One more tick off the list...

Trip Start Aug 09, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Brazil  ,
Friday, January 5, 2007

Get malaria? Check.

Sooo....the whole bus ride back to Rio I was feeling pretty awful and I had attributed it to all the Christmas shenanigans. After all, it had happened before under the same circumstances. But this time, for the first time, I was coughing violently as well. So I took it easy after returning. But the fever didnīt go away. So I bought some medicine. Still no. So I bought some more. Some for fever, inflamation, and coughing. And it would go away for about half a day, but then it would return just as bad as before. Folks had told me just to take it easy and give it some time.

But in the back of my head I was thinking that it could be malaria. After all, I had just arrived in Rio on the 13th of December. And I knew that it takes roughly 7-14 days for you to feel anything. So I went on the internet to look for malaria symptoms, and I had them all. Fever that comes and goes in waves, chills, dry coughing with nothing coming back up. Even that fact that if you took some malaria pills it can be delayed longer than 14 days, which it was.  Problem is, is that these symptoms exist for lots of diseases, part of the reason why malaria is often misdiagnosed. The only real way to tell is to get a blood smear. So I decided to go to the hospital to get it checked out.

Kinda funny because when I brought it up everybody kinda dismissed it because whoīs ever heard of anybody with malaria in Rio? Well, a friend came with me to the hospital (smooth out some of the medical language issues - I had to do a triple take when they were trying to ask me about blood pressure). Public hospital. My buddy told me they were pretty bad. And way earlier I met a Dutch guy doing medical residencies over here who only had horror stories of the Brazilian public hospitals. But I didnīt really get that impression. Sure, not as nice as back home, but not like blood on the walls, dirty needles everywhere, people screaming...Anyway, the folks were nice and helpful. But of course after hearing the story they were just going to give me some fever stuff, so I mentioned again about the blood test but they said they couldnīt do it there. I was asked to wait, then five minutes later, I was told I lucked out because there happened to be a guy there would do it. Kinda a traveling doctor guy, super cool, but he was only doing it as a favor. Really lucky. Came back an hour later, and sure enough, I had malaria. By now it was nighttime.

Now I was by no means happy, but maybe a little satisfied that my suspicions were correct. It was very strange, what was going on with my body and I can usually self-diagnose pretty good. I feel like Iīve got a decent immune system, (not one of those people who are perpetually sick), when I do get sick I know exactly why, and its usually for doing something stupid.

So they said I was being quarrantined, anywhere from 1 week to months, to a hospital on an island a ways away. (Maybe thats were the scary hospitals are...) So the ambulance came, they made me lie down, and away we went. It actually was a little weird there. An absolutely gigantic building completely desserted. And we couldnīt find the room I was supposed to go to, so we wandered various floors and hallways without hearing or seeing a single thing. Little creepy. Anyway, found the room, another blood test to confirm, re-confirmed, and I got to see it in the microscope. They even let me keep the slide. Dished me out some medicine and sent me on my way - same day. 

During this whole time I had fevers, I felt so crappy I rarely left the bed. And while places are close to the hostel when youīre healthy, they are not so much when youīre sick. So I did not eat barely anything for awhile. Even if I could, I lost my appetite and the smell of food made me want to barf. So I just drank a bunch of gatorade which was at the hostel, thinking it would supplement me more than just water. That just made me barf up gatorade.  Heavy malaria fever combined with barely eating in so long made me extremely weak. To the point that I could barely stand up, I didnīt even trust myself to walk down the street to get food, and I began hallucinating. When that happened, it clicked that I had to eat something no matter what or soon I was just going to pass out. Somebody had noticed I was pale, offered some stew, so I ate a bunch of that. Slowly. The smell made me wanna puke. Then folks ordered out, so I did too. Didnīt eat the whole sandwich, but the meet and veggies inside at least. Thus concludes my crappy crappy day. Welcome to 2007.

Since then, I immediately felt the effects of eating, the medicine has kicked in, I donīt feel sick (why do you think Iīm telling you about all of this now, ma?), and I am eating more now, but I did lose weight during the whole thing. Actually I have felt fine for a complete 24 hours straight now, so I am pretty confident that malaria is on the outs. I will still be taking medicine for the next 3 weeks but that is to kill the ones that are still sleeping in the liver (in case you wanted to know).

Since I knew you were gonna ask for the WHOLE story anyways... ;)

Anway, so in between all that was New Years Eve. Now malaria works in waves, you get vicious fevers and then you can feel fine for a bit. Well, I was in fever mode during all the pre-festivities, but around 8pm, I was feeling fine, so I decided to go out with folks. New Years here was awesome. Some of folks from Rio flee because they say its hectic and people and all that. But Rio does not compare to New York. The Times Square thing totally sucked when I went. Standing in the freezing cold, cops everywhere, very strict, no free movement, and I couldnīt even see the screen that showed it drop (Lord knows I was nowhere near the actual ball). Just standing and waiting and then after, going somewhere else. Here, there were fireworks at Copacabana, but we went to Ipanema where a whole bunch of free concerts were taking place on the beach. Totally sweet. Easily a million people wandering as they pleased, drinking where they pleased, rowdy yet peaceful, and the concerts were rad. Black Eyed Peas, Infected Mushrom, Sergio Mendes, John Legend, a samba group, some more I donīt remember. I didnīt go crazy this night, but I wanted to go out with my friends that were because, shoot, it was New Years Eve and I was in Rio de Janeiro. It was an awesome time.

So the moral of the story is:  Donīt go to Brazil.
No, actually, I should have been more attentive to taking the pills while in the Amazon.  I did take them, but not as strictly and as often as I should have.  Sometimes I remembered, sometimes I didnīt.  It was easy to be lax when we seriously didnīt see any mosquitos and folks even told us there are no mosquitos in that part.  Well, there was at least one.  And maybe not a moral, but my doctor visits, blood tests, ambulance ride, heap of medication:  all free.  I got cured of malaria for absolutely nothing.  The US needs a better health care system.

One more adventure down for the books.
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