Tried my best to stay covered up during my last trip to Indonesia, but it’s impossible to avoid getting stuck. Sometime during three days living out of a chicken shack scoring epic Desert Point on Lombok, or during the dusty ride heading back to the airport en rout to Bali, one of those nasty little hypodermic-faced killers carrying the Dengue Hemorrhagic virus drew blood and sunk the disease into my system.
It took six days for the virus to incubate and grow strong enough to get a hold of me. I woke up that morning with breath that tasted like a ferrel cat crapped in my mouth during the nigh. An hour after trying to scrub the crap off my tounge I came down with a backache, which quickly turned into an excruciating painful stiff and sharp pain, as if I were struck with a baseball bat. A few hours later I came down with high fever with chills.
It started off like a terrible flu fever, but quickly escalated to something hideous. That night I started convulsing violently, accompanied by a psycho headache and joint pain. Dengue is known as “bone-break fever” because in bad cases it literally feels as if your bones and joints are fractured and swollen.
Every bone, joint, and muscle from my head to my toes locked up and cramped. Luckily I was in my room when the virus struck where I could lay immobile in bed. The bone aches made it too painful to leave the bed, but was minor in comparison to the vicious headache that struck in the early morning hours.
It was a headache unlike any I have ever experienced. It felt like fishing weights were hooked into the chords that connect my eyes to my brain and were dangling and bouncing around, tugging at my eyeballs and frontal brain lobe. Along with the eye pain was the feeling of a rod getting pushed through my temples. The headache prevented any sleep whatsoever and was causing delusions.
I had become ultra sensitive to any light, and I was unbearable to look left or right because of the bone pain and headache combination. The third day, I came down with a red and itchy rash that covered my entire body. My scalp and face was especially itchy.
A day later, my gums began to bleed and big purple pock marks showed up on my body, which I found out later was caused from leaking blood vessels. At that point I was still unsure of what was wrong with me, I had never heard of Dengue Fever being that horrendous.
Paranoid, dehydrated, and worried I would lose my vision permanently, two friends took me to a doctor. We ended up at a little clinic in Jimbaran where I was given shots and blood was taken. The muslim doctor misdiagnosed my condition as malaria and her nurse ,in full burka attire, injected me with drugs that I had an allergic reaction to.
In hindsight I should have gone to the hospital run by competent American and Australian medical professionals, but at that time I did not know it existed.
After riding out the virus for another three days in bed I woke up feeling much better. I felt good enough to get on my scooter and get some food and water. On my way back home on the road with the groceries I came across a horrific scene. There were dead bodies everywhere.
One of the dump trucks hauling stones down the hill from the Bukit lost it’s breaks, flipped over, and slammed into stand still traffic. The truck dragged bodies and scooters over 100 feet before stopping. Many of the cars that got hit rolled through shop windows.
The injured were loaded into the back of a pickup truck and rushed to the hospital. The dead laid scattered across the street with rings of people around them.
I eventually made it home an hour later and was feeling heavy and exhausted. I ate some food, drank some water, before relapsing. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Dengue came back more powerfully that before with all the same symptoms and I was yet again bed ridden.
Before the relapse my friends left Indonesia, so I was alone in the dark. My gums bled, eyes were shut, head was throbbing, and bones were locked for another week.
As soon as I was able, I went to the airport and flew home to California.
For over two months following the accident, I couldn’t surf or do any physical activity. The pain in my joints and migraine headaches persisted and limited my mobility.
On top of all the physical signs, the virus has a symptom that makes you feel irritable with high anxiety and depression. I was feeling all those symptoms.
Out of the four types of dengue fever, I had the worst kind. It is a hybrid strain of the virus called dengue hemorrhagic.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the type that carries dengue. Aedes aegypti thrives around areas with still water. They are often found around over-saturated potted plants and water-runoff pools. They live in both the city and the country, and are most active in the daytime. Aedes aegypti has white bands around its legs and thorax and is usually larger than most other mosquito types.
Aedes aegypti almost killed me. Two years later I still feel the effects of the virus in my knee joints. They get sore and I’m no longer to hike more than a few miles without them locking up. Apparently the virus will stay in my system forever, so if I contract another strain of dengue, the chances of the fever being lethal are much higher.
My advice to anyone traveling through areas known for hosting mosquito viruses in Third World nations is to do your best to avoid getting stuck. Even if your sweating buckets, cover up.