Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chikungunya - This is the health department


The voice is from the health department.  She has to talk to me because I am host to a battle between the virus, Chikungunya, and my own compromised immune system.  She is asking me when I went to Haiti, when I thought I was bit by the troubling mosquito, when I left.

Chikungunya was first identified in Africa and spread to Asia.  The CDC watches its spread to the Americas.

Did I leave the hotel in Florida?  Was I bit there?   They are afraid someone will bring it back and then a US mosquito will bite them and it will begin to spread as fast as it spread throughout the world.

"I only walked to the Denny's across the parking lot. I don't think I was bitten again but I can not be sure." I am no longer sure of anything.

I tell her I need to look at a calendar.  I can not think about time.   I learn to live in the present; dealing with the constant pain I have felt since chikungunya entered my body.   Has it been weeks? Months? Days?   I only can think of what I can try to stop the pain.  I use ice bags, buy supplements, rest, drink fresh juices, take pain medicines but it is always, always there.  I try anything and everything but a disease which has crippled millions of people is mostly unheard of here.  I am the only case in Oregon.  My doctor looked it up on the internet before seeing me.  The main concern was reporting it to the CDC.   "There is no cure."  she tells me but I knew that.

I try to answer her questions.  I cannot focus but then she tells me she worked in Haiti for a year and we turn our conversation to Haiti.   If I am in pain, what are the people there doing?  Will few volunteers arrive with the much needed pain  killers?   I take warm showers, ice my feet, wrap body parts in pain strips and drink clean water.  I have tylenol and mobic.  I can watch the whole 9th season of Greys Anatomy.

But I am trying to answer her questions. "Why did I go to Haiti?  Where was I ?   What was I doing?  When did I first notice I was sick?  What did I do?  Were other people sick?'  

I try to think and then the nightmares of memory return.   Everyday I look it up on the internet.  I search for the experiences of other people.  I look for reassurance and understanding.  

Since I was a child, I used writing to my life in order; to relieve the pain and confusion and to look for hope.   This is my story of global maternal health.  It has many chapters and this is one of them.

I can see the look in people's eyes or they come right out and say it.  "You shouldn't have been there in the first place.  We told you Haiti is not safe and now look at you."

I walk with a limp. I feel crippled.  I hope it will pass but I do not know.  I look at people on bicycles with wonder.  I once rode a bike. I once hiked in the forest.  I had walked up the mountainsides of Haiti.  Did I understand my risks?   Would I have gone anyway?

Here is my story in installments.

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