My Week with Dengue

Dengue (or Breakbone Fever) is a very popular disease in tropical countries, with even a few cases reported in America. My country, the Philippines is one of those top tropical countries. Ever since I was a little kid, my family would had always stayed alert with warnings that frequently came during the Summer or Rainy season. I’ve had friends and schoolmates who’ve had the disease growing up, so I was quite familiar with it.

Also, it helped that I owned this book: “Lolit Mosquito Brings Terror” by Dr. Luis Gatmaitan. As a little kid, I would find myself reading it often because of its entertaining (and educational) story and eye-candy illustrations (Beth Parocha-Doctolero was one of my favorite childhood illustrators).

 

 

Never did I think this childhood fear of mine would come to be a reality. Never did I think Lolit Mosquito would take interest in me. But life is unpredictable sometimes so I had no choice but to roll with it…

Days 1 and 2 (Feb 28 – March 1)
It all started with a fever. I was scheduled for a dentist appointment with my siblings that morning, but since the night before I’d begun to feel feverish. My mom took my temperature and it turns out, I had a high one. My cousin from another province had dinner and slept over, but I was unable to join her since I felt so unwell. I also missed out on a special dinner. At first I thought I had mumps- my face and neck area swelled up. But by the end of the day it was gone.

Nothing else happened the next day. I just spent it sleeping and drinking a lot of water. I also believe I hit the 39 C mark that day so I had to keep up with my Paracetamol dosage every 4-6 hours. My back also started to hurt.

 

Day 3 (March 2)
On the third day of my fever, we decided that I should get a checkup and a CBC blood test. Other than my White Blood Cell Count being a bit lower than normal, everything else was okay. My Platelet Count was at 158 (the normal minimum is at 150). Dengue is a disease that affects the platelets the most, so the doctor we went to urged us not to worry because I didn’t show any major dengue symptoms yet. I just had to keep up with my Paracetamol dosage to help eliminate my on-and-off fever. Also, I suddenly had my monthly period so I was to watch out for any abnormalities in the bleeding.

Just in case, my parents made me take Taua-Taua (capsules + tea), which is a plant with natural healing abilities. It is said that it helps bring one’s platelets up. That has been proven by many dengue patients in the past.

 

Day 4 (March 3)
However, Day 4 is when we got a big warning sign: my Platelet Count dropped to 125 after another CBC test so it was confirmed that I did have dengue. Apparently the Taua-Taua capsules and tea had little effect on me and my dengue infection. This time, the doctor we went to advised that if my platelets continue to drop, we should consider hospital admission as an option. However, it was just that- an option. If I could still fight the disease without medical assistance, then I wouldn’t need to be confined. For now, that’s what we decided to stick to.

That night though, I couldn’t sleep well because I started itching like crazy. Not cool if you ask me. I got a lot of petechiae marks on my skin from all the scratching.

 

Day 5 (March 4)
I kept up with my fill of Paracetamol, Taua-Taua, and Virgin Coconut Oil in hopes of getting better soon. But after my daily CBC test, we found that my platelets dropped to 85. Along with the CBC, I had my blood tested for two special dengue tests and I ended up being positive on both of them. My parents decided that after one more low platelet count, they were going to have me admitted.

In other news, my mom’s friend was nice enough to surprise us with pizza that night. Unfortunately, I couldn’t eat that, as per doctor’s orders. When you have dengue, you’re recommended to stay off red/dark-colored food because you have to watch out for signs of blood (in your stool).

 

Day 6 (March 5)
In the morning, I had another CBC and I got a Platelet Count of 76. We decided that was a “Go Signal” for us to seek hospital care. I was also at this stage they called the “Danger Zone” when one’s fever disappears during dengue and the platelets get a massive drop. So after lunch, I was rushed to St. Anthony Medical Center. I was greeted in the Emergency Room with some more tests- the typical weight/blood-pressure one, as well as this annoying 3-min blood pressure test (wherein they applied tourniquet to my arm and took my blood pressure for 3 mins… I felt my hand go numb and blue!). Then finally, it was the moment of truth: the IV. I was really scared because I’ve never had an IV on me before that day. I held my breath and I’m not gonna lie, it did hurt. I could even feel the needle (it was replaced with a plastic one, the nurses assured me) on my hand for a few hours after it was pierced on me. Since I had a stomachache, I had something put in my IV too to help.

Overall, I spent the whole day resting and adjusting to this strange environment I wasn’t used to. My mom and I also continued with our frequent praying. It was uncomfortable for me in the hospital and I didn’t like how at night nurses had to wake me up to check on me. I was still in a disoriented, dizzy state so I always found it hard to recall my daily liquid intake. It was also scary when my doctor made mention that my platelets were still expected to go down since my fever had started going down. On a good note though, my mom and I were happy to know that the hospital had a cafe downstairs that served good food. I had carbonara- my first real meal in days!

 

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First afternoon at the hospital with my Mom

 

Day 7 (March 6)
It was announced that I was to have blood extracted from me twice every day: once at 6am and once at 6pm. So true enough, at 6am, the nurse woke me up to get a CBC from me. After an hour, my doctor came in and told me that my Platelet Count went down to 65. This time, we got really worried because he made mention of a blood transfusion. He told us that my platelets were still expected to drop and that if I reached a count of 40, I would get blood transfusion immediately. My doctor also discovered my throat was really red and sore so I had to gargle some medicine and take lozenges (candy yay). My mom then quickly consulted the help of a friend of hers who was into alternative medicine (as we are) and I was recommended to take five Legasea A.I.M. capsules, three times a day. I also started applying some Virgin Coconut Oil and natural beeswax lip balm to my swollen lips. I had to make sure they didn’t bleed.

In the afternoon, my mom had to go home to help my siblings out so my dad stayed with me until nighttime. This second day was probably the most fun during my entire hospital stay. My dad and I discovered the hospital TV had cable so we got to watch a couple good shows. There was this show called “Must Love Cats” on Animal Planet and I enjoyed it a lot. I also had a chance to use the internet for a bit and I mostly spent it on Krysta Rodriguez’s blog. At 6pm, I had blood extracted from me again and we found out that my Platelet Count went up to 81! I guess the A.I.M. capsules and all the prayers helped!

At night, my Grandma came over, along with my mom and the rest of my siblings and they all stayed a bit before having dinner at a Chinese place after. I was in the mood to eat so they brought me back some good fried rice and spring rolls that I devoured to my heart’s content. Once everyone left, my mom stayed over to sleep with me again and we spent the whole night watching TLC. “Say Yes to the Dress” became a fast favorite of ours. We also enjoyed “My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding” at first, but got bored towards the end as nothing really happened.

I couldn’t sleep that night because I started itching like crazy again.

 

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Me with my Grandma

 

Day 8 (March 7)
At 6am, I was woken up to have my twice-a-day CBC again. This was something I was always not looking forward to. It was okay at first, but through time, I got a lot of bruises and it would start hurting every time I’d get a needle in me. My doctor went to check on me again at 9am and this time we found out that platelets went up to 106! He told us I would be free to go tomorrow if my platelets continued to increase to at least 130 (150 is the normal). Also, my colds were getting worse and I’d been getting blood in my mucus so I had to be prescribed some medicine for that. And it’s odd because I’m not used to having so many artificial medicines shoved into me; my family’s been the type to stray from artificial products. We believe that natural > artificial. However, since I was scared the bleeding in my mucus wouldn’t stop, I decided to agree to the medicine. I just made sure to keep up with my A.I.M. dosage, Virgin Coconut Oil intake, my Taua-Taua capsules, my Spirulina capsules (for iron), and my frequent consumption of fruits (pears, especially). It was also during this period that I started getting rashes, which was a good sign. People bleed during dengue so getting rashes meant that instead of having blood come out from inside me (through the nose, stool, et,c), they manifested in the form of red splotches on my skin.

My mom and I spent the whole Saturday afternoon in the hospital watching more TLC. We especially loved tuning in to the cooking and travel shows. My mom promised she’d make the Peri Peri Chicken Jamie Oliver made in his 30-minute meal show once I left the hospital.

At 6pm, I had my CBC again, and we eventually found out that my platelets went up to 161! I was bouncing with joy; I knew this was my official ticket out of the hospital. However, along with the good news, a second beanstalk grew: we found out through a phone call that my brother had a high fever at home. I was also prescribed some anti-allergy tablets to stop my late-night itching.

After watching The Voice, I slept at 11pm that night. I was excited to go home the next day.

 

Day 9 (March 8)
At 6am, I woke up to a painful CBC- my arm was bruised from all the needles. But I still had my head high- after all, this was my last blood test! I pretty much spent the whole day resting and watching TLC and the Asian Food Channel. My dad came over and helped us pack. We couldn’t leave though until we got the official green light from my doctor. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday so it was hard to contact him. Because of so, I had to undergo another CBC (which was the worst!) at 6pm. During dinner, my parents decided to get some Mama Chit’s burgers for all of us. I made sure to get the one with the double-patty because I had lost some weight during this dengue (I ate mostly fruits and soup during my illness). Burgers aren’t normally allowed for dengue patients but we let that one slide since my platelets were back to normal.

Finally at past 8pm, my doctor showed up! Took a while and I gotta admit: I was going crazy with all the waiting. I was beginning to think I wouldn’t be able to go home that day. After informing us about my 227 Platelet Count and giving us the “Go” signal, we packed the rest of our bags as I let the last of my IV into my system. At around 9pm, we left the hospital. “Welcome to the outside world!” one of my nurses proclaimed as she escorted me out of the premises. I have to agree that it was a joy to see the outside world again.

Now that this is all behind me I have to say that this experience changed me and made me a stronger person. This is one story that will stick to me for years to come.

 

Me with my Mom
Getting better! (Me with my Mom)

 

 

Overall
Dengue was an interesting experience for me. As someone who loathes needles and hospitals, I was surprised to have been relatively calm about my situation. It was an experience of many firsts:

– First time to get dengue
– First time to get confined (not counting my short broken bones stint as a toddler)
– First time to have an IV pierced on my hand
– First time to get 10+ injections in under a week (and I am terrified of needles)
– First time to miss a contest I’ve been waiting a YEAR to join

Aside from the special vitamins I took and the medical care I had, I have to say that the prayers helped the most. I felt a lot braver and stronger with each prayer. Thanks to everyone who took the time to pray for me, especially when my platelets dropped- that was such a scary time. Thanks as well to my parents for being there with me when I needed them the most. And lastly, thanks most of all to GOD for giving me the courage and comforting me during this hard time. I couldn’t have fought this dengue fight without Him. Dengue can be fatal and many die every year from it, so it was important to have the strength and the drive to put up a fight with it. And I gotta say that it was a tough fight, but I’m so glad I survived it all to tell this tale!

 

One day after getting home from the hospital, my Personal Healthcare Companion is making sure I recover well
One day after getting home from the hospital, my Personal Healthcare Companion is making sure I recover well

If you have any questions about dengue or about my personal experience with it, leave me some comments. I’ll be answering some of them in my next post!

Kaela

Kaela is an Illustrator and Graphic Designer who draws inspiration from her quirks, childhood nostalgia, and pop/sub-culture. www.KaelaAnte.com

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