So it wasn’t the flu. It also wasn’t malaria, measles, dengue fever, pneumonia, meningitis, the chikungunya virus, the Ross River virus, or typhoid fever. I know these because I was tested for all of the above and more. It took four days to isolate typhus as the culprit.
Five days in the hospital gave me a new deep appreciation for western medicine, healthcare and health in general. By day four, when I was really getting over it, I just laid in bed and imagined myself healthy: running, swimming, being active. It felt like a pipe dream. I was too weak to walk for more than a few meters. Traversing the distance between the bed and the bathroom, IV in tow, required a gigantic effort and was impossible to do without collapsing onto the bed, panting. Three weeks on, I’m still far below my normal capacity and have yet to attempt exercise- normally a daily event.
I didn’t intend on going to the hospital. I wasn’t covered by the national medical plan, Medicare, and had been informed that due to my immigration status I wasn’t eligible. For the most part, that’s been fine. I rarely get sick and when I do, it’s nothing that rest and chicken soup don’t cure within a few days. Not this time.
After a third inconclusive visit to my GP, she directed me to the ER for a blood work and a chest x-ray. My ridiculous fever hadn’t abated in over a week and I was breathless, tight in my chest and constantly light headed. She thought it could be pneumonia. Knowing that I wouldn’t be covered, I considered the cost and decided it was worth it anyway. Off to the emergency room!
As soon as I was seen by a doctor, I was informed that my blood work was abnormal and that more tests were required. I’d need to spend the night. I weakly protested that I wasn’t covered by medicare, couldn’t afford it, etc etc. To that, the gorgeous doctor got on the phone, called Medicare directly and waited on hold in order to investigate on my behalf. His research revealed that I was eligible and had been ever since filing for permanent residency.
Thank you, clueless Medicare employee.
One night turned into two nights turned into five. I thought I would be hopelessly bored, but I fell into a semblance of a routine consisting of sleeping, 30 Rock, finishing the third season of Girls, more sleeping and eating mango ice cream. It’s not hard to see how people go crazy in those places.
Throughout my stay I was consistently blown away by the genuine care displayed by the doctors and staff. On day two, upon hearing my remaining concerns that I wouldn’t be covered by Medicare, a team of righteously indignant doctors personally called Medicare AGAIN, hammered them for the complete info, printed off the necessary documents I needed to fill out, wrote a letter on my behalf, and sent everything off. The humanity of it all was beautifully heartwarming.
I am so grateful for the friends I have here. Friends that gave up precious time studying for med school exams to drive me to the hospital. Friends that gave up study time to bring me mango ice cream when that’s all I could eat, and play hangman in my bleak hospital room. Peter stayed late one night, studying on his laptop as I slept, comforted by the presence of someone familiar.
The diagnosis came down to a flea. I was bitten by one, probably off an elephant or monkey, and it just so happened to be carrying a nasty case of typhus. Completely random luck of the draw- Peter was fine.
Now that I’m home I have become a resident, been approved for Medicare and slowly returned to work. I have yet to return to anywhere near my normal activity levels, and vigorous exercise is still out of the question. The extent to which I was completely levelled by this sickness is absolutely humbling.
I’ll return to Bali at some point- with proper vaccinations for the local bugs. For now, I’m focused on getting completely well and appreciating health like I never have before.