Getting Dengue Fever
Updated: Jun 15, 2020
It was a beautiful morning on Nusa Lembongon. The sun was shining through our private little beach hut. We were in paradise. Truly; paradise. Outside our beach hut was a delightful, little infinity pool that overlooked the blue lagoon, leading to the ocean. Today was a particularly exciting day for me because we were going to snorkel the under-water Buddha and swim with Manta Rays. Anybody who knows me, knows I am obsessed with being in the water. Today was particularly exciting as I had never seen a Manta Ray before, so to get to swim so closely with them was an opportunity of a lifetime. We had been for a couple of drinks at a local bar the night before, taking in our surroundings. We had never been to Nusa Lembongan before, so we had been so over-excited at the pure beauty of everything we laid our eyes upon.
I had certainly never anticipated the turn the next few days would take.
Instead of waking up full of the normal energy I have when travelling, I woke to find my whole body in excruciating pain. The only way I could describe it (and how I did describe it at the time) was that I had been hit, severely; by a train. My eyes were stinging as if I hadn’t slept in months and every single bone in my body ached. My friend told me, ‘Come on, you’ll be fine. You’ve probably just got a hangover. Once we get in the water you will be fine.’ But I knew, the pain I was feeling was not a hangover. This pain was a pain I’d never experienced before. Nonetheless, I was so excited for our trip, I somehow managed to put some clothes on and make it to the car leading us to the boat. I laid down in the car and fell to sleep immediately. When the car arrived at the harbour I walked slowly to the boat praying I would feel better so I could swim with the Manta Rays. Surely, this pain would subside throughout the day. We got onto the boat. I fell to sleep again.
My friend woke me up when we reached the underwater Buddha. She was still convinced once I got into the water I would feel better. I forced myself into the water. To be honest, when I did get into the water my body did feel better for a moment. In fact, I managed to get the most amazing photo with the underwater Buddha and looking at that photo now, you would have no idea what my body was going through internally.
As soon as I got out of the water again, I fell back to sleep. When it came to swimming with the Manta Rays my body was in so much pain, I had probably used my last amount of energy on the underwater Buddha, I couldn’t make it into the water. I couldn’t even wake up. I slept through the whole thing. At that point my friend knew something serious was wrong.
We got back to our little beach hut and my friend ordered food. Food is truly one of the most exciting things in life for me and never will you hear me pass on food. But my appetite was gone. I couldn’t eat a thing. I went back to bed, and again; I slept. My friend asked the hotel staff for help. They told me I needed to call the doctor. I can’t even express how amazing the staff at that hotel where to me that night, they were so gentle with my fragile body. Providing me with plenty of fluids, extra cushions and medicines. My temperature was sky high at this point. When the doctor finally arrived, they told me they couldn’t be sure what it was, but my temperature was very high, and I should go to hospital.
The problem with that was, I didn’t have any travel insurance. That will sound so crazy to so many people, but I was young and careless. My friend had booked us into the most amazing hotels in Bali and she had put so much thought and effort into our holiday plan. Therefore, we made the decision that I would not go to the hospital, and would carry on the trip with her to Ubud.
The hotel in Ubud was spectacular, surrounded by acres of lush greenery and palm trees, it was a tropical paradise. Our room was one of the most beautiful rooms I had ever stayed in, with a huge four-poster bed, a sitting room and an outdoor bathroom, meaning when you took a shower you could stare at the sky. I stared at that sky a lot, as I spent most of our three day stay in that hotel room, laying on the bathroom floor, staring at the sky; in pain. On the third day of our stay at the hotel, which I had primarily spent sleeping in bed, my friend said to me ‘I really miss you; you haven’t spoken to me for days’. I cried.
We made the decision that I would return to a hotel in Seminyak near to the airport, where I could rest, and she would carry on the rest of the trip alone. People did question how she could carry on the trip when I was so ill, but I completely understand why she did. She had put a lot of time and effort into the planning of that trip and she only had two weeks off from a very exhausting job in Sydney. She wasn’t to know at that point how ill I was. When I got back to the quaint little hotel in Seminyak, I went straight to bed and didn’t get out of it for a full day and night. Most of that time was spent crying in pain, or again, on the bathroom floor. I also had a lot of sickness at this point, and although I couldn’t eat anything, I was constantly being sick. The next day, the owner came to see me. He told me I needed to get to the hospital.
He suspected I had Dengue Fever.
To be honest, I didn’t know much about Dengue Fever. I had heard about it and knew it was a mosquito borne virus. But I had never met anyone who had gotten the virus and it just sounded very scary. I got on the back of a motorcycle to the hospital. By this point I had lost all energy to even walk out of the hotel to the motorcycle and basically crawled my way there.
The hospital I had been sent to was not a westernised hospital. At that time, I knew I would not be able to afford a hospital for tourists. The wait to see a doctor was around 3 hours. When I finally did see the doctor, they checked my bloods and confirmed that indeed, I had Dengue Fever. My blood platelets where critically low and I needed to be put onto a drip immediately. The doctor was very irritated that it had taken me so long to go to a hospital.
Luckily, I had a private room, with a private bathroom. The walls were completely white with just a single bed in the middle. To be honest, the whole thing was very depressing. I was put into a white hospital gown and placed on a drip which I had to take to the bathroom with me if I needed to go to the toilet. Very few staff in that hospital could speak English, but they were extremely kind. In the mornings I would be awoken at around 5 am, the nurse would strip me out of my gown and bathe me with wet wipes. She would then give me a menu for breakfast, and I would order what I fancied. Which was nothing. But I had read papaya juice can help bring your blood platelets back up, so I always ordered that and forced myself to drink it all. The nurses would come in three times a day after that checking on me and offering me food. The rest of my time in the hospital was spent crying or on the phone to my family. My mind and body felt so exhausted and weak.
The doctor told me that my blood test results showed that I had previously had Dengue Fever. Which is so crazy because I never in my life can recall feeling as bad as what I felt at that point, trust me; I would have remembered feeling that pain. He told me that sometimes the first time you have Dengue Fever it might just feel like you just have symptoms of the flu. The second time it is much worse and severe and can even be fatal. On that note, my parents decided they would book a flight out to Bali to be with me.
That was Day Four in the Hospital.
On Day Five of being in the hospital and on a drip; I ate breakfast. I called my Mum immediately and told her not to book the flight. I had eaten; therefore, I must be getting better. I also had several more months of travels planned and instead of wishing death upon myself, I was excited at that prospect again. The doctor came and told me my bloods had shown my blood platelets were coming back up again. I still didn’t feel 100 per cent, but I knew I was getting better. On Day 6 I was discharged from the hospital with a bill of around 600 GBP, which, considering the treatment and care I received, I was happy with.
They say that Dengue Fever can have a lifelong affect on your immune system and energy levels. 1 week after being discharged from the hospital I climbed Mount Meru, I was determined that Dengue Fever wouldn't ruin my whole trip. 2 weeks after I was volunteering and teaching English in an Indonesian school. 5 months later I was living in Thailand.
But, my hair began falling out.
My hair began falling out in clumps.
I went to the chemist and they asked me if I had suffered from Dengue Fever in the last 6 months. I told them that yes, I had. Hair falling out is a common side effect that comes months after having dengue fever as a result of the trauma.
2 years on if I am still feeling the effects of Dengue Fever I am not aware of them. My hair is back to its normal thickness and as far as I’m aware; I’m healthy.
A lady once asked me recently ‘how do you dare go back to Asia knowing that you could catch Dengue again?’ Dengue Fever is supposed to be worse, each time you have it.
I don’t believe we can live our lives in fear of something like that, because anything could happen. However, I will make sure I always travel with super mosquito repellent. Please ensure you do too.
Symptoms of Dengue
Sudden, high fever.
Pain behind the eyes.
Severe joint and muscle pain.
Skin rash, which appears two to five days after the onset of fever.
What to do if to you think you have the virus?
There are no current vaccinations for Dengue. I would suggest getting straight to a doctor as early as possible so that you can be monitored and provided with the best possible medication. Also drink as much papaya juice as possible! Keep them blood platelets high. Always have travel insurance.