Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tropical Diseases R Us

Ho ho ho and Happy New Year, err I mean Happy St. Valentine’s Day,.. no! Wait! Happy St Patrick’s Day! Whew! I might actually get this posted by then,...

We have survived another year and are in the midst of life changing events, with one kid turning 10 and the ‘baby’ turning one. I can’t believe we are old enough to have a child in double digits. I also can’t believe my ‘baby’ is no longer a baby, and she keeps reminding me at every turn. She won’t eat anything mushy; it must remind her of baby food. No one can feed her; she must do it herself. Her toys aren’t good enough any more; she wants the boys’ toys, especially if they have an ‘on’ button and require expensive software, have lots of small breakable pieces or can stain.

In January, a mother’s worst nightmare happened and the ‘baby’ contracted malaria. Before anyone freaks out, she is fine, she will be fine and she won’t have any residual problems from this infection.

The most frustrating part of this is I feel like we live in DefCon 4 already. We spray the house; we spray the kids; we keep the doors closed; we sleep under bug nets; we take anti malarial medication. What more can we do? I’ve instilled curfew, like any good dictator should. No going outside after 4pm unless mom puts you in a DEET dip. Believe me, the leaving option is in the back of my mind every day and I’ve threatened both my loving husband and the CRS director that I’m going to go off the deep end and move to Singapore.

I’ve been on Dengue Fever watch ever since the family we spent Christmas afternoon with came down with it, including all their house help. Every morning I ask about aches and pains, headaches, and I take the temperature of Drama King (Jared). Everyone has been fine. Amazing considering it is rainy season and the UN doctor here has confirmed 43 cases of Dengue Fever in the Expat community just during December.

Sabrina’s malaria happened just as I was returning from a luncheon at a friend’s house. I was on cloud nine, thinking how nice it was to connect with some other adult ladies, get out of my house, leave my kids for a couple of hours and relax. Not 30 minutes later the nanny rushes in with Sabrina telling me she is ‘panas’ – hot. Indeed, she is, and taking her temperature we find it is 103 degrees. I have a funny feeling and call the UN nurse who confirms my suspicion that we should take her in to see the doctor and have her blood tested.

Not two hours later we have a lab slip in our hands and are walking in the local hospital. I look at the sheet and see we are testing her for dengue, salmonella and malaria. My first thought stupidly is ‘Why are we testing for malaria? What a waste of time!’ (Thank goodness I’m not in the medical field, and I’ve learned to never trust most of my initial instincts, like ‘Renting movies? Who’d ever do that?’ and ‘Yes, we should buy stock in Sprint – it’s a real winner!’)

We come back an hour later; talk politely to the pasty, sweating Frenchman with multiple tubes sticking out of his hand, as he has just been unhitched from his IV in order to check his battle with Dengue.

The nurse comes out waving a paper and smiling. “Positive for malaria!” she says cheerfully as she hands it to me.

I always have the same response when something traumatic happens; I see white noise in my mind. Everything goes blank and I can’t think.

We sit for an hour in the UN doctor’s office as he doses Sabrina for what Rob calls the ‘shock and awe’ malaria treatment. No kiddy doses here in Banda, so he needs to figure out the proper amount of terribly toxic chemicals to kill the parasite that is invading my baby’s body. I am unbelievably not polite. In fact I’m downright bitchy as I take one look at the pills and written directions and then look sternly at Rob announcing, “You deal with this. I don’t trust that he has the doses right.” And stomp out of the room. It’s embarrassing how feral you become when your concern is your baby.

Remarkably, after three days, she is absolutely fine, as her second blood test confirmed.

The next weekend Kyle wakes me up at two in the morning complaining of a headache. I sigh and feel his head. HOT. I know already what the blood test will confirm in the morning; dengue fever. Three days later, Jared falls to the nasty little virus that has no cure. You just wait it out, drink lots of liquids and monitor fevers.

What some of my more nontraditional, less pampered friends call the ‘Banda Flue,’ I call a horrible tropical illness carried by nasty little mosquitoes. My friend’s son has also come down with it. We plot via SMS and the Internet to move our broods to Medan where they spray frequently, we have access to better medical facilities and can at least wait out this awful mosquito season. Our family goes so far as to visit Medan for a weekend, look at houses and tour the town. Each time I see the UN doctor he looks at me disgustedly and asks when we are moving to Medan.

Defcon 4 seems to be working again, since I had the Mentor Program NGO come back out and fog the yard, go through a bottle of bug spray a night and constantly bug spray the kids. We’ve had a nice R&R, we have another scheduled in 6 weeks and then the kids and I get to land back in civilization for a couple of months. I can handle this. Really.

1 comment:

mom2threepks said...

Hi Karen. I'm a friend of Teri L. in Yucaipa and have been reading your blog off and on for the past year. So sorry about your bout with tropical diseases. That sounds just terrible. Makes you wish for just a little DDT. I like Baby Bald Eagles and all, but after reading what you've been through I'll take my chances! Glad you all are feeling better. Happy Spring!