Well, I was suddenly whisked away back to the suburbs of Philly a few days ago and it feels a bit like a carpet has been pulled out from under my feet. I was supposed to be in Southeast Asia for the next few months! How did I end up in Colorado this week? What is going on? Over a week ago I was on an island in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand and not doing very well. I came to find out several days later that I had dengue fever, which is a tropical mosquito-borne illness. Friends who travel, please don’t be stupid like I was and mess up your time in other countries by getting a preventable disease like I did. Learn from me and use bug spray and a mosquito net at night when you are in the tropics, especially where malaria or dengue are present. I’ve always been all too lax about the medical aspect of travel, but I definitely urge everyone to check out what shots you might need before leaving, I haven’t heard the best things about malaria and wouldn’t wish dengue on my worst enemies. I’ll chat about it more because I didn’t even know what dengue was before I left for Fiji and it is definitely not a common illness in the States.
Dengue fever is, according to WebMD,”also aptly called breakbone fever, dengue fever is a painful, debilitating mosquito-borne disease caused by any one of four closely related dengue viruses. These viruses are related to the viruses that cause West Nile infection and yellow fever. Dengue fever is transmitted by the bite of an Aedes mosquito infected with a dengue virus. The mosquito becomes infected when it bites a person with dengue virus in their blood. It can’t be spread directly from one person to another person. Symptoms include sudden high fever, severe headaches, pain behind the eyes, severe joint and muscle pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or skin rash.” AKA, dengue is pretty lame.
I was in class for the last day of my PADI IDC (Instructor Development Course) to become a scuba instructor (more to come on that) when my stomach started to churn. I was sick to my stomach, and then felt very suddenly feverish and drove home to our bungalow on my moped and went to bed. Within an hour I was so cold I was shivering in very humid Thailand afternoon weather. Later that night I understood why “breakbone fever” is another name for dengue as it felt like my bones were being crushed, everything throbbed relentlessly and my fever hit a peak of 102 F (39 C). After another day and night of a lot of discomfort, suddenly half of my face and the back of my head began to feel like it was burning and stinging constantly. It would hurt to look in certain directions or touch the right half of my face at all or lay on it. It was so strange, even my teeth and tongue and ear on the right side of my face were in pain. This was the most unnerving and unexplained symptom, and became the reason I decided to fly home. Had it not been for the face pain I believe I would still be in Thailand right now, the other symptoms of dengue were very uncomfortable but bearable enough to stay and be treated at the Thai clinics.
Travel insurance covered all medical and flight expenses returning home as well, which is very cool and convenient, and had they not been I would not have left Thailand. I have World Nomads travel insurance in case anyone was curious, which is just a branch of Nationwide insurance. It’s great to feel like someone has your back while you’re traveling, even though the claims will take forever to process and organize in the future. Of course, traveling for 30 something hours with dengue fever is not ideal either, but I had a great man by my side to help with all of it. Thank you, Christian, for all of your help and getting up countless times in the middle of the night to get electrolytes or antihistamines (we thought my face problems could be allergy related) and keeping strict track of my meds, water intake and absolutely anything else I can imagine a personal nurse would do. I don’t quite know how I could have gone through that illness alone very easily, and I’m really grateful for Christian and my mom for helping me so much and just letting me sleep as they did all the work and organized all the travel via ferry, taxi, and plane. But enough about that! I’m completely fine now, my face is okay and back to normal (although still an unexplained symptom of dengue), I’m a bit more fatigued than usual but otherwise I am back to my old self. Thank you so much to anyone who reached out to me and sent me good vibes, love, and well wishes. I am genuinely touched by all the love I am surrounded by, I’m very lucky and super grateful.
Right now I’m actually hanging out in a cafe in downtown Denver facing a bit of a conundrum. Christian is moving out here and following his dreams, and I’m deciding what I want and whether it also involves Colorado (where my brother and sister-in-law also live), Thailand, or somewhere else in the world where I can finish becoming a scuba instructor. Or, going back to Pennsylvania for a couple of months, studying my scuba books, making/saving money (something I’m running out of much more quickly than I expected) and being home for Christmas before going off somewhere else. I really don’t know quite yet, but I know I need to follow my heart no matter how hard that can be, and that now is the time in my life for me to choose my dreams and what will make me happy and successful over anything else. The rest will fall into place. I’ll let everyone know what that decision is soon, I’m really excited to finally be on a writing schedule 🙂