This is a blog about the experiences of a Kenyan doctor who is on a 1 year Hands on Training in AIIMS within South Delhi. I am with my family. It will try to describe the experiences at the hospital - AIIMS and other social experiences of settling down with my wife and 2 young children, finding a house and dealing with official bureaucracy. Enjoy and I hope it will entertain and inform.
Dengue ... ever heard of it? You pronounce it almost like 'dengu'.. those seeds that some of us love to hate after having them as staple for 4 years in High School, but in actual fact the two are unrelated... well not totally unrelated if you consider similar geographical location to be a relationship but thats where the similarities end. While one is potentially deadly and not to be wished on your enemy, the other is well, just sometimes unappetizing and may induce some colon olympics. Having been in Delhi for a couple of months now, we have got used to the dengu but had no idea it had a familiar sounding cousin called dengue.
The realisation came quickly and was like a thunderbolt. One day, you wake up fine as a fiddle. Then you begin to feel a bit feverish and before you know it, your back feels like a Sumo wrestler just landed on it while carrying a tonne of bricks. Then comes a splitting headache and your eyeballs begin to pain, right inside the sockets. With each movement of the head, you are made aware of the the pain in the eye sockets. You are therefore forced to close your eyes so as to avert your gaze and this seems to help a bit. It however makes you feel wobbly and faint especially if you move too fast. On the second day of this teriffying illness that I could not put a name to, a friend comes to visit and declares, ' you know there has been an outbreak of Dengue fever in Delhi '. They make it sound like the whole of Delhi knows about it and has protected itself and we are the ones who have been caught out... like sitting ducks (I am sure that was not their intention but that was definitely my perception) and I go like "Dengu who?" I suddenly remember some disease like that that we studied in passing because it is not found in Kenya or most parts of Africa. The fever is unrelenting. It is only relieved by paracetamol. Body and muscle aches become the order of the day. It lets you know that they don't call it 'break bone fever' for nothing. When you read the literature, you are informed that it is a viral infection that could kill you, but in the mean time, it has no cure so just continue taking paracetamol for your pain and hope for the best. I would have wished to await my fate in a nice sanitized, air conditioned hospital bed but, as fate would have it, I had neglected to take out a 3 month travell health insurance from home claiming that I would take on a proper health cover upon arrival in India. I had hypothesized that since healthcare is cheaper in India, then health insurance would follow suite. My hypothesis was right but human nature and procrastination had done me in. So, one day drags into the next and after 3 days, I am are thinking , 'I am dead and have gone to some place other than heaven.... this must be that place!' Woe unto you if you begin to vomit. That means dehydration will set in swiftly and without medical attention, death is imminent. The virus causes a form of internal dehydration where the tissues become leaky and fluid leaves the blood compartment into the tissues and may lead to shock if not recognised. Add on to this some actual vomitting and you can see how dire that combination can be. The literature says that the fever can last upto 2 weeks, but I say I will be gone in 2 weeks. It all began when my youngest daughter developed a fever that was otherwise benign. Though my medical mind was puzzled, I was comforted that she was otherwise well, playfull and eating well. After 2 days it disappeared, only to reappear again after 5 days. My other daughter got it next, she however also remained relatively well. Little did we know that the dengue fever was saving its whole armoury for us.... the parents. My wife then complained of a fever and within no time, in a couple of hours, kaboom, she was flattened, in near tears with muscle pains. On day 3, she began to doubt my medical expertise. Despite my keeping a very close eye on the situation, I must say that Jesus was right to say a prophet is never honoured at home. She was trying really hard to believe me but I could see the doubt creeping into her eyes. When she gave me that puppy eyed look that said, "I am sorry for all the hurt I have caused you in the past" I decided enough is enough and to save face, we went in search of a second opinion. The doctor was nice but a bit scary. He seemed to pause just before writing the prescription and make gestures with his hand, as if he was praying or meditating. Only problem is we could not be sure who he was praying to. He suggested admission, we declined politely. He then wrote out more paracetamols and some blood tests which turned out negative. We went home and I think there was a spring in my step as my diagnosis and management had just been confirmed. To cut a long story short, Yahweh was merciful and in 4 days, the fever was gone. However, literature throws in another spin by proclaiming that a haemorrhagic (bleeding) rash begins to appear when the fever is coming to an end, thus giving it the famous name haemorrhagic fever. I can't stop checking myself out in the mirror and now, I am also seeing the offending mosquitoes everywhere I turn. I see them whizzing silently by on the street (Dengue fever is transmitted by a day time biting mosquito). I feel them munching on my bum as I walk on the street, I am constantly swiping them off my back ( never mind that I am wearing a shirt). I think I must be suffering from Mosquito Induced Post traumatic Stress Disorder.