Monday, 26 July 2010

Back in the real world

Today is my first day back at work for two and a half weeks.

Steve took some UK colleagues to the Pilanesburg Game Reserve on Saturday, as is his habit when new people come over from the UK, so had the car and the day to myself. Considering I spent the last two and a half weeks in pajamas, with a rash and totally on my own, it was a good day when I showered or bathed nevermind other types of personal grooming. So, with the prospect of going back to work I utilized Saturday to get myself back into some sort of socially acceptable state.

The rash had done a real number on my skin. My very dry face and body I could exfoliate and moisturise but my scalp was harder to try and save. So on Saturday I went for a facial and a scalp treatment (and an underarm and leg wax while I was at it). My face is still quite dry but my scalp is so much better – no more dry flaky skin that makes it look like I have the worst case of dandruff EVER.

I am still under the weather, and I still get tired quite easily, but I’m back at work today. I had offered to come in for a half day Thursday and/or Friday but that was declined, making me feel a little less than wanted (although I’m sure that wasn’t the intention) and people have barely recognized my existence since walking in the door. Also, all my work has been reassigned in my absence (fair enough) and there’s nothing new for me to do (less fair, I think, since the powers that be have known I’ll be back today and that I’d already caught up on my emails over webmail). So today is quite meh.

I am however grateful to be getting a little better every day. I don’t seem to have much issue left with food; in fact Steve and I went out for lunch yesterday and I ate a decent portion of a ribs and duck combo (sounds weird, tasted great) and veggies. My cough is all but gone, and even my voice is almost back to normal. I still get tired but not as bad as last week. My bunged up nose is the most noticable symptom at the moment.

Here’s to both my health and my perception of work improving.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

My trip to the hospital

So, after posting that I wasn't feeling well before, I've been quite sick.

My "flu" kept getting worse and when I went to the doctor on the Friday my temperature was 39.3˚C (128˚F). The doctor gave me an injection to bring the fever down and some Tammiflu flu medication.

On Saturday I felt dreadful and my gums and cheeks were weirdly swollen and sensitive. I didn't feel like eating much, either. My fever also started creeping back up so that it was 39 by the evening. I really didn't want to go to hospital but it broke eventually and came down a bit (in part due to some very desperate praying).

That night my stomach started disagreeing with me. I made Steve take me to the doctor on Sunday.

My temperature was once again 39.3 and my throat very red and infected. The doctor gave me antibiotics in the hope that it was a viral flu infection with a bacterial component. He had a quick look at a urine monster and ordered some blood tests. The urine tests showed that it must be a viral infection. My eyes were sensitive to light at this point and he was worried about hepatitis. He'd also have been worried about meningitis if I'd had a rash or neck pain.

Me and blood vials are NOT friends. I know very few people probably do like them but I have very, very deep veins and it's always a traumatic experience. I'll start by telling them how they won't get a vein in my arm, just use the top of my hand from the start. Then without fail they'll believe themselves to be the on true blood drawing messiah who can find a vein. They'll poke and tap and carry on until they either give up on my arms or poke me with a needle. The latter situation almost always results in the response "oops". At this point they either use my hand or blame me for making them nervous and then send me to a pathologist at the nearest hospital. Only on the very odd occasion do they actually keep trying and I end up with blood spurting out of my arms from the amount of times they've stuck and wriggled the needle and then I keep passing out and swearing at them when I'm awake.
This time, however, not even my hands would yield usable veins. The lovely nurse couldn't find any veins on my left hand and stuck the needle into my right. I was almost delirious from the fever and feeling very emotional so I perceived this whole experience very badly. Unfortunately with the vial about 1/8th full my blood stopped coming. The nurse sent me home to rest, eat (which I very very much had to force myself to do) and drink, and come back late afternoon.
Once back my vein situation hadn't improved. She stuck the same vein (in a different spot) again. There was such a trickle she eventually told me to go to the pathologists. So we drove the 10 minutes and they ended up getting blood from my wrist, which was even more painful than from the hand.

Monday morning I wasn't feeling any better and what's more I had come out in this horrible rash. Thinking it must be meningitis, I had Steve drive me to the doctor (I wasn't well enough to drive at this point). I waited in the car until the doctor could see me for fear of infecting the whole clinic. Doctor didn't think it was meningitis but my bloodwork had come back: my liver enzyme count was far too high (I think that's what it was) but the hepatitis markers were negative. Basically, he knew I had a virus but not which one. He was however very concerned about me and sent me to the hospital to see a specialist. I didn't know at this point if I was to be admitted but indeed I was, in a general ward with three other women. At this point I couldn't really have felt much worse. On top of everything my chest was so constricted I had to actively control my panic level, I could barely breathe. The nurses gave me some oxygen but it still had nowhere to go so it didn't help much.

I was quite annoyed with how long I waited for anything to happen, especially since I kept trying to convey to both my doctors that day and to the nursing staff how much trouble I was having breathing.

Poor Steve stayed with me all day despite having one crisis after the other at work. Eventually I got sent for a chest xray. Still no doctor. After about two hours he walks in almost jumps back. My rash was bad and very unsightly. He said my xray was normal, he had been worried it could be Dengue fever but that would have affected my lungs far more severely. He said he suspected measles and would have more blood tests done but explaining my difficulty getting blood the previous day he said he'd have the existing samples tested. It also, thank God, convinced him to NOT give me an IV/drip. Why he didn't isolate me then heaven only knows.

Despite his assurances that my chest was fine, I still couldn't breathe. I bothered the nurses until they phoned him and got me an inhaler like you'd use for an asthma attack. After this my breathing was still laboured but better although my blood oxygen levels remained very low.

The next day the doctor had me isolated. I was still feeling very, very rotten and my rash was really bad. There was more red on my face than me-colour and the texture was like scar tissue - I looked like Freddie Kruger. In the afternoon he (now masked up) came in to tell me the tests showed it's definitely measles. There wasn't any medication specifically for measles so he'd keep giving me something to keep the fever down and otherwise I must just rest; he'd keep me in for one more night and then I could just as well recover at home, as long as I stay in and don't have contact with anyone else.

Steve had measles as a child so we weren't worried about him getting it. I hope the nurses and my ward-mates didn't contract it when I was first admitted.

I didn't have an appetite at all and couldn't stomach the thought of most foods - apparently because the virus was irritating my liver this was to be expected. I came home on Wednesday and although I am incredibly weak, I have felt a little better everyday. I am now eating a little and my rash is much, much lighter. I shouldn't be infectious after this weekend anymore, but I'll take the issue of returning to work one day at a time and see how how I feel. At the moment my most annoying symptom is a hacking cough that doesn't DO anything except exhaust me.

I hate how worried my family was - it's even harder when you're too far away to do something - but I'm grateful it wasn't anything more serious.

The department of health has been in contact with me; it seems there's a bit of an epidemic of measles affecting specifically adults (which is unusual, it usually affects kids). I am pretty sure I wasn't infectious when I was at work, though. I hope that's true.

Steve seems to have picked up my cough and has been working from home this whole week just in case, here's hoping he's not going to get this sick too.

Thanks for everyone's well wishes and prayers.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Self pity

I was going to write a blog post about the Indawu fan park where we watched Prime Circle, The Parlotones and the Uruguay/Netherlands match last night. But I am far too sick and feeling far too sorry for myself for that.

The fan park was a bit cold, then our bed was too hot (we forgot the electric blanket on). Steve woke up once for an hour-long support call and once with indigestion and the rest of the time he snored like a thing that snores very much. At 5am I gave up and went to sleep on the sofa, which was both cramped and cold.

And now I’m really achey and shivery and have no strength. Early night for me, for sure! I’m drinking lots of rooibos tea (for fluids) in the meantime and overdosing on immune boosting supplements.

So there, now my self pity is out there for the whole world* to see. Feel sorry for me. Thank you.

* readership of this blog may not constitute the entire world. Terms and conditions apply.

Please note: This email and its contents are subject to the disclaimer as displayed at the following link: Should you not have Web access, send an email to and a copy will be sent to you.