Dengue: Uninvited and Unwanted, Came to our House

Well I finally got dengue, I knew the chances were good, the numbers for Manabi were high but we hoped that we had taken all the precautions necessary to avoid these mosquito borne diseases.  We were wrong and I am now part of the growing statistic for the disease here in Ecuador.

My symptoms: first for about three days prior to the first big symptoms I had this awful feeling that I had bad breath, had not changed toothpastes, or eaten anything different but my mouth taste/odor was not right.  On Tuesday I had this headache pain right about my left eye…a sharp pain that lasted only a few seconds, it happened a few times and it was gone so I basically forgot about it. Early morning Wednesday after 1am I got up with the chills and a fever, had a terrible headache and pain in my eyes. I got up added another blanket and attempted to sleep.  Early the next morning I felt even worse, could hardly get out of bed, but assumed it was some sort of flu and was going to ride it out.  After sleeping on and off during the day on Wednesday, Joe was taking my temperature which stayed around 100-101 all day, he gave me Tylenol and as much water as I would drink.  I finally gave in and called my friend Eva around 6:30 pm to call Dra. Christina for me.  Dra. Christina arrived within 30 minutes, along with mi amiga Eva as my translator, and assessed my symptoms and diagnosed dengue…She gave me three shots, two in the backside and one in my arm, left a prescription for three items to get and to start taking 2 Tylenol every 6 hours starting the next morning…Drink plenty of water and get lots of rest.  Within 10 seconds after the first shot I could feel the difference and the headache started to dissipate.  No chills or measurable fever during the night.

Woke Thursday morning feeling beat up but with only a slight headache, tired and a slight fever.  Several things can happen over the next week or so – I can get a rash over my body, get the chills and fever back, and watch it doesn’t progress to something worse.

I guess the reason for writing this is to let folks know that it is not easily going to go away by itself.  As soon as you feel any of these symptoms go to your local clinic, call your general practitioner and please DO NOT TAKE any ibuprofen type products……..

We are pretty proactive people and when it comes to dengue, hemorrhagic fever from dengue, zika and chikungunya we take what I consider good precautions. Our yard is kept neat and all low hanging branches, bushes and flowers are kept cut back. We use Detan repellent every day, Joe fumigates the yard and house for mosquitoes every week and we walk around with cans of spray when we are outside.  We rake up leaves each morning and have no standing water around.  I do attempt to water early mornings so that the topsoil is not wet during the night hours. But none of those precautions help with this one mosquito. I could have been bitten while taking my morning walk but again I put on Detan before I leave the house, I could have been bitten at a local restaurant on Saturday night while out for dinner but again I wore Detan or I could have been bitten in my own home or yard where I always use Detan.

Everyday seemed to have a different symptom, first the headaches and eye sensitivity, next the fever and chills, next just sweats, total exhaustion, sick to stomach with diarrhea, after 12 days I finally feel back to my normal self.

Joe did get fresh papaya leaves from a producing tree and put them through the juicer added lemon juice and sugar and I drank that three times a day towards the end.  this was advice from a friend in Panama. I do think it helped.  World, look out. I’m back!!

Joe’s Stay at Clinica San Antonio, Portoviejo

Last week Joe was complaining of severe pain in his chest that started out as heartburn but became unbearable by Sunday morning. He had not slept for three nights and nothing he took made a difference so we decided to go to Clinica San Antonio. Our dear friend Eva accompanied us and we were seen by the ER doctor and then admitted. It is like we both were admitted because when you go to a hospital in Ecuador you need to bring someone there to help you. I was given a list of medications to buy downstairs in the pharmacy and a nurse came in to set up an IV and give Joe several shots. I was amazed at the size of the room, in the US they would use this as a semi-private room. There was even a bed for me.

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We had never been admitted to a hospital outside of the US and there are many differences. First you must bring all your personal items with you as nothing is supplied. Bring PJ’s, toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, brush, washcloth, changes of clothes for a few days and reading material plus any medications you are taking. I asked Eva what Joe needed to bring but completely forgot about anything for me. Whoever is acting as your assistant during your stay needs whatever personal belongings they would use for several days as well. The assistant is the one who goes to the pharmacy to get needed medications and supplies, helps the patient with personal needs like using a urinal etc. The hospital as well as the pharmacy accepted my VISA card to pay for Joe’s stay but the doctors only took cash so be prepared.

It was a very pleasant experience for a hospital stay. We both felt comfortable with the doctor in the ER, the nurse staff on the floor were professional and lovely to deal with. They even did an introduction when the second shift came on duty and the nurse leaving gave an overview of Joe’s situation and his medications to the three nurses coming on duty. Joe’s gastroenterologist’s office was located one floor down from his hospital room, and his endoscopy was fast and painless. Out like a light. All in all it was one of our better experiences with hospitals.

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$80 a day for the room, 24 hour ER Doctor and nursing staff and meals, I can’t say anymore than that!!!!

Bottom line Joe has Barrett’s Esophagus, severe inflamed esophagus from GERD and a hiatal hernia. With a change of medication for his GERD and a complete change of diet he is now pain free and healing. We will need to deal with the hiatal hernia with an operation but not right now.

On the Matter of Neighbors

I am not sure if we were destined to be in Ecuador, or living on the coast or for that matter making San Clemente our permanent home. All I know is that I love this country, this little town and our barrio. And, especially, its people.

The past several weeks have found me almost continually under the weather. I will not go into detail here about my issues but if I spoke to you at some point in the past three weeks don’t count on me remembering everything so if I promised you that I would do something for you I would suggest that you remind me of my promise.  I have been in a brain fog. Also, for those visiting, I honestly have not felt well, have not left the house unless going to see a doctor and now for the past three days in walking every morning and some afternoons as prescribed by my doctor and just trying to smile.

During all this, the most amazing thing happened. I found out just how wonderful my neighbors and friends are. Always knew they were great but in times of stress you do see who walks the walk.

First, Eva must be made entirely of heart – compassion, kindness and profound gentleness. She did not hesitate – when I spoke to her about not feeling well – on two separate occasions found doctors, made appointments, arranged transportation and accompanied me like family holding my hand. Through the entire process from translated questions, instructions and reading paperwork, checking blood pressure and blood count, to keeping it real by keeping me calm. She is a strong woman with a gentle heart and I am proud to call her my dear friend.

Thank you Patricia for taking my frantic call in the middle of the night and contacting the local doctor and following through with numerous telephone calls concerned for my well being. It is very special to have someone like you in our community. You have helped many expats when help was needed and there was nowhere else to turn.

Earlier this week, I felt well enough to go outdoors. Almost to a neighbor they came to the gate and gave me “what for”. There was Pilli and Paola, David and Helena, Sonia and Nellie, Erika and Mariuxi ALL caught me over the past two days and made it clear whatever time day or night just come to their door they have cars and trucks and will take us anywhere. Each told me over and over that if I ever needed anything, I was to speak to one of them. They would make arrangements to take me to doctors or hospitals or whatever I needed. Honestly it was done forcefully to make their point but with the most kindness I have witnessed, it was the most beautiful show of acceptance that I have come across.

Moreover, they seemed hurt I had not gone to them first. Our neighbors are not intrusive, they do not show up at your gate without you asking them or making arrangements in advance and they would never get in your business unless you asked. They smile and say hello as they go by. We share food and fruit over the fence. They will stop to chat if you want them to but otherwise respect your space. Yet I know that if I was in need I can just walk across the street and knock on a door, any door, and someone would drop whatever they were doing to help. This is a wondrous concept.  Joe and I have lived in probably a dozen neighborhoods over our 40 years together and have never had neighbors that honestly concerned for our well-being.

I am profoundly grateful for all the wonderful people we have met, appreciate their concern and their genuine compassion for “the new kids on the block”.

Each and every day we are blessed.

AH 1 N1 Virus – Coming To a Country Near You

While Joe and I were sitting at the bank in Portoviejo on Friday we saw an article about the growing number of deaths attributed to AH 1 N1 (swine flu virus) in some Central and South American countries.

As of Friday, Officials had confirmed six deaths so far in Ecuador and believe that one local death may have been from the virus spread through a local Catholic Church. The Church has changed their procedure in giving communion and even with shaking hands so as not to spread this disease further.  It has hit Columbia, Peru, Costa Rica and now Ecuador. Peru is cancelling some of their Festivals and some other areas of Ecuador are requiring face masks to enter health facilities.


An Update: From Today’s Portoviejo Newspaper, El Diario: On Monday afternoon, the website of the Ministry of Health (MOH) reported that, until Monday July 29, there have been 137 hit by the H1N1 flu virus, “of which 11 died.” As reported by the newspaper El Universo, the deaths are in seven provinces in the country: Pichincha, Tungurahua, Azuay, Manabi, Napo and Pastaza Rivers. One death is in Portoviejo, near us and another in Guayaquil to the south. In some of the areas, notably around Quito, visits to hospitals is being restricted and face masks are being worn.

Medical Testing in San Clemente Centro

Early this morning I got an email from my friend Libby letting me know that there was medical testing being done in downtown Clemente from 8:30am on. Well I read the email after about 9am but quick jumped on my bike to find out what was available.

First – Libby took a bunch of pictures and it will be posted on her son David’s blog so go to:

By the time I got there the place was pretty packed with folks waiting on the various test being preformed – each test for a $2 fee.  I know that $2 for a blood test or a mammogram, well this is unbelievable to me.

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San Clemente Salud – Flu Shots Available through Nov. 30th

We found out last evening at Meiers that the Health Department had been around last weekend giving out the flu shots and we were missed. I called Patricia and asked her to find out if the Health Department (Salud) was giving the shots. She is such a doll and called me back within a few minutes and gave me the details.

We took a walk into town and found the clinic office, located one block from the Catholic Church at the entrance to San Clemente. We walked in and found that this clinic has two  doctors, one dentist and a nurse that work Monday-Friday from 8am to 4pm. This is the nurse and the two doctors:

We were given our shots within 5 minutes of coming into the office, handed a Flu Vaccination Card and were headed back home.

Flu shots will be given through Friday, Nov. 30 and they are free.

Very professional staff, she was the most gentle of the past several nurses that have administered flu shots. The cost for any resident of Ecuador to see any of the doctors is free.