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Dengue Fever Experience

On Thursday night I had a bad case of the chills. This could mean only two things, flu or my past as an exotic dancer had surfaced. After one day of my unsuccessful attempts at machismo, Emily dragged me to the doctor.

Also, the fact that I can’t sleep is keeping her awake.

Coincidentally our two drivers are sick as well. Emily's sister Suzy loaned us her driver and we made our way to the doctor. This trip was complicated by the presence of election campaigners, actually convoys of campaigners on motorcycles, in cars, and over-flowing from trucks.

This has been, thankfully, a relatively quiet time (Knock, Knock: that's the sound of wood graced by hopeful knuckles).

Meanwhile, back at the Doctor's office, it seems our fears are partially justified. One driver has Dengue fever - Demam Berdarah, in the local lingo. It translates as blood fever. The other driver and I seem to have the flu. The highpoint of the day was an injection requiring me to be slightly immodest.

The driver is in pretty bad shape. He's vomiting, dizzy and needs help to walk. Dengue fever is a potentially hemorrhagic virus spread by a certain breed of mosquitoes. Indonesia has plenty of the little vampires.

If you live in Indonesia, do not believe anyone who tells you there is no Dengue Fever outside of Lombok.

We went home. The doctor had been confused by my lack of nasal or chest congestion. She still prescribed antibiotics and analgesics to control flu symptoms. Still can’t sleep after three days.

Good, now I’m two Steven King plotlines. Remember boys and girls; antibiotics do not kill the flu virus (or any other virus), antibiotics can only manage symptoms.

After two and a half days without sleep, the drivers thankfully have slept a little. As for me, there’s always tomorrow. Emily and her three charges braved the convoys and returned to the clinic, and a different doctor.

A quick exam: The doctor advises that we all get tested. Emily and the rest of the household are showing no symptoms (knock, knock lagi = again). The other driver came up positive. Me, I'm teetering on the brink. This time the doctor prescribes a heavier dose of antibiotics. He says that westerners are used to higher doses, and that are generally heavier body mass requires larger doses.

Then the blood work came back.

You've got Dengue!

I do indeed have Dengue fever … can you say freaked out? I knew that you could.

The doctor also prescribes an electrolyte drink which is one of my least pleasant memories of South Korea. He tells us to drink Pocari Sweat.

It seems Pocari is chock full of minerals, electrolytes, and vitamins. Who knew? I used to drink it because it was a great cure for hangovers. Thankfully, Pocari is also sold in Indonesia.

It does beg the questions; what is a Pocari, and exactly why do I want to drink its sweat?

The medicine finally kicks in. I sleep and I sweat. It takes nine days but finally I am moving again. Some days I perspired through as many as nine t-shirts.

I was able to shower and wash my hair today. I believe the neighbors were about to fumigate me. I did take antibiotics to deal with the infection, and analgesics for the pain but the biggest help has been the herbal teas and mineral drinks - specifically Pocari sweat. Gatorade may also be helpful in restoring your electrolyte levels and generally re-hydrating your body.

On Monday we return for more tests. On the plus side, the drivers have been able to eat and not vomit instantly. I have actually begun to sleep. Four hours today.

Tomorrow, watch out Rip Van Winkle.

I'm actually feeling better today.

I'll be taking a few days off and then I'll be taking the family to Bali for a week. If I'm going to be resting, I want to do it in style.

Dengue Fever

Acute infectious disease caused by a virus and transmitted by the Aedes mosquito. It occurs in warm climates. Symptoms include headache, fever, and intense joint pain, followed by a generalized rash.  The joint pain is the reason why this delightful experience is sometimes called bone-break fever.

There is no specific treatment (see above), but the disease can be controlled by eradicating the mosquitoes and their breeding grounds.

If you live in Indonesia, have your home sprayed. If you're visiting Indonesia, hati-hati (be careful) Common sense precautions can protect you from this day-biting mosquito.

End notes … As I found out the hard way through this experience, you can become infected again. This time it did become hemorrhagic, but thankfully was caught in time before any lasting damage was done. Learn more about Dengue Fever.

Thank you to everyone at St. Vincentius a Paulo (RKZ Surabaya)!

St. Vincentius a Paulo (RKZ Surabaya)
Jl. Diponegoro No. 51
Surabaya, East Java 60008 (031) 567-7562

Our thanks to Wayne Duplessis for his series of short narratives on his years living in Indonesia - working as a teacher, raising a family, traveling and generally enjoying life - from 1996 to the present.