Today is my fifth day with a fever. The days and the pain have started to run together. On Saturday I woke up at 4am with a splitting headache behind my eyes and in my forehead. As the day progressed and my fever rose, my joints started to ache. I couldn’t sleep- no position offered any comfort. On Sunday chills wracked my body; every couple seconds an involuntary shiver would course through my whole body. No amount of clothes or blankets could keep me warm in the 95-degree weather. Monday was probably my worst day. The body aches felt like my limbs were being torn from my body. I lay in bed, arms wrapped around my body shuddering from the pain. Tylenol did nothing. I considered going to the hospital but when I found out the strongest painkiller they’d give me would be codeine, no thanks. I’ll stay in bed and avoid all the other sick people. Yesterday was much better. My fever only made a short appearance in the mid-afternoon. I forced myself to eat some breadfruit and crackers and after those power meals I had strength enough to host a birthday party for Aisha (by host, I mean sit in the corner and look tired and sick while my roommate and other teammates did everything). Today I woke up and my fever and headache are back. I’ve also begun experiencing some digestive issues. While I was nauseous most of the day yesterday, today my body has acted on it.
I haven’t been officially diagnosed, because what’s the point, my symptoms all point to dengue fever. And it’s the worst, y’all! They’ve had cases in Key West recently so don’t think it’s just a third world problem. I definitely recommend not getting it, as there is no cure or medication. It just has to run it terrible course until your body is rung out like an old, wet rag.
Every culture has their own particular views, wives tales and practices when it comes to sickness. Americans often make sick people chicken noodle soup. The two times that I have been bedridden here, one of teammates came over and made me chicken noodle soup. Beauty can be found each culture’s practices but sometimes, for a foreigner, the beauty can be overshadowed.
Islanders visit sick people. They visit and sit with them. For some foreigners this is very off-putting and inconvenient. But for the most part, I’ve enjoyed my visitors. Aisha has come and sat with me for hours everyday and distracted me from the pain. It has made me feel a part of my community as each day a few neighbors come to sit by my bed. They don’t say much. We usually just stare at each other or at the floor. But their presence brings me comfort.
Some neighbors have come with advice for me. It is this that I could do without. On my worst day when I couldn’t even walk to the next room, an island friend told me I needed to go for a walk outside and that would make me better. This same friend also accused me of not eating because I wanted to lose weight! I told her if I ate, I would throw up. She then told me that throwing up is healthy- it will get the microbes out of my stomach and I’ll get better. I tried explaining that my sickness wasn’t in my stomach but she wouldn’t listen. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t have the fan blowing on me because that will keep me sick. I need to avocados because then I’ll get better. I should go to the beach. I should go to the hospital. I should take this medicine and on and on.
I realize they’re trying to help. But I don’t like being told what to do under normal circumstances. I really don’t like being told what to do when I know it won’t help and in some cases would actually make me feel worse (no fan! Are you kidding me? How does that even make sense?).
If this is truly dengue, then I probably have a few more days in bed. I may or may not get an itchy rash. I’m definitely not looking forward to that. But I do look forward to my visitors despite their sometimes-misinformed advice. I also appreciate all of your prayers immensely. It has been a huge blessing to see the love on Facebook and receive your emails of encouragement. I’m sure in a couple weeks I’ll be no more worse for the wear.