Welcome to the Club

Here’s a hint: if you wake up shivering, and you’re in Nicaragua, you’re probably sick.

Here’s another hint: if you wake up shivering, you’re in Nicaragua, and it’s the rainy season, you probably have Dengue.

And it sucks.

After a glitzy-glam weekend of Cocktail parties, plush hotel beds, burgers and shakes from Terry’s Diner, visiting the host family, and staying up most of the night in Estelí , going to sleep with a headache didn’t phase me so much. It’s a common side effect of living life in the fast lane.  Especially when you live life in the fast lane without seat-belts and drive, you know, fast. Maybe a door’s unlocked too, in this scenario.  I just don’t know.  It was a fun weekend.

But when I woke up Monday morning, wrapped in Nicaragua’s softest microfiber blanket, shivering my toukhes off, I should have known then.  When I asked Claire if she was cold too, and she looked at me, and said, “No,” that should have been another hint. And finally, when I couldn’t look at the computer screen for more than a couple minutes, even though it was free WiFi with a decent connection, that should of had me running down the streets screaming,”I AM ILL! CALL THE CHOPPER! TAKE ME IN! I DON’T BELONG HEEEERE!” But instead, I packed up my stuff, took a cab, waited at the bus station, tolerated the screeeeeeeching of a man who abused his power as sole whistle-blower, tucked my head into my knees, perked up briefly as they yelled “MATAGALPA!”, hopped on the bus, sweated profusely, slept a little, dehydrated a lot, arrived two hours later, took a cab to the other bus station, stood in the sun, found a spot to sit down, tucked my head back into my knees, perked up briefly as they yelled “LA DALIA!”, boxed people out, hopped on the bus, sat down, sweated profusely, slept a little, dehydrated a lot, arrived two hours later, almost missed my exit because there were too-many-effing-people-in-my-way, walked back to my house, let out a sigh (or was it a whimper?), and fell on my bed.  It was about then that I knew that something was a little off.

This was Monday.  So I called the Peace Corps doctor (PCMO) who told me to go to the hospital immediately and take all sorts of blood tests.  So I took a deep breath and I went. But of course, once I arrived, they told me that the pharmacy was closed.  So I did what any reasonable adult would do in this situation: regressed back to fetal position in bed until the next day.

Tuesday is a blur of going to the hospital, handing over my blood and urine, hiding off in the shade somewhere, and having coworkers either avoiding me or offering up their sympathy for my bad luck.  Then I called Peace Corps.  The conversation went a little something like this:

Me: (cough, cough) I’m sick and dying.
PCMO: But how do you really feel?
Me: My fever’s 103 and rising.
PCMO: We realize your blood levels are low, but let’s just see if they get worse while you stay in site and waste away in bed.  Make sure you get poked and prodded again in two days. Sound good?
Me: But…Peace Corps…can’t I come to Managua?
PCMO: So adorable of you to think we’d do that. We only accept people with real problems, like your sitemate Sam who stubbed his toe.*

*True story.

Once I made my way back home, my neighbors, whom I adore, saw me outside.

“LORENAAAA! LORENAAAA!” Angelica yelled.
“I…have dengue,” I choked out.  (It was only suspected at this point)
“We’ll be over in 5 minutes.”
I can only assume they didn’t hear me properly.

And so they came.  There was an awkward 10 minutes of me trying to sit up in the hammock with Maria and Angelica sitting across from me as it slowly dawned on them that they’ve come to a sick person’s house.  Then they slowly backed away.

Wednesday I packed up my stuff and went to Matagalpa, courtesy of my parents.  I just couldn’t lay there anymore.  It was hot. I was hot.  It was a big hot situation and all I needed was a hotel room, a big fan, perhaps, and an indoor shower.  So I spent Wednesday belly down in bed in Matagalpa.

Thursday went much the same as Wednesday (belly down in bed) though I had to go to the lab again to get poked and prodded.  This time, white blood cell and platelets were even lower.  Here’s the conversation I had with the PCMO:

12:00pm: Results Received.
Me: Oh hello, could I please speak with the medical office?
Peace Corps: They’re at lunch right now. Call back at 1:00pm
Me: Oh hello, could I please speak with the medical office?
Peace Corps: They’re in a meeting. I’ll make sure they get this message.
Me: Oh hello, could I please speak with the medical office?
Peace Corps: Of course, hold please.
PCMO: Hello?
Me: Hi, this is Lauren, I have my results….blah blah blah….[results]….blah blah blah
PCMO: My that’s shocking. I have to go [click.]
Me: uhh…hello?
PCMO: Here’s what you’re going to do: Stay the night in Matagalpa. Get poked and prodded again tomorrow. If it’s worse, maybe, just maybe, you’ll have proven yourself worthy of coming into Managua.
Me: OK, but I’ve heard this one before…

Friday.  The day I felt like shit covered in more shit. The day I got blood drawn for the third time in four days.  The day my platelets and white blood cell count dropped so low that Managua finally relented and let me into their VIP medical facilities and their air conditioned hotel.  But first I had to bus it from Matagalpa to Managua while feeling simultaneously hungry, feverish, and nauseous; which, if anyone has tried it, will attest that this is no easy, nor pleasant, feat.

So after a couple unpleasant hours spent mouth-breathing out the bus window, I strolled into the office. Donald passed by and made a joke like, what, do you have Dengue now too? (My sitemate had just had Dengue). I said yes.  He laughed.  Then he saw I was serious (I think it was when he saw how disheveled and sweaty I looked) and he said good luck and walked away. Another good interaction with Donald. (Donald’s awesome).

Finally, I saw the PCMO.  It was like seeing Oz for the amount of procedure and boundaries they put in between the doctors and me. In person they’re actually quite pleasant and attentive people.  After a brief physical exam, he sent me on my way to the hotel where I passed out after eating a toasted bagel with cream cheese.

Saturday made it official: after another poke-and-prod session, it became undoubtedly clear that I have Dengue fever: ta dahhhhhhh

When I told the PCMO over the phone she said, “Welcome to the club.”  I do feel as though this is an accomplishment, so thank you, and please, hold your applause.

What they don’t tell you is that just when you think it’s over, when the fever starts to go down and you start having a positive outlook on life again, the fever gets one more laugh. It gets its final laugh in the form of a giant, body-engulfing, red, itchy…rash.

It’s even on the palms of my hands.

So, in conclusion, the moral of my ill-fated story is: Mosquitoes make me slightly uncomfortable.  Next rainy season, let’s murder ’em dead, La Dalia.

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1 Response to Welcome to the Club

  1. Megan says:

    I’m sorry you got Dengue, but glad you’re feeling better. Hilarious comment about Sam by the way hahaha


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