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Getting Sick in Cusco & Going to Hospital

I’ve never gotten sick while traveling.  At least, nothing more than a stomachache or a cold.  I’ve never even vomited or had diarrhea.  I guess I’ve been lucky.  Until now.

We had been in Peru about 4 days, had seen Machu Picchu, and were now staying in Cusco, preparing to take a flight to La Paz, Bolivia to head south to the Salar de Uyuni.  Then the airline, Aerosur, called us to tell us the flight was delayed.  Then called again to say it was cancelled.

This royally messed up our plans, but actually turned out to be okay since we promptly both got sick.  The airline put us up on a hotel about 10 times nicer than anything we normally would have stayed in.  It was like a $90/night hotel similar to a Hyatt, with perfectly clean white sheets and towels and a glass shower!  This turned out to be a very good thing to have a comfortable, clean hotel and bathroom while ill.

First, Jim felt ill and was heading to the bathroom about every half hour.  I ventured out at night to buy him some gatorade and juice to stay hydrated.  I felt ok, but could sense that something was going on in my guts, too.

The next day, I was sick too and we literally spent the entire day in our respective beds, sleeping, half sleeping, spending time in the bathroom, and watching TV.  Jim felt well enough around noon to head out and bought a few bread rolls that we choked down.

Later in the evening, Jim said he thought we should go down to the restaurant and try to eat some food since we hadn’t eaten a thing all day long (other than a roll).  I felt horrible but agreed and we went downstairs.  It was hard to even walk.

My time in the hotel restaurant was comical.  I went to the buffet and got some rice.  Back at the table, it was difficult for me to even pick up the fork and feed myself a few bites.  I remember dropping rice off my fork onto my shirt and Jim snickering at me.  I started to feel like I was going to either throw up or pass out.  I even looked around at my options: the large potted plant next to me seemed like it would be a good place to puke, if needed.

I told Jim how I felt and that I needed to put my head down.  He moved my plate and I put my head on the table and started sweating.  At some point, he even helped me into a nearby bathroom.  Jim asked me if he should go to the front desk and have them call someone for help.  I said Yes.

We went back to our room, and a few minutes later, a man showed up who looked me over a bit and said we should come with him to their clinic.  I wasn’t ready to actually go somewhere.  I don’t know what I was thinking would happen when they called a doctor — I guess I thought he would look us over and give us some drugs and tell us we’d be ok or something.

So we headed out into a minivan with a stretcher.  The clinic, conveniently, was only about 2 blocks away!  When we walked in, we passed a huge hyperbaric chamber.  The clinic’s main purpose, I think, is to assist people with severe altitude sickness problems.  But I’m sure they got plenty of people like us, too.

We got our own room and they brought me scrubs to change into and helped me onto a hospital bed.  I guess I hadn’t thought this whole thing through – I didn’t realize I was going to be lying in a hospital with IVs in my arms.  Yeeesh!  However, it was comforting to know that I was in the care of professionals and had nothing to worry about.

The rooms was pretty nice.  There was a TV for us to watch and my own tiny bathroom.  I could press a button to get the nurse.  Everything seemed clean and professional and the doctors and nurses were good.  There was even a good sized couch, which was where poor Jim slept that night.

The nurse put the needle in my arm and they started giving me all kinds of drugs.  The very first drug made me sleepy immediately which was nice.

A couple times I looked over at my IV and saw the drip had stopped and there was blood in the tube.  I called the nurses in and they tried to get it going again, sometimes with difficulty.  They squeezed and kneaded the IV and said the problem was that the blood in the IV had coagulated a bit.  I wonder if that was normal?  After several hours, the IV site started to hurt and when they put new drugs in, there was a lot of pain inside my vein.  That sucked pretty bad.  Eventually, the vein area even started to swell and get red, so they decided to move the needle to my other arm.  This is when I learned the word “profunda” which means “deep,” as in “You have deep veins.”  They proceeded to stab me four times before finally getting the needle in again.  I learned another word too: “duele,” which means “hurt.”  It was awful.  I hate needles.
You can see all the bandages on my wrists where they tried to put in the IVs.

As I mentioned, we spent the night there.  Even though Jim was sick, he didn’t want any fluids or IVs.  He was a trooper and hung in there and translated everything the nurses said for me.  They did run some tests on him too and we found out that neither of us had parasites, which was good.  The next morning, a nurse brought me a chicken soup with some noodles and it was so good.  It felt good to eat something.

Finally, after 19 hours in the clinic, they let me go.  I was so glad to get the needles out.  They gave us a bunch of drugs to take for the next few days and some bottles a of Gatorade-type beverage.  I felt a lot better.

Our flight to La Paz that was originally cancelled was now scheduled for the next day, and we decided to go.

Now, three weeks later, the original vein where they had the IV is hard and painful, which I believe is phlebitis.  I think it should go away on it’s own.

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