Archive for the ‘illness’ Category

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….

Sleeplessly wheezy in Tokyo

In illness, japan, travelling on February 10, 2010 at 11:56 pm

I can’t afford to get colds, or get my bronchitis going on this worldwide journey. Whenever I get colds, they are usually self inflicted, damp cold clothing left to dry on my skin. Think out clubbing and leaving that sweaty top to dry on you on the journey home – which is why I usually carry a spare vest and t-shirt with me – irritates my bronchitis and turns itself into a bronchial infection, which means I spend the next week or so fighting to draw a breath, unable to walk further than bedroom to bathroom to kitchen without wheezing and spluttering like someone whose lost a lung. And since I packed away my usual cold relieving remedies, vicks vapo rub, lemsip mixed with honey and rum as a hot toddie, my chances of making it through the second night when the attack comes on hard, without an ambulance being called seems impossible.

I’d been out with Roger, who had graciously invited me to a friends birthday party. A 3,500 Yen all you can drink affair, where little bits of finger food are bought out, and the Japanese smoke like chimneys and talk, and talk, and talk. I would enjoy it a whole load more if I could take a full breath, and I’m tugging on the inhaler like a child on his mum’s nipple trying to get that first feed of the day.

I’ve just spent the day trying to ride to various bits of town, with a chest which I can only draw a quarter breath. I feel exhausted and any sort of incline, which involves me getting out of the saddle and raising my heart rate or oxygen consumption, sends me into a short.

Staccato. Drawing. Every. Breath. Is. Torture. Situation. Where. By. I. Have. To. Pause. Every. Time. Head. Down. Hands. On. Knees. And. Just. Let. It. Pass. But. It. Takes. Forever. And. Hurts. A lot. So Fucking. Much. Who. Knew. Breath. Ing. Hurt. This. Much

So spending time in the smokiest atmosphere known to man isn’t doing it any good, and I’ve already had to stop half a dozen times on the way there, because the walk was killing me. I wonder what the Japanese think of this wheezing black man sitting trying to draw a breath on the metro.

I get back to the hostel after having to stop thrice on the walk from the station, not more than 250 meters at that, because I can’t drag enough air into my lungs, and twice walking up the two flights of stairs from metro to ground level. And I remember that mother dearest has given me some deep heat, and I hope, against hope that I can rub that on me old chest and get through the night, memories of Saturdays sat in a dressing room, with the heady fug of deep heat making your eyes water, make me think maybe there’s a chance. And which in true adapt, improvise, overcome fashion a quick glance at the tube as I sit hunched over on the toilet, shows it has some sort of menthol properties and I’m rubbing it in vigorously before you can say, “Andrew’s hoping this means he doesn’t have to rely on his travel insurance which doesn’t cover him for his pre-existing asthma condition, so would have to pay the whole Japanese hospital bill thing.”

And I spend a restless tossing, turning, coughing night, punctuated with vigorous application of deep heat and inhalations from my inhaler.

It eases the constrictions in my chest enough to enable me to walk and talk the next morning, without believing I’m going to pass out, but as my body fights the infection, my mind seems intent on loosing whatever semblance of coherent thought and memory skills it once possessed, making me so absent minded and forgetful that I have to return to the hostel FOUR! Count them FOUR times to grab something new that I have forgotten and even when I get on the metro, halfway to Shibuya I am jerked out of my seat by the recollection that I’ve only just gone and left something else that I really, really need back at the metro station, when I was buying my ticket.


Don’t worry I’d actually left it back in the hostel and it was there when I returned.

So the next day I’m still clogged up with phleghm and I’m wheezing like an old man with emphezyma, hacking up huge globules of yellowy green sputum. So I’m off the bike (which is a fucker, my travels are built around being on the bike, and I’ve made no provision for the time it takes and the organisation and planning that moving around on public transport requires) and becoming more and more conversant with the Tokyo metro system than I would like. Whilst writing this, I’m on the metro as I travel out to the Ghibli museum (yay!!!) I’ve come to realise that the Japanese infatuation/obsession with portability and miniaturization can be traced to having to make the majority of their journeys via the metro, and the desire to have some way of creating privacy, personal space when there is none.

The metro is nice (really do need to stop using that word) clean, efficient, quick and pretty much all encompassing. You can get everywhere in central Tokyo via the power of the metro, following it’s length and breadth. And if that’s not enough you can jump on the JR (Japan’s equivalent to British rail as it once was) which will take you to the bits of Tokyo which though connected to the city via the stretch of the urban sprawl, are deemed to be sperate entities, getting you wherever the metro doesn’t touch.

On the metro and the trains for that matter people use their mobiles, Nintendo DS’, PSP’s or some other mobile device and while away the hour or so it takes to get from one town to Tokyo, or they read thick heavy manga tomes.

But beware the transfers between stations and lines, isn’t as smooth or as seamless as I’m used to in london, the JR stations and Tokyo metro and the Toei lines are run by different companies who built their stations in different points of the same part of town, so although stations are interconnected on the map, you’ve still got to walk miles to get to the connecting line to continue your journey which adds shitloads of time to it. So in the end just don’t leave your movement from one part of town to the other to the last minute, like I invariably do, because YOU WILL be late, despite the efficiency and regularity of the trains.

Should also say everyone sleeps on the train ride home, and pretty much all of the JR trains have heated seats, which is odd but comforting as the journey wears on. Your arse becoming warmer and warmer, warming you to a snoozy head on shoulder situation. This does actually happen alot. The Japanese slumped forward or to the side, mouth agape, as they sleep on the journey home.