Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Illness

It started the afternoon of Thursday, April 30. Prior to this date I had experienced a slight cold yet seemed to be recovering. But on this particular Thursday afternoon, a fever knocked me out without warning. It was followed that evening (and almost every evening since) by a profuse bout of night sweats and a hacking cough both day and night.

Thinking it was a complication to my previous cold, I visited a general practicioner twice. He ran some blood work and assured me this was something viral that I must treat with two all-natural syrups - absolutely no antibiotics, he said.

My list of symptoms grew to include lack of appetite; body aches; headaches; fatigue; shallow breathing and a heaviness in my chest when I tried to breathe. I felt like I was 83 years old instead of 33.

Everything came to head on an awful night last week (picture my mother having to deal with my three nervous kids while their mother lay in tears on the steps, convinced she was dying) - and so the very next day I visited a broncho-pulmonary specialist. I was sure that I had walking pneumonia, but he was non-committal; he wanted to a more extensive round of blood work to check for something strange I might have picked up in Haiti.

Yesterday morning no sooner had we said goodbye to my parents than we headed to the laboratory. Like everywhere in Iquique, there was a long wait. (The wait was just to get to the front desk to submit your order, followed by another wait to actually be seen.) After an hour's wait where my octogenarian body suffered the cramps and pangs of fastings and waiting for a urine culture, I reached the front desk only to learn that the exams would cost over $200 and must be paid only in cash. This news pushed me over the frustration limit and released the tears that had been near the surface since hugging my parents goodbye. I reached the car in such a state that the sobs led to coughing spasms which led to dry heaves - my poor husband claims he has never seen me in such a state (let's hope he never does again.)

This morning I tried again. A taxi dropped me at the front door of the lab around 8:10 a.m. and I was so thankful to see that they were allowing people to enter despite not officially opening until 8:30. I was number 22 at that hour, but the wait went fairly quickly and before I knew it I was in a small room with a no-nonsense, masked nurse with a buzzing tube in her hand. What?? I thought this was supposed to be blood work and a urine culture. It turns out the doctor had also asked for a RSV test.

The only table they had was meant for children, so it would have been rather humorous to observe the rearranging it took for me to get on it if I wasn't so nervous. I have seen my son scream violently through this test at least twice before, and I wasn't so sure I could make it through without crying or throwing up. When I mentioned the latter, the masked nurse sternly reminded me that I was supposed to have been fasting. I told her I was, but I had to drink water since from experience I know that's the only way for me to give blood without my veins collapsing. No, no, no, she insisted. Fasting means no water, no anything. By this time I was too tired and achy to even be frustrated. I didn't want the nasty test anyway.

Finally she decided to give it a try, but at the first hint of a retch as she slid the tube down my nose and I tried to swallow it further down my throat, she called it quits. Come back Monday, they said - and no water! I lobbied to at least have the blood work done, and the stern questions began again. Do you have a fever of at least 38 degrees Celsius? Do you?? I have no idea. Don't you have a thermometer around here? Well this particular blood test requires that you have a fever. Okay, then. The receptionist (who was actually very kind today) felt my neck and forehead and assured the nurse that I was quite warm. Eventually the blood work was done, Pedro and the kids arrived to take my ancient body home, and we wait for the results.

I just hope the doctor can tell from the bloodwork so that I don't have to face that tube again ... ever.

So this is the story of the mysterious illness that has been the main reason for my lack of recent posting. Please pray for Pedro as he tries to handle a sick wife and three busy kids now that my parents are gone. They were lifesavers and we miss them. But, everything is going to be okay. Thanks for praying!


HollyMarie said...

Sheesh! Kinda sounds like malaria to me! I hope you get a diagnosis pronto and feel better soon!

Deborah said...

Dearest Steph,

I am *praying*praying*praying* for you.

I love you,
Debs <3

Anonymous said...

est, i am praying for you, i hope you are able to find out what you have soon, take care of you,