Tag Archives: illness

Comida Sucia

Comida Sucia

One night during our training in Bolivia I got sick. I had the runs and didn’t think much about it since it happens to everyone eventually. I drank a bit more water like we were told to do by the doctors and went to bed. The next two days were more of the same so I finally called the office to talk to the doctors about it. The rule was that if you had diarrhea for more than three days you had to go to the hospital.

So the doctors set up the hospital stay and a friend and I went. Normally I’d go alone, but this was when my Spanish left much to be desired and I really didn’t want to deal with medical issues in a language I didn’t know. I went with a girl who lived in a house near me because she studied Spanish in college and was pretty fluent.

We get there and the doctor is talking to us, my friend kind of translating. All I caught was ‘comida sucia’ – ‘dirty food.’ Well that just meant I had a case of food poisoning, nothing important. I was hooked up to an IV to replenish the fluids I had lost from all the pooping and things were running well.

About an hour later they decided they needed a stool sample from me. So they gave me a little cup to fill whenever it was time to go. Just the cup, nothing else. In America if you need to give a stool sample you normally get a small bowl that fits on the toilet seat and a spoon to scoop it into the cup. Not here.

It was finally time to hit the bathroom so I brought my IV bag and cup with me. I didn’t know how to take the IV out of my arm and I couldn’t find a nurse, so that was that. I put the IV bag on top of a cabinet in the bathroom and with so much grace an aplomb, got everything right in the cup. I was so proud of myself. No mess at all.

On the way out I saw a nurse and mentioned I had it, she told me that someone would be around to collect it soon. I headed back to the room where my friend was waiting and left the cup of poop on the table. No one came for a long time, so the two of us just sat there making poop jokes.


I’ve been worse

Eventually the doctor comes in and takes the sample and is talking to my friend. They’re going on and on and she must have told him that she was a bit sick too. He wanted to help being a doctor and all. If she’d just let him give her a shot she’d feel much better. My friend hates needles, she had to turn away when the IV was put in my arm, so she kept saying no. But eventually she caved and said yes.

So the doctor takes her out into the main area and I’m along for emotional support. While he’s getting ready, my friend and I are talking trying to get her mind off of what’s going on. She refuses to look because she’s super nervous. I snuck a few glances but saw nothing out of the ordinary.

The doctor came over and got my friend’s attention. I guess she didn’t like what she saw. The needle was a bit bigger than normal, but not outrageous. I didn’t think there was a problem with it, but I wasn’t the one in the chair. She screamed and bolted out of her chair, screaming as she sprinted to the bathroom. The next sounds I hear are her vomiting out of sheer stress. This went on for close to fifteen minutes. It was wild.

After regaining her composure she came out and hid behind me so the doctor wouldn’t talk to her. At this point the IV had been removed and the stool sample was sent away to some lab for work so there wasn’t much use in us being around anymore.

So we went out for ice cream.


Malaria in Mbale

My Uganda trip started off on the wrong foot. Before leaving Jinja I felt pretty bad and had a really rough headache, but I thought that may have just been a hangover from my going away shindig and ignored it. When I got to Mbale I was still feeling down and then assumed it was dehydration so I drank enough water to drown Holland.

In Mbale I stayed at this church run guesthouse/community center since it was the cheapest place in town. The room wasn’t bad which was a good thing since I spent almost all of my time in there. In the four days I spent in Mbale, I only got out once to go visit Sipi Falls. The rest of the time I was laid up in bed reading or sleeping. It was pretty awful. I might have eaten a total of two proper meals that whole time. I just had zero appetite. When I would stand up I got hit by waves of dizziness like when you stand too quickly, but these waves lasted for a full minute or so. I was in rough shape.

After a point I decided that the pain was far too much and broke down. I went to the local pharmacy and complained to them about having a headache that was lasting for days now. The plan was just to get some painkillers. However, the lady behind the counter was having none of that. She would only sell me some malaria medication and aspirin because she knew what was wrong with me. Since the malaria drugs were about five dollars for the whole treatment, I bought them just to shut her up so I could go back and crawl into bed. The pharmacy was a bit dark and when I stepped into the equatorial sun, my eyes went haywire. For a solid ten minutes my vision would go in and out. I would be able to see and then it was like someone was shining a big LED flashlight right at me. It probably was a psychological response. I had a feeling I might have malaria after I didn’t get better for so long, but having someone tell me just sent it to eleven. Standing around was not an option, I didn’t want a hundred well meaning strangers asking what was wrong so I braved crossing the street (a perilous proposition at any time) to get back.

It took a bit longer than it should have, but since my room was only a few hundred yards from the pharmacy I made it and immediately fell into bed. I didn’t have the strength to do much of anything else. It was afternoon so I couldn’t start the cycle of malaria medication until the next morning so I took a couple of aspirin and did nothing until falling asleep.

Waking up in the morning was a treat. For the first time in a week I didn’t feel like death. Cautiously I got out of bed and the dizziness wasn’t gone, but much reduced. I was pretty convinced I had beaten the malaria and I was over the hump. But I did pay for the medication and I don’t like wasting money. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to take it if I had beaten it, and maybe the pain was just trying to trick me by playing possum. I didn’t want to be down for another week so I started the medication according to the instructions and kept at it for the next couple of days. Whatever worked, whether it was my immune system or the drugs, I felt so much better and was able to enjoy the rest of my trip.

At least it wasn’t ebola.