Recuperating in New Zealand after Dengue Fever

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February 21st 2012
Published: February 21st 2012
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We are about 6/7 weeks behind on our blog and have now left Asia. We arrived in Auckland, New Zealand today from Singapore (with an 8 hour layover at night in Brisbane) and we plan to travel around till March 15th when we fly to Sydney. The end of our Asian adventure was a miserable one! We both got Dengue fever, an illness passed by mosquito. It was an awful experience and we're now glad to be out of Asia. The way we're still feeling, weak and tired, we probably would have taken a flight home rather than to New Zealand if we had the choice back in Singapore. I'm sure after a good week of recuperation and seeing what New Zealand has to offer we'll be rejuvenated and more upbeat about travelling.

My symptoms first came on the morning of Sunday the 12th, the day we left Gili T for Bali. I woke up and every muscle and bone in my body just ached, I had a splitting headache, I was sweating loads, and I had a woeful pain over my eyes. When I took a hot shower I just got shivers through my whole body. These symptoms worsened and I just spent my time in Bali in bed. We both thought I must have heat exhaustion. I couldn't remember feeling as bad. I had no appetite and the pain over my eyes just wouldn't go away no matter how many painkillers I took. The following morning then Aoife woke with an excruciating headache, she was in tears with it. We think that was her Day 1. The doctors talk about Dengue fever by days into your first symptoms. They have an idea of what to expect by the day.

We flew to Singapore that evening which was just a blur. We stayed in our hotel room and took a bus the next day to Melaka, Malaysia. We seemed to be just getting worse. We couldn't even walk to get something to eat because we felt so bad. That night the owner of the guesthouse drove us to a western restaurant to get some soup and offered to bring us to a doctor the next morning. We couldn't even sit up at the restaurant. Aoife had her head on the table and I was panned out on one of their couches with my hat over my eyes to protect from the brightness of the lights. That night I noticed a rash all over my arms and legs and I knew I had to go to a doctor.

The next morning (Thursday, Feb 16th), Aris, the guesthouse owner, drove us to the doctor. (I was Day 5 and Aoife Day 3 at this point) She examined us and said she thought we had Dengue Fever and then referred to us to a private hospital. At the private hospital we were eventually seen by a consultant who said the same thing. We were both immediately put on the drip and blood tests were taken, which an hour later confirmed that we both had dengue fever. He said to me that night when he was checking up on us that “You looked like you were about to collapse in my office”.

The Dengue fever basically attacks your white blood cells and your platelets so they have to monitor the blood every day to make sure it does not fall to a critical level. The doctor said the healthy white blood/platelets count is 150 – mine was 113 the first day and fell as low as 99 while Aoife's level was 130 on the first day and it fell to 125. The doctor explained that they had to be comfortable that this had stabilised, stopped falling, before we would be allowed to check out of hospital.

Dengue fever is a viral illness so it cannot be treated directly with antibiotics. I was on the drip my entire stay in hospital, which effectively boosts the body’s cells to fight the illness. I estimate I went through about 25-30 of the 500 ml bottles of the drip. They also injected us with antibiotics and steroids 3 times a day through the I/V. Aoife made a big improvement on her second day in hospital and was taken off the drip for most of the day. Aoife was slightly luckier in than her dengue fever was caught sooner than mine. However she was already weak from two weeks of been sick with food poisoning. So she has been sick over three weeks in total from one thing or another and is still not right.

It was rough been in hospital in a foreign country feeling so bad. As much as the world is a small place, Ireland feels like a long way away when you are lying in a hospital bed in Malaysia! Aoife and I were in separate rooms but Aoife came and sat in my room for a few hours every day. We napped a lot. The staff were all really nice to us. The Malaysian people are really friendly. Aris, the owner of the guesthouse, and his wife visited us every day which was really nice. In fairness, they treated us like family and we were only staying a few nights with them. They brought us bread and fruit and some juice the first night that was much needed.

Aoife was discharged on Saturday (Day 5) as her WB count rose to 139 and I was discharged on Sunday (Day 8). My WB count had come in at 100, stable enough to give me the option to check out and make our flight the next day. I thanked him and got out of there as soon as I could. I couldn't get out of Asia quick enough! Aris came with Aoife to pick me up at the hospital. The doctor said that it will take at least a month to feel near 100%!a(MISSING)gain, that it will be normal to feel weak for the next while. We have been told to rest a lot and not to do anything too strenuous. The adventure sports are out! We have some tablets to take and we bought some tablets from the pharmacy specific to building your immune system after a viral illness like Dengue fever. The pharmacist explained that Dengue never leaves your system. She said the major risk is that you get dengue a second time, that if you get a different strain of it then you’re ‘finished’. I think we’ve done Asia now anyway!

We'll continue to post blogs on the final part of our Asian trip. Overall it was a really enjoyable experience and we have some great memories and very few regrets. At the same time we are ready to move on from Asia and the backpacking experience. We'll enjoy the next few weeks recuperating here in New Zealand before we fly to Sydney to get back to regular life...

VMC<br style="mso-special-character: line-break;" /><br style="mso-special-character: line-break;" />


22nd February 2012

Hey guys, so glad to hear you're both ok, you had us all really worried back home. You're right Vinny the world doesn't seem that small when you're lying in a hospital in Malaysia and we're freaking out at home! As someone who always seems to be sick I recommend drinking Berocca Boost Multi Vitamin effervescent drinks. It was recommended to me by the doctor when I had glandular fever and helps boost energy levels. Anyway I'll email you properly soon, hope you feel better! Katie x

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