Last Thursday evening we met up with some friends. We enjoyed a few drinks, snacks and watched the sun setting over the ocean. As we were getting up to leave, I suddenly felt like I had been hit by a truck. But there was no truck in sight. Every muscle and joint in my body hurt. It was like someone turned on a pain switch. I had gone from 35 to 90 years old in a matter of minutes. I could hardly walk, my head was pounding and I was heating up.
By the time we got home, I achingly crawled into bed and Cassie took my temperature. It was 103F. I tried to sleep, but my brain pain wouldn’t let me.
The next day we had a full day planned. Drop off a friend at the airport and then head off with some other friends to Gilligan’s Island. I barely managed to get to the airport. When I tried to lift our friend’s luggage out of the truck, my arms felt like they were going to fall off. We went straight home and didn’t leave the house again until Monday when I couldn’t take it any more. I had been without sleep for nearly 72 hours by that point and my fever hadn’t gone away. I would be chilled to the point of vigorous shaking and then so hot I was laying in front of a box fan and sweating profusely. I had lost all appetite.
Cassie stayed with me most of the time and we watched movies and she read while I attempted to sleep. Pretty much everything stopped while my body continued to burn up.
The lack of sleep was really what drove me to finally go to the emergency room. Which isn’t really an emergency room. It’s more like a non-emergency room because we sat in the waiting room for nearly 4 hours before any medical staff saw us. Cassie had to go to the plaza panaderia to get some food while we camped out there. I tried to rest my head against the wall in the room full of sick and suffering others.
Finally someone called my name and we were so excited! I talked with someone who did a brief evaluation -asked my symptoms and then sent us back out to the waiting room for another 30 minutes. When I was finally admitted to the back room, we talked to a doctor who after hearing the symptoms threw up her arms and matter-of-factly said “Let’s do this!”" while walking out the door. And we were like, “Do what?”
Don’t let the expression on my face fool you, I actually WAS very grumpy
We soon found out that “this” was to run all the tests, hook me up to an IV and shoot me in the butt with a muscle relaxer. After about 3 bags of saline, pain killers and antibiotics I started to feel somewhat better.
The blood tests came back negative for influenza but showed indicators of a viral infection, most likely chikungunya or dengue (damn mosquitoes!) but to find out that, the tests were sent off to the CDC office in Mayaguez and I haven’t yet heard the results. The blood tests also showed indicators of a bacterial infection and very low blood platelets. ~70 when it should have been between 140-469.
We had arrived at the emergency room around 10am that morning and at about 7pm we were finally on our way home. I thought I was feeling much better, but when I arrived home, I had a violent attack of the shivers and my fever spiked back up though I felt like I was freezing. A strange feeling in the tropics.
Before the doctor discharged me, she gave me orders to fill a Rx and to come back the next day to check the platelet count. So we did. The platelets came back even lower at ~59, but they wouldn’t let me talk to a doctor about the results without being re-admitted, so we left. I felt somewhat better and didn’t want to wait another 4 hours.
We started reading online about low blood platelet numbers and found that it is very common in people suffering from dengue. And is something to be concerned about.
We randomly found a number of articles mentioning papaya leaf juice extract as a “cure” or at least as a therapy for the low blood platelets. So we went to our backyard and picked a few leaves, mashed them with the mortar and pestle and I took a couple of very bitter shots of papaya leaf juice. I would be curious to see my blood platelet levels now, but I doubt I will go in again. I do feel so much better, though not quite 100% yet.
We have been here nearly a year and had yet to visit a doctor. Then in just the last two weeks, both Cassie and I did. She had a mysterious rash spreading all over her body (the doctor said was probably from Kitty) and then I got this. So we both had the opportunity to try out the medical system in Puerto Rico. In Cassie’s case, she was seen right away and in mine, not so much. In both cases, the cost without insurance was very reasonable. Right around $100 for an emergency room visit including all the tests, fluids, drugs, pokes and prods. I would say that the care was good, once you got in, but I would not recommend this if you had a trauma injury. We are still not sure where we would go in a case like that…probably Mayaguez?
We are both recovering and I think we will just add this to our list of crazy adventures in Puerto Rico.