Dengue—It’s a Killer
It could be because you study at UESC and this place is a cesspool of gossip, because you saw my horrific rash pictures on Facebook, or because you heard my agonizing cries for help and more medicine all the way from Brazil, but I’m sure you already know. Everyone I know—and even people I don’t (like the people who work at the post office…)—know that I had dengue.
Dengue fever, cleverly named the breakbone 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. Don’t worry Mom, I just got my yellow fever shot.
It 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. You can tell that a mosquito is infected because it turns black and white and has stripes similar to those of a zebra.
These mosquitoes usually bite during the day (particularly in the morning), but that does not mean it is impossible for them to bite at all hours. That seems to be common myth around these parts.
Instead of simply listing the symptoms I chose to retell my experience with the virus. I’m hoping for a couple “oh that poor thing” and “lord have mercy on her” type reactions here 😉
Because we had school holidays I decided to go visit a local Cocoa farm for the week. To my surprise, I woke up on the second day there with an insane migraine and severe pain behind my eyes. The Brazilians there chalked it up to the fact that I was a foreigner and that being outside for one whole day in the sunshine was just too much for me. I also heard things like, “It must be because you don’t speak Portuguese very well and hearing it all day is stressful and a workout for your brain” or “Do you eat homemade food at home? It might be the natural food here”. I know they were trying to be helpful and help find a solution to my pain, but being told that you can’t move your eyeballs because of Portuguese is a little frustrating.
Each night got worse and by the last day I wasn’t sleeping or eating at all. My body ached (I thought it was maybe the bed with 3 functioning legs that I was sleeping on) and my patience was gone. I decided to leave early because of how uncomfortable I was.
Saturday morning I woke up at 5 AM to make sure I could catch the 6 AM bus back to Itabuna. I was in so much pain I couldn’t even stand up to wait for the bus. I was overjoyed when it finally arrived. Sadly, within 10 minutes I started to feel extremely car sick. I tried eating an apple to settle my empty stomach but all that did was making me vomit in the bus.
At this point I was devastated. I promised myself in that moment that after Brazil I would go back to the US and never travel again. I figured I was getting too old and grouchy for traveling and that my body just couldn’t handle it anymore.
I arrive in Itabuna where Andre kindly picked me up at the bus station. He never said it, but by the look on his face I could tell I looked like shit. I just wanted to sleep! As soon as we got to his house I stripped down to my skivvies and that’s when we saw it. My stomach and legs were covered in tiny, bright red bumps. Andre shook his head and informed that I had dengue.
That night I came down with a horrible fever and spent most of the night tossing and turning in agonizing pain. They aren’t joking when they call it breakbone fever. I have never felt pain like that before! It started in my back and shot down my left side all the way to my ankle. I couldn’t touch my hip without bursting into tears.
Sunday was even worse. Light was unbearable and every time I tried to open or move my eyes the pain made me nauseous. The fever was so bad that I felt compelled to lay face down on Andre’s kitchen floor. It was the only thing that I thought could cool me down. I don’t remember a lot of what happened after that because I was in and out of consciousness.
However, the one thing I do remember is bawling on the living room floor and yelling at Andre telling him I would leave if he didn’t give me something more than Tylenol for the pain. Really…I though I was going to pack my bags and walk out the door when I couldn’t even pee without his help?
When you have dengue you can ONLY take Tylenol. I believe that my dengue turned into hemorrhagic dengue because I was taking 1,000+ mg of ibuprofen a day before I knew I had dengue. Apparently that’s the worst thing you can take and it has caused far too many unnecessary deaths from dengue. I got the dreaded blood nose on Monday.
By this point I hadn’t slept in 4 days, I had only eaten a couple bites of soup and I my body had given up. I remember laying there and thinking that dying would be OK as long as I didn’t have to feel like that anymore. And for those of you out there that are skeptical right now…..no I am not being dramatic. This virus is the virus from hell.
By Tuesday I was able to walk around and I no longer had a fever. The bleeding had stopped and only the itchy red bumps remained. I thought I was in the clear and decided to go home on Wednesday despite everyone urging me to go to the hospital or stay at Andre’s house where I could be looked after. Sorry I’m so stubborn. I learned my lesson
Wednesday night I experienced heavy bleeding from some areas I won’t mention. I was terrified and was finally convinced that I needed to go to the hospital. Sarah and Geraldine rushed me to the emergency room at the regional hospital where I was scared out of my mind and trying to hold back tears. After all that and I still felt the need to look a little tough. My platelets were low but not low enough to have to stay in the hospital.
My boss was gracious enough to give the entire week off so that I could fully recuperate. I think I drank close to 20 gallons of Gatorade and Pedialyte while abusing my Netflix subscription.
I am happy to say that I have completely recovered and that no one needs to worry anymore! So thank you to all of you who sent me concerned emails, called just to make sure I was doing ok and especially to those of you who were by my side the entire time. Andre—without you I would have taken a lot more medicine, never taken a shower and starved to death. Thank you for being there for me the entire time, even when I was screaming about pain killers. Fran—Obrigada por me visitar e trazer lanche. Amei nossa conversa. Sarah—thank you for picking up slack for me while I was gone and for looking after me when I got home.
Morale of this story:
- Kill every mosquito you see
- Don’t take ibuprofen if you have dengue
- Don’t get dengue