The first few weeks into my adventures in India as a Clinton fellow, I was fortunate enough to contract the wondrously famous virus known at Dengue. As a constant traveler of nearly 6 years, I had been hoping to boost my nomad-cred, so I was elated to finally chock it off my list of ‘Dangerous Medical Conditions Abroad I Hope to Catch.’ When I first got ill, I was pleased as a peach (or soon to be a bruised peach) when I woke up after a night of intense chills, nausea, and fever, wondering what I could have contracted! Could it be viral fever (boring and predictable)? Could it be that weird street food I ate last night (Delhi street food is too delicious to pass up)? Could it be malaria (Oh boy!)? After a trip to the doctor’s office and a quick blood test, I nearly jumped for joy (yet for lack of any energy at all, I refrained) when I received my results: Dengue-Ville, here I come!
Are you a traveler and hoping to tell the Dengue tale? Here are some of the things you can look forward to:
1) Body-wracking chills so intense that even 2 fur blankets and all of your warmest clothes won’t stop the shaking. While you shiver uncontrollably for hours on end until your body is dead exhausted from the constant movement, entertain yourself with visions of saunas and summer in the Saharan Desert, because at least it’s warm there.
2) Blinding head pain equivalent to someone pounding on your head with an anvil. Your body just became a construction site, and someone is demolishing the building. Cherish every moment of those pins-and-needles shooting up your arms and legs and the constant searing pain in your head!
3) Hallucinations that make you wish you lived in a parallel universe. Fever dreams will have you wishing you didn’t live in the real world. At one point in some of my many hallucinations there were 12 of me working together to create the most important tool that would save the world: love. We were really getting somewhere with a fan and a cardboard box, until I came to and with great sadness realized that this was not in fact, reality, and that even more disappointingly, the other 11 of me had disappeared and taken their love-machine with them.
4) Nurses finding any available vein in every part of your arm to stick IVs into. Nurses will come in and out of your hospital room at all times to stick you with needles, take blood, and spend about an hour every day man-handling, slapping, and punching your arm while trying to find a vein. You can proudly show off your bruises to friends post-hospital, and explain that no, they don’t just come from the IV line.
5) Becoming a flat hermit. After a week in hospital-land you’ve finally been discharged, so naturally you’re ready to go show off your battle scars to your buddies. However, walking from your bed to the bathroom is the most draining task of the day, so you’ll have to disperse your Dengue escapades over the phone between your 20 hour naps. For the next month.
There are many more adventures to be had post Dengue-ville, like your body magically transforming itself into an ant hill (itching, anyone?), your immune system being so low that you catch plenty of other diseases (bronchial allergies, anyone?), and of course the inevitable hair loss (it’s a good thing I have an uncontrollable mane). But, it was all worth it in the end to receive the proverbial ‘Beasted Dengue’ trophy that I can add to my travel collection, up along with Giardia, Scabies, and Pique (Thanks Paraguay!) Pat yourself on the back as you now know you won’t be one of those boring grandparents that lecture their kids on how you used to walk 6 miles to school every day: you can tell them you hallucinated it while you had Dengue Fever.
In all seriousness, thank you so much to the AIF Fellowship team, my parents, Fortis Hospital, my best friend, my placement organization, and all of the wonderful fellows for being so supportive and helping me fully recover to being the greatest person I can be: B-Spears. I am back to cavorting around Delhi in a feather boa while singing ridiculously cheesy songs, and man do I feel alive.