Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Getting Sick Abroad

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Getting sick is never a fun experience. Getting sick away from home makes it even worse. Getting sick in a foreign country? Well that down right sucks. On the Friday night of my second to last week at African Dawn I started vomiting. During the course of the night it turned into a full outright stomach flu- the kind where your not sure which end to put on the toilet because everything in your stomach just wants to be expelled as quickly as it can through whichever route it can find. By midday on Saturday I had nothing left in my body and was left dry heaving. By Saturday night I had a high fever and was in such pain I could hardly move and had a complete aversion to all light. On Sunday my fever had subsided, but the horrible stomach cramps and spasms set in. On Monday I went to the doctor where I was told my veins were starting to collapse and my blood pressure was dangerously low. I was immediately put on an IV with medicine to stop the spasms and control the pain, but my body was so weak it responded badly and my pulse and blood pressure dropped further. I then spent about an hour receiving fluids to rehydrate my body and then I could finish the medicine. I was then ordered on strict bed rest for the next week and told to drink lots of fluids and eat nothing but try toast and plain eggs.

Up until my doctor visit I had been staying at the sanctuary in my little hut, but after that experience I decided to check into a hotel. Everything that I mentioned above was dreadful to go through and would have been horrible had I been home or abroad. However experiencing all of that while staying at the sanctuary was downright insanity. First of all my shack was across a field from the bathroom so the first few days and nights when I was running to the bathroom every 15 minutes or so I would have to run across a field that was the entrance to the game park and many times as I ran I scattered antelope and zebra grazing outside my room. The day I got sick the owner had moved a group of evil goats down by my shack as they had been terrorizing an emu in the cage next to them. They had broken through her cage and were causing havoc so he moved them into a fenced off enclosure directly behind my shack. Unfortunately these wily goats broke through that fence and I spent a good part of Saturday morning running between my shack and the bathroom being chased by evil goats. To make it worse there were gigantic spiders in the bathroom and at one point I was faced with the decision of braving a goat or a spider…I chose the goat. I’m not sure what the crazy goats were after, but they chased me all the way back to my hut and then banged against my door to be let in. The owner of the sanctuary eventually came down and wrangled them up and fixed the fence, but the back of my shack was still bordering their enclosure and they spent the next few days standing right at the back of my shack bleating away noisily and ramming the back wall, which in case you were wondering is right where my head was while I was sleeping.

On top of my goat experience I was also dealing with a pretty uncomfortable mattress, which is no big deal if your only in it 5 or 6 hours a day to sleep, but when you are bed ridden 24/7 it becomes so painful that I didn’t even realize the full extent of my stomach pain because my back pain was so bad. I was also shivering for most of the day and night because it was freezing out and the shacks have no heat or insulation, and while I had a sleeping bag I was still freezing. Also the fact that it poured rain two nights and I had to run back and forth getting drenched in it probably didn’t help. It was also difficult because no one at the sanctuary seemed to be taking my illness seriously since people get bouts of stomach upsets there all the time and it usually just passes, so for most of the first day I just lay in bed in pain with no one checking up on me convinced that my appendix was going to explode and they would just find me dead that evening when they decided to check up on me. Luckily the second day I was checked in on a few more times, but I still had to get of bed to get my own water and during the entire experience of 3 days in bed was only given a grand total of 4 pieces of dry toast and one coke. Suffice it to say that this combined with the living conditions did not provide an environment conducive to healing and I hightailed it out of there and into a hotel.

I spent the rest of the week bed ridden at the hotel, going back to the doctor and a hospital for many more tests in an attempt to figure out what was wrong with me. Eventually the doctors decided it was just a very bad case of gastro-enteritis (the stomach flu) and I just needed more rest and relaxation. After I left the sanctuary and checked into the hotel the coordinator from the program I am with emailed me because the sanctuary had let her know I had moved accommodations and left the sanctuary. Yes that’s right- they didn’t tell her I had nearly died or was bed bound with horrible stomach cramps, but that I had simply moved to a hotel. I emailed her back explaining the whole saga and she responded by calling me and asking if I was sure I wasn’t just homesick because “these things can manifest themselves in all sorts of ways.” I calmly explained to her that no I wasn’t homesick, I was sick sick and I was taking care of myself just fine. The moral of this story and the reason I am sharing it with you is while you are traveling it is really important that you take care of yourself. It doesn’t matter if you are traveling on your own or with friends or family or a company who is supposedly supposed to take care of you. You know your body, you know what is going on, and you are responsible for taking care of it. When you know something is wrong you should listen to yourself and not what everyone else has to say, because in a foreign country following your instinct may save your life.

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