Stinging shingles.

In Braaaazil, illness, Salvador, Sud America on August 17, 2010 at 3:35 am

So I arrive in Puerto Iguazu and see the magnificent falls, that roar and rumble all around you. I’m only supposed to be here for two days, but a piss up brewery situation with the Brazilian airline Gol! Means I can’t fly out on Saturday like I want but have to stay two more days and fly out on Monday.

I’m pissed off because it’s cutting into my Brazilian month which I’ve shortened from six weeks as I hear numerous reports of Brazil being hellish expensive, and I don’t want to get into an Australian situation where I spend obscene amounts of money doing nothing more than lounging around, drinking and eating.

I also want to get out of town early because a weeping rash has appeared at the inner part of my right elbow, at first I think it’s a particularly virulent outbreak of eczema which generally makes an appearance in spring and autumn, where there’s a bit of humidity. But I’m wrong. The weeping rash spreads quickly and crusts over in a dirty yellow fashion. I’m at a loss, I go and get some steroid cream and rub that in which seems to work a bit then, for some reason shingles pops into my head. Do a quick google ad hey presto self diagnosis is correct.

By this point the rash is behind my knees, on the outside of my other elbow, the back of my hand, at the bottom of my shins and a particularly inappropriately spot on my stomach where the waistband of my trousers rests.

It couldn’t have come at a worse time I’m traveling to Salvador, which turns out to take two more hours than it should. I’ve just spent a fevered night, wrapped up in blankets shivering, shaking and sweating, or lying on top of the covers drinking water and trying to sleep. The only thing that consoles me is the knowledge that this is my body fighting back, the shivers, the shakes, the temperature. All signs that my immune system is engaged in battle.

The pain as I pack my bags is sharp and tingling, sitting in the crook of my elbow and backs of my knees, I walk slowly as if I’ve got arthritis and carrying bags produces a sting in my elbow. The shins and knees ache constantly sometimes really sharp at others just a dull ache, but it is alway there. As I sit on the first of my three interconnecting flights, I’m glad I’ve got the row of seats to myself as I can oscillate as violently as i like without anyone noticing. I try to sleep but don’t get more than five mins dozing at a time, i am constantly checking my body for new yellow-tipped pustules, they look like mini boils and I yearn to squeeze them but the clear fluid which yellows and thickens to an unsightly crust, just spreads the infection further so I refrain.

I don’t have any urge to scratch the infected areas anymore because the constant ache dissuades me.

I’m fucked off because I know the next couple of days, possibly the next couple of weeks will be a write off, of showering, non scratching and shivering and shaking. Not how I wanted to spend my first few days in Brazil, my only consolation is the fact that the weather is a bit overcast and rainy in Salvador.

After a day of snoozing fitfully, unable to muster the strength to head anywhere apart from the toilet that is a door away. I manage to drag myself downstairs, to have a talk with the hostel owner Russell who advises me to go to the Spanish hospital, where they’ll take 2k Reais, about 700 quid, off my card just for the joy of seeing me and refund me whatever remains after treatment.

I never thought I’d spend my second night in brazil in A&E, but that’s the way the traveling cookie crumbles. So I take a thick book, pray my card works – thankfully it does, they have several different card machines for just such an eventuality, and I settle into my seat for a long night of waiting, along the way I discover I have a resting heart rate of 112bpm, my blood pressure is 130/80 and I have a fever as my temperature is 39 degrees celsius, but its taken from under my armpit which I’m told later always makes it slightly higher than if taken from a mouth reading, or god forbid, the other orifice.

So I sit and I wait and I read a little and my mouth is dry, haven’t drunk anything since breakfast in the morning, but don’t want to move in case I miss the call. I read some more and I doze a bit, then I’m called and I hobble down to the doctor’s room. I spend a frustrating few mins trying to explain its shingles, but from the looks on their faces I don’t believe they think that shingles even exists. After 3 hrs of waiting and wondering I’m given a paracetamol a script for some antibiotics and told to come back the next day to see the infectologista, as they don’t believe that what I have I shingles. So the mystery thickens. Gonna have to speak to my travel insurance people tomorrow and make sure the ball starts rolling on the claims, fees end. Only now am I hoping that the excess isn’t too high…

Wake up and head into the Hospital Espanol A&E the next day, to be told that I’ve got to go to another building across the way where the infectologista is. But lo and behold when I get there, they tell me there isn’t an infectologista in that day and there won’t be anyone in until later in the week. My portuguese isn’t good enough to explain my dismay, and their english isn’t good enough to let me work out any alternatives. I cab back to the hostel and explain the situation to Russell, who gets worked up on my behalf, and we cab back, directly to the Hospital Espanol where his portuguese is put to good effect as we work out a, there isn’t an infectologista in that day, b, I’ve still got to pay for my treatment even though nothing much was done, and c, where an infectologista is that speaks english so I can go and see them. I hand over my card so they can refund the cash they didn’t spend on my treatment, and we go over to the other building where the infectologista was supposed to be, but isn’t to find out where one would be.

Good luck at last. The first infectologista name out of the box, speaks english and can fit us in, within the next two hours. Back to the hostel for a short wait then, over to his offices. Russell stumps up for the money for the initial consultation, and the infectologista gets me to show him my pitted flesh. Turns out I didn’t have shingles, and in fact I was right it was a flare up of my ezcema, except it was exacerbated by some sort of bite/infection, which when I scratched moved bacteria which live happily on the surface of my skin into layers where they shouldn’t be. And starting an infection which was rapidly moving up my arm and legs, which he pointed out as a warm red swelling along the edge of the infection. He looked at the medicine given to me by the other hospital and threw them out, giving me a prescription for a more specific antibiotic, some steroids for my skin and an antibacterial wash that I’d have to get made up to use on my skin to kill off all traces of the malevolent bacteria, to stop me reinfecting myself.

I am greatly relieved that at last someone knows what is wrong with me and I’m on the way to being better…

If you’re squeamish I wouldn’t look at the photo’s below, before and after shots of the infection….

  1. Ouch! Anyway, good to see more text and photos up and that you’re not dead (even if your forum presence does appear to be a bit more hectoring nowadays!)


  2. me hectoring never..

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