Sunday, March 31, 2013


Last January 2012 my husband got dengue fever. Dengue is a mosquito contracted illness accompanied by symptoms such as high fever, delirium, night sweats, extreme joint pain, cold chills, and a red spotty rash. I have never thought about being a widow until he suffered through that illness and subsequently lost 30 pounds in a matter of weeks. He said it was a plague he wouldn't wish on  his worst enemy.

Living here in the jungle town of Tena, we take the risk of contracting mosquito borne diseases  every day. If that is not a trade-off you are willing to make, then don't move to the jungle. If you are not afraid of life (and death) then this could be the place for you. Personally, I'm not afraid of death at all. It's the suffering I don't care much for.

That's why I got a wee scared when yesterday I woke up with a massive headache. I thought it could have been from all the yucky sulfites I had in my wine the previous night, but the headache got worse. Much worse. By the evening, my temp had risen to almost 101 and I was wrapped like a mummy because I felt nothing but cold chills. My bones ached and I developed a strange cough deep from within my lungs. My friend came over and started wiping me down with cold clothes to lower the fever I don't remember much more after that.

This morning my headache is almost gone, but my neck and shoulders still ache. My throat is extremely sore, the cough is still there, and my skin is cold and clammy. So what do we do when we feel like this in Tena? We make potato salad for 30 people, go present shopping, and then attend an anniversary party. (Yes, our friends are celebrating 34 years and there's no way I can miss it) Here in Tena, you are not really sick unless blood is involved. And even then, it depends on what part it's pouring out from. Add to that, dengue is an illness that can't be prevented with shots or treated with anything except Ibuprofen. If you have the type of dengue that causes hemorrhaging, well, good luck with that. The emergency room here in Tena is a joke.

I once went to the Tena emergency room with an elbow joint that had mysteriously swollen to the size of a grapefruit. Not only did I have to wait for over an hour to be seen, once they saw me they were more concerned in taking my temperature and weighing me on a scale.  Afterwards, they led me to a dark room where they took an X-ray without giving me any kind of radiation protection. They never did figure out what was wrong with me.

I'm not sure what I have now is dengue or not, but I do know I had some symptoms of it and there are four different variations of it- from mild to severe. If what I had was indeed mild dengue, I do not want to tempt fate and get the more severe one. But I'm also not going to get scared away and move from here just because dengue, malaria, or hepatitis might be lurking around the corner. No way. I got parties to go to.