The Poo Flu?

Say It Ain’t True!
3 November, 2016

I had reached the point when I barely knew the answer to “Buenos Dias” and my sole response to “how are you?” was, “cansada.”

Every day for the past six weeks had been like the instructions on a shampoo bottle, “wash, rinse, repeat”.  One just had to replace “wash” with “hump”, as in hump garbage bags, hump weeds, hump dirt, hump water…  Clearing my property, even with my revolving door of workers, was hot, dirty, stinky, hard work.  I was completely uprooted, I had moved to a new country and living in a foreign language. I had arrived in September, the tail end of hurricane season.  It was hot as stink, my kitchen was inside my 21’ RV which doubled as a sauna, boiling water for my daily coffee fix was barely tolerable, I had no appetite but if I did cooking after 9:00 a.m. was unbearable, and instead of a refreshing, cold shower at the end of the day, my London Phone Booth sized shower spit out only lukewarm to scalding water.  It was no wonder I was constantly tired.

Thursday arrived and I was so tired I could barely manage the 25-meter commute from my tent where I was sleeping to the RV, which held the toilet and the promise of coffee.  Once inside the RV, bathroom business attended to and coffee in hand, I pulled out the sofa-bed, turned on the wimpy fan, opened all the windows, and didn’t move again for the rest of the day.  The dogs did not get walked.  No work was done.  I didn’t even change out of my pajamas.  I did have a couple workers on the property, so I pretended I was working – reviewing photos on my computer.  It was hotter than hell and I was sweating like a pig, but I had nothing left, I didn’t even have the energy for a lukewarm shower.

The following day I dragged myself out of bed.  I was still exhausted, but I didn’t feel horrible and I had some important errands I had to run.  I pulled out my bike and pedaled the mile into town.  After a quick stop at the bank for money, I pedaled out of town and up the hill to my friends’ place to pay the deposit on the studio my mom would be renting.  It was a whopping mile and a half.  Upon arrival, I climbed off my bike, doubled over in agony, and nearly passed out.  My friends came running, offering the use of their bathroom (this is Mexico, don’t you know), which I didn’t need, and a comfortable chair, which I did.  I sat in their chair and snuggled with their puppy as they worked and chattered away. Slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, I began to feel human again.  Almost.

I was fortunate that the ride home was predominantly downhill and very close.  I barely made it.  Throwing open my gate, I wrestled with both my bike and my babies who were jumping all over me in greeting.  I don’t know why, but I was intent on getting inside my phone booth bathroom in my RV in order to throw up, which consisted of nothing but a bit of cranberry juice and a lot of dry heaves.  It felt like my insides were alternately being blown up with gas and squeezed shut by a vice grip.  The pressure pushing against my diaphragm was so intense I could barely breath.  I had no choice but to crawl back into bed and lie perfectly still – for the next three days.  I would wake up feeling a bit better, but as soon as I put any food in my mouth the cramps and pain in my abdomen would flare up, I would feel like I was going to vomit but couldn’t even muster a dry heave, and then I would be flattened again.

I hate doctors.  I go to the doctor only in the case of an extreme emergency, like when I trip and fall and slice myself open on a rock, or when get hit by a car.  Well, twice in 25 years I did go to the doctor for a complete annual physical exam.  Normally, going to the doctor is a kicking and screaming affair.  After six days of this gut-wrenching ‘flu I was on the phone to my friend Anita, pleading with her to help me get in to see the doctor. This “’flu” was like no ‘flu I had ever experienced, and I don’t know which of us was more concerned.  There were so many possible ailments:  dengue fever, yellow fever, malaria…  I was in a strange country, living in a tent with my three dogs, surrounded by garbage, weeds, who knew what else.

Anita gave me the doctor’s phone number.  I called and left a message.  Apparently Anita was a bit more persuasive.  She had called as well and returned my call moments later with strict instructions from the doctor, “go immediately to the lab to give a blood sample, I have called them and they know what tests to run, then come directly to my office.”

The doctor was very thorough.  We sat and chatted for a long time about all my symptoms, then moved on the height/weight/temperature/pulse/BP.  My lightheadedness was no surprise to the doctor, I was very dehydrated and my blood pressure super low.  What did surprise her was my extremely low pulse.  I had to remind her that while I did not look like one at the moment, I was an athlete.  She then pulled out her stethoscope and checked my heart and lungs.  Next, she had me lie down and she put the stethoscope to my belly, “My, but you have a very active belly!”

Yes, very active indeed, my belly was full of parasites.

I could only laugh.  How was it possible for someone like me, whose bowels were as regular as Big Ben without the aid of jet-fuel strength coffee, to become irregular?  In truth, my BMs had become few, far between, and not particularly generous.  I guess all those parasites squirming around my belly were well fed.

The doctor prescribed me an anti-parasite (deworming) tablet, and explained to me that it is common in Mexico to take this tablet every six months.  I was surprised that this had not crossed my mind.  I’ve rescued plenty of puppies and the very first thing the vet does is give them deworming pills.  Additionally, once my dogs reach a certain age I put them on a monthly heartworm regimen. Not only do these pills kill heartworm, they eradicate just about every other parasite known to dog.  In a country where you can’t drink the water, it should come as no surprise that regular deworming for humans is normal.

So, my belly might be bubbling with parasites, but after eight days, two de-wormings, and something to ease my belly cramps, I would be right as rain.

Or so I thought.  Twenty-four hours later I would have the results of my blood work, results that would change my life forever.

To be continued…

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