I might not ever know for sure if I had dengue fever, but what I do know is that after I returned from Baja Sur, I fell ill in a whole new way. I was wracked by fever that set my blood or my nerves (I could never be certain which) humming with agitation. The constant sensation of tremor that didn't subside even when the fever did was disconcerting and frightening. Thirst was constant and yet water often tasted metallic or sometimes like flowers or putrid like sewage. Cottonmouth was a constant. My entire digestive system was rumbling, not with hunger but with tiny waves of peristalses that made me feel constantly sea-sick nauseous. Meanwhile, the headache behind my eyes made me yearn for darkness. I couldn't look at a screen for more than a few minutes. On the worst day, I could barely text a three letter response to my daughter who was monitoring me from her home while Cindy was attending an event where I was supposed to be. A tiny bloody nose started a sore in my nose that caused me to sneeze again and again for days. My lips were chapped and my upper lip felt swollen with herpes that never actually appeared. I shuffled from the recliner to the couch in my office to the bed, trying to change my recumbent position to ease the constant ache in my back. Every step made my head pound and my eyes blur. Tinnitus rang in my ears.
On day 3, the fever subsided. On Day 5, I woke in the night with such severe nausea that I decided to go to the ER for monitoring. It was the right thing to do in terms of getting blood work and easing my mind about symptoms that might have indicated I'd moved into DHF—Dengue Hemorraghic Fever—the more severe version, the onset of which is 4 to 7 days into the illness, but the experience left me beyond sad about the absence of my long term family doctor, Warren Borgquist, not to mention wasted from being out in the cold in the middle of the night. By the middle of Day 6, I sensed a shift. The tremor was quieting, not so noisy in my body and maybe even absent for minutes at a time. That was the day that Cindy and I teamed up to make chicken soup. She was sick with a cold, and we knew we needed to nourish ourselves if we wanted to recover. We cooked an organic chicken and sat at the counter to cut vegetables and strip the chicken off the bones. Then I took a long nap and when I got up, I was able to eat a few bites, the first food I'd been able to eat other than mashed potatoes since getting ill. Over the next few days that soup was hugely nourishing. Soon, I was munching on raisins and eating applesauce in between larger and larger bowls of soup. On day 9, I had my first cup of tea, ate a boiled egg and tomato sandwich, and rode with Cindy to town to get a movie from Redbox and veggies for spinach salad. She took one of her scenic routes (read geographically challenged in Sonora) and I didn't even care. I just looked out the window and enjoyed the fall colors.
This morning, I'm sitting in front of a screen writing a blog with a cup of tea on my end table. I'm five pounds lighter, my lips are cracked and peeling, and the face that looked back at me from the mirror this morning is tinged with gray BUT I'm on the other side of my strange tropical illness. This morning I added a book to my wish list: “Almost an Island: Travels in Baja.” Not shying away from that exotic, intriguing place, though I will be sure to pack mosquito repellent for my next visit there or anywhere such insects fly.