My Really-Sick-Peace-Corps story

I don’t think I’ve ever been more sick, the weather was hot and humid and the power had just gone out, killing the fan that had been cooling my 102-degree temperature.  At least I think I was 102 degrees.  It could have been more.  When I went to the doctor’s office in Bangkok three days later, I thought I didn’t have a fever, but I was still at 101.

On Monday, March 12 I felt slight pain in an occasional cough.  I felt the same on Tuesday and Wednesday.  It didn’t feel like anything that would escalate; it felt like it would fade in a few days as long as I took care of myself, which I had been doing.  On Wednesday evening I took some acetaminophen and went to bed early, around 9:30 p.m.  Aside from a few trips to the bathroom, I didn’t get out of bed until 5 p.m.  My skin was red-hot and the 30-foot trip to the bathroom and back took my breath away.  I told myself to call the Peace Corps doctor, but I couldn’t stop sleeping.

I made myself eat an egg, watched a movie and stayed up until 10.  I slept until 9 a.m. and called the doctor.  I was feeling better than the day before and the fever felt like it was fading.  The doctor told me to get rest, drink plenty of liquids and take acetaminophen for the fever.  If the fever was still around the next day, he’d send me to the hospital in Surin for blood tests.  He was concerned I had dengue fever, but I felt confident it wasn’t as I rarely get mosquito bites.

I felt better Saturday and told the doctor.  My fever had faded, but I still felt weak.  I expected this after sleeping through two days.  I even managed to bike into the village for some groceries.  Unfortunately, I still couldn’t eat more than a small amount.

Sunday I began to cough.  I coughed a lot.  It was so powerful my back began to ache a few days later from the muscles I was using.  I coughed so hard I felt I might throw up from it.  I spent the day in bed, reading and watching movies.  I drank a lot, but had trouble staying hydrated.  If I had a fever, it didn’t feel extreme.  The cheap thermometer the Peace Corps provides us with told me my temperature was between 102 and 103, but I knew this couldn’t be correct.  In the evening I managed to bike to my host mother’s house for a small dinner.

Monday came and my cough was still nasty.  I called the Peace Corps doctor after lunch and he told me to come to Bangkok as soon as I could.  I made arrangements for a ride into Sangka in the evening to catch an overnight bus.  This meant I had to do laundry and pack for 10 days in Bangkok (I had to attend the mid-service conference the following week.)

After sleeping Thursday through Saturday, it was now difficult to sleep with my constant coughing.  For the first time in my 15 months in Thailand, I wanted to go home, at least until I was well.  I knew if I was in the states, I’d have toast, cereal and drink some orange juice while I rested.  Here, I didn’t have those options.  It also was above 90 degrees.

This is me when I'm not sick.

The seven-hour bus ride contained little sleep for me.  I coughed most of the way.  Luckily Thais can sleep through anything, so the people near me didn’t seem to mind.  Two city buses took me to the Peace Corps offices.  I showered and brushed my teeth and then went downstairs to see Dr. Rit.  When I asked him how he was doing, he said, “Better than you.”  That is correct.  He asked me if I still had a fever and I said no.  Then he took my temperature and it was 101.  I had become so used to the fever, I didn’t know I had it.  Perhaps the home thermometer was correct.  The nurse (Thanyalak) took a number of blood samples and Rit gave me some Robitussin to calm the cough.  He also gave me some one-a-day antibiotics I couldn’t wait to take.

After relaxing in the lounge all day, I made my way to a guesthouse about 20 minutes away.  It was not easy carrying my backpack and computer bag with a fever, but I made it.  I ate a quarter of a dish of fried rice and chicken and went to bed at 6 p.m. and didn’t wake up until 7 a.m.  Thank you, Robitussin.

The next day Rit told me I had bronchitis AND a pneumonia.  My temperature was down to 100 and by the next day it was normal.  I got better day by day.  My buddies Josh and Joe arrived Friday and the book shopping and laughs helped.  When the mid-service conference began on Monday, I’d been so used to sleeping 12 hours a day, I had trouble staying awake during the sessions.  To be honest, I slept through a lot of it.

I’m better now.  I don’t know exactly how I got bronchitis and pneumonia, but I’m guessing it has something to do with the sanitary conditions of Thailand.  Someone else must have been sick and his/her germs made their way to me.  The men’s room at my office doesn’t contain a bar of soap and sometimes there’s no running water.  Dishes aren’t really cleaned here; they’re just sort of rinsed off.

But it’s over now.  Now I have my I-Got-Really-Sick-During-My-Peace-Corps-Service story.  Thailand has hopefully done its worse.  I’m still here.  I’m on my feet and ready for the second year.

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1 thought on “My Really-Sick-Peace-Corps story

  1. Pingback: Chiang Mai 2: Cruise Control | Sa-wat-dii From Thailand

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