Break-Bone Fever? The Dreaded Dengue!

The peace of the gorgeous tropical day has been shattered. Sitting quietly by the pool, I suddenly feel the presence of a predator. I try to nonchalantly peer into the bushes to see what is making my hair stand on end. There he is, in his gray-striped pants, but he is unaware that he has been exposed. I shudder as he inches closer to me holding his weapon out in front of him as he looks for the best place to strike. It is now or never; kill or be killed. He doesn’t sense my awareness as he boldly makes his move. I am quicker! I am ready! I swiftly make my blow and blood splatters across my arm! His body lays crushed on the pool deck as I lie back down to try and enjoy my reading again. Another mosquito bites the dust! Since that fateful day in September, I am now always aware of the dreaded Dengue carrying mosquitoes.

Dengue Fever is a viral disease, spread by the Aedes mosquito, which infects 50-100 million people and kills about 25,000 yearly. It is a virus similar to Yellow Fever and West Nile Virus and has symptoms like Malaria. The mosquitoes which carry Dengue are active in the daytime and can be identified by their ugly little gray stripes which I can now spot from miles away! Symptoms include high fever, flu-like symptoms, vomiting, severe joint and muscle pain, and a ruthless headache between the eyes. It is a tropical illness that is more prevalent in cities where mosquitoes can breed in stagnant water.

As soon as we moved to Malaysia we heard the horror stories of Dengue Fever. Most people described it as a fever and illness so intense that your bones feel like they are on fire and are cracking into pieces. That description was enough to strike terror in my family, but apparently not enough to take full precautions. After avoiding the mosquito carrying virus for seven years, one bite was all it took.

I awoke one Friday morning in early September to go for my morning swim before school. I felt a splitting headache coming on so I took two Motrin and headed for the door. As I put on my flip flops I realized this was not an ordinary headache so I slipped back into bed after popping two Tylenol for good measure. Although I had a relentless headache and felt terrible, I made it through work by taking a ridiculous amount of pain medicine throughout the day. At 3:00 as the bell rang, I achingly plodded home and crawled into my bed as my head felt ready to be cracked apart and the mere act of opening my eyes was painful. By 6:00, I could barely lift my head or move and my clothes and sheets were soaked in gross yellow sweat. I had a 104 °F fever and my joints hurt so badly that the shaking from the fever sent excruciating pain shooting through my body. I knew I had the dreaded Dengue Fever.

The doctors confirmed my fears on Saturday morning with a blood test and suggested that I get admitted to the hospital right away. I was feeling a bit smug, thinking I could beat this, so I opted for my comfy bed, bad sit-coms, and People magazines. On Sunday and Monday I felt a lot better if you can call flulike symptoms “feeling better.” I went to my local doctor each day to have my blood drawn and to check my platelet count. The doctors were concerned because my platelet count was rapidly dropping and I was having a hard time staying hydrated despite drinking tons of water constantly. I knew the stories had been exaggerated, this wasn’t so bad….HA!  Nobody told me about the “honeymoon phase!”

When I awoke on Tuesday, I was convinced that I was going to die. The only problem was that I didn’t have enough energy to actually die and I could barely move. After the doctor insisted, my husband took me to the hospital where I proceeded to collapse in the waiting room. I got two bags of IV fluids in the ER since I was severely dehydrated, delirious and fainting. The pain in my head, joints, muscles, and bones was unbearable. The ER doctor admitted me to the hospital and I was hooked up to an IV bag for six days.

During this time I would be faked into believing that I was getting better only to have the fever and pain return again and again like that bad top-ten song on the radio. Finally I broke out in a rash that lasted for weeks and needed to be scratched to the point of bleeding. To top off all of the torture, a pleasant smiling nurse would prance in and jab a needle into my arm to draw blood for the platelet count three times a day. Every day it dropped a little bit more. Luckily I was too ill to care! I slept my way through the week with painkillers, sleeping pills and an IV bag as my constant companions. Finally the doctor released me on Sunday since my platelet count was stable, but I was still sick in bed for a few more days and the rash was worse than ever!

For weeks I realized why it is called break bone fever! My joints and muscles continued to hurt at the slightest effort and were swollen like they had been during my pregnancies. Eventually I felt better, the joint pain subsided and the rash finally faded. However all these months later there is one long lasting effect; I am seized with panic when I see a gray stripped mosquito flying around me. I am frantically swatting one right now as I sit at the pool writing this. Insect repellent and insect killer are never far from my reach. My family looks at me like I have three heads as I chase down a single mosquito like it is a murderer in a bad horror flick! Better to be safe than sorry. One bite is all it takes!

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9 Comments

  1. Vividhunter said,

    April 20, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Wow, intense… I’m glad I managed to avoid it the years I lived in Cairns

    • globalanni said,

      April 21, 2012 at 2:12 am

      Luckily it only lasts for a week or two. 😉

  2. scintillatebrightly said,

    April 26, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    That sounds awful! Is it known to be deadly too?

  3. globalanni said,

    April 27, 2012 at 6:12 am

    It is usually only deadly for people who have other complications such as respiratory issues or diabetes,…

  4. Shellintx said,

    April 28, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    You are an excellent writer!

    • globalanni said,

      April 29, 2012 at 2:48 am

      Thank you. I am happy to hear you are enjoying the blog!

  5. May 25, 2012 at 3:38 am

    Love your writing..Just wanna say since you live in Malaysia..Filipinos also get Dengue fever due to mosquitos..they say Camote Tops Juice is the best medicine for the dreaded desease FYI http://www.healthrecipes.ws/featured/camote-tops-juice-a-cure-for-dengue

    • globalanni said,

      June 10, 2012 at 1:37 am

      Thanks for the tip. Hopefully I won’t need it again!
      😉
      I will pass the info on though!

      • June 10, 2012 at 2:52 am

        I have more herbal cures for denque..As soon as I remember it, will let you know. All the best, Jenny


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