sorry for myself and think I will never again feel ‘normal.’ Then Jason reminds me of where I was a couple weeks ago and I realize that while I’m not improving at the speed I would want, I am indeed improving. My recovery just needs to be measured in really tiny increments, like the fact that I haven’t cried in pain for at least a week and that I was able to sit up long enough to get this post written. And I sincerely hope to remember at some point what I used to do for fun here in Xcalak before this recent string of ughness and if I do? Well I promise you all are the first people I’ll share it with. For now though, it’s back to bed.