My first tropical disease! Dengue 1.0.

After more than a decade of tromping around the tropics, I finally caught a disease!  More than anything, I’m surprised that this didn’t happen earlier.  I have had my share of intestinal bugs, but that was about it.  This was a good one though.

On Thursday, 29 August 2013, I had just arrived in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and had some meetings at the WWF office in Centre Point.  The night before, I met up with Richie Lee and had a few beers but not a heavy night.  This was supposed to be a whirlwind trip to meet the WWF team and take care of some paperwork for my research visa.

On Thursday afternoon, I met with Dr Norasma and Dr Connie on the sideline of their SSME subcommittee meeting.  At one point, they mentioned the bags under my eyes and I admitted to a terrible headache.  Sheepishly, I admitted to having some beers the night before and must be suffering a hangover – although it wasn’t that many beers.  Had I become such a lightweight?

Thankfully, I had Angela’s Pajero and could run around to get the papers I needed.  But there seemed to be something wrong with the Pajero’s aircon.  On the way to “Putrajaya,” I was sweating buckets and the headache was becoming worse and worse.  I felt hungry and nauseous at the same time.  It crossed my mind that I might be having a heart attack.

Luckily, I got the papers at Immigration Department easily and headed back to get the signed and then off to the Income Tax Department for some duty stamps.  But after seeing Dr Norasma again, I couldn’t stand the headache anymore and went back to the Borneo Beachouse to lie down.  Richie Lee was at reception and said hi but I mumbled that I wasn’t feeling well and wanted to rest.  I had a dinner appointment that evening with Leo and Allison and didn’t want to miss it.

I managed to get up and felt okay, so went to meet Allison and Leo.  We had a GREAT dinner of bbq ribs at a new place in Penampang.  I mentioned to them that I nearly didn’t come for dinner because I wasn’t feeling well.  Directly after dinner, I headed back to the Beachouse and was asleep by 10pm.  At 4am, the pain in my legs and head was so bad.  I had been sweating and shivering all night.  At 6am it was so bad, I asked Leo and Allison to get me to a doctor.  Leo was on his way to a fishing trip, so Allison came and got me at 7:30 and took me to see Dr Raj in Lintas.

The doctor checked my temperature and did a few diagnostics.  He took some blood and had it rushed to test for several infections and sent me back to bed with panadol – Panadol only!!! By then, the pain was like nothing I had ever experienced.  I went back to my bed at the Beachouse and suffered.  Allison brought me some drinks and some food later in the day and I managed to hobble down to the beach for some food.  But I couldn’t eat the swill they served at SugarBun (only toast and it was awful – never again), so I went back and just slept.

On Saturday morning (Selamat Hari Merdeka, Malaysia), Richie’s driver took me back to the doctor and the doctor confirmed the blood tests showed dengue fever.  Sometime around 5am, the fever had broken and the pain had started to subside.  As explained by the doctor, this was now the dangerous phase when my platelets would start to leak out of the blood vessels.  So it was back to the Beachouse and pack a bag and head to Sabah Medical Centre.  In came the insurance company.  I’ll save the insurance company for some future rant.

Sabah Medical Centre staff were great.  They walked me through the admission process, took my blood, and got me a bed in a shared room.  The room was comfortable but the man on the other side of the curtains made some horrible noises trying to breathe.  I have no idea what was wrong with the poor guy but he sounded terrible.  And the room was freezing.

That was when my great friends really helped out.  Richie and Jessie brought me a big bag of clothes, slippers, movies, coffee and tea, and some…. never mind.  And Allison came by with the Monsters who looked miserable but were sweet to come visit.  Shortly after those visits, the hospital staff offered me a warmer room – Yes, please!!!!

The new room was heavenly.  It was designed to be a private room, but they had put in a curtain to divide it.  When I arrived it was nice and warm – and empty!  I had peace and privacy.  How long could it last?  Not long.  I got a roommate about 4 hours later.  Richie and Jessie had brought me a very nice dinner of lamb chops and rice and salad, along with box drinks, apples, and other goodies.

My new roommate was fairly quiet, but after a while his family arrived and to visit him they had to cross my bed area.  So I got to enjoy a 2-hour parade of family members going back and forth and chattering non-stop.  It wasn’t until the next visit that I found the guts to ask them to please be quiet.  Actually, the headache was still pretty bad.

I cannot recall when they came with the IV drip.  It wasn’t so bad to have the drip except that I had to ask for help every time I wanted to go to the toilet.  The nurses were always very gracious to disconnect me and reconnect me.  They came a few times a day to check my temperature and blood pressure.  In the mornings, I got a visit from the phlebotomist and later in the day a doctor came in to tell me that my platlets were dropping – 150, to 140, to 130.

And then on Tuesday evening, the doctor came and told me that I was free to go. He expected my platelets to continue to drop and I should get tested from time to time but there wasn’t much that they were doing at the hospital.  So, I scurried out of there as fast my slow insurance company would let me!   The next morning, I ran to get my paperwork arranged and booked a flight to visit my father who was waiting for me in Singapore.  I visited a clinic in Singapore where they took some blood and by then my platelets were back to normal.

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