First, I hate that THIS is the post that I start you off with after a long period of not having updated you in a while; sorry about that. I started working on another one, and then, well, this happened. Second, because of how freely Dominicans tend to discuss their bodily functions, I may or may not have lost a bit of tact when it comes to these sorts of things, so do bear with me…or feel free to skip over any crazy parts in this post (but I’ll try to keep it “palatable”…hmmm, maybe a bad choice of words).
On Tuesday, I left the elementary school at 5 p.m. and went to one of my regular eateries to buy what I always get there—a tostada (ham, cheese, ketchup, mayo, lettuce, tomato, toasted) and a jugo natural. This proved to be an awful decision. At 10 p.m., I sat down to dinner with Matt Damon—my homemade alfredo pasta and The Bourne Ultimatum. Before taking the first bite I found myself without an appetite, but with a considerable bit of nausea. I vomited. “Hmm…that’s weird,” I thought, “But, maybe that’s just what I needed;” I decided to proceed eating my dinner. I mean, what else was I going to do with it, since I have no fridge, and the critters do walk about scavenging for food. So I was not about to let it go to waste. Though, waste it I did, over the next several hours, by coercion. I’ll spare the intimate details, but let’s just say my body pushed the eject button from multiple sides, simultaneously, and left me with not a drop of liquid.
By the next day, I was left completely dehydrated and without much energy. The Peace Corps doctors had me go to the hospital, where I spent the next two nights hooked up to IVs and getting antibiotics for…yup!…an amoeba! If you don’t know what an amoeba is, take a moment to praise God for that right now, and then look it up. I’m not at the point yet where I can spell out to you what it is and sleep well; I’ll just tell you it’s a pretty aggressive parasite. I spent most of my time at the hospital sleeping, but at one point, I noticed that the area of my hand around where they inserted the IV was swollen. I told one of the attendants, and she said she’d have a nurse come check it. Moments later, a nurse came in and started mumbling in Spanish, “There’s nothing wrong with this IV, etc., etc.” Then, not realizing that I also spoke Spanish (since they knew I was a foreigner), she tried to ask me if the IV was hurting me, by yelling to me intensely, “PAIN?!? PAIN?!? PAIN?!? PAIN?!? PAIN?!?” it took me a while to understand what the word was that she was saying, and once I did, the intensity with which she seemed to be declaring, rather than inquiring of my pain led me to first think that her intention was to bring me pain. This was quite a jarring moment. I did not want more pain, especially at the hands of someone yelling, “PAIN!” to me. So although the IV was causing me some pain, I told her what I thought it would take for her to get away from me: “NO! NO! NO! ESTÁ BIEN!! ESTÁ BIEN!!” I guess she didn’t buy it, because she then mumbled to herself in Spanish, “We have to change it.” As she left the room, I caught my breath, and prayed for the nurse that would come to change my IV to be ANYONE but her. Of course it was she who returned. Doh! I decided to change my approach, and make myself a real person; maybe she wouldn’t poke me like meat if she thought I was a human being, instead of some plastered tourist. I starting speaking Spanish to her and making small talk. I think it softened her up, and helped me avoid her torturous pain-inducing methods of IV injection, which surely would have otherwise resulted.
Another episode at the hospital also involved the IV. I got up to use the bathroom for the 473rd time, and of course I had to drag my IV food bags behind me on that coat-rack-looking apparatus. This time, my veins must have decided that I’d been moving too much, because the next thing I knew, I saw about 3 feet of blood—my blood—inside of the IV tubes! Not having spent much time in my life hooked up to IVs (thank you, Lord) this caused me some panic. I gently rushed over to press the alert button. I pressed it again, and again and again. A different nurse finally came in, and I my brain couldn’t decide fast enough if I should go for English or Spanish with her, so I just pointed at the IV with a concerned look on my face. She looked at it and said in accented English, “Oh! No problem!” “No! Blood! Sangre!” I persisted. “No, ha ha, no problem! No problem!” I couldn’t understand why the sight of my blood now brought her laughter, and I thought maybe this conversation would go better if we both spoke Spanish instead of one-word phrases in English. She explained to me that it was because I was moving around, so I decided to just be still for moment. Sure enough, my blood went back into my body.
I’m out of the hospital now and they have me on an antibiotic, which has a side of effect of nausea, of all things…ha! (no, it’s actually not funny at all). At any rate, I have to be very grateful. Dominicans have told me that sometimes people go for a week or more in the hospital for an amoeba, and I think it really has to do with how quickly (or better said, how slowly) some folks respond to the issue. So I’m grateful for the access to a quick response to this problem, and for the meds that are killing it, even though they make me nauseous :-S. And, hey, at least it wasn’t dengue fever! 🙂 I think it will be a while before I can eat another tostada again…at least with lettuce. I’ll post my other update over the weekend. As for now, I’m going to go get some rest.