Study Abroad, Travel

A Rough Week

This is the story of my week:

Wednesday night I started feeling the effects of a fever and by the morning I felt weak, feverish, light headed and was being pounded by a nasty headache. Fortunately, there were two other students feeling sick so on Thursday we all travelled to the doctor for a quick check-in and some blood tests. Little did I know, the hours and hours of waiting that I had to endure were a sick preview of a shitty week. At the hospital I had my first fainting episode too. I was feeling nauseous so I rushed off to the bathroom, only to wake up on the floor of the men’s room, more than confused as to how I had gotten there. After a rough night, I went back to the Doctor’s with the other students. After a shorter wait, we sat down with the doctor who revealed to us that our blood tests had all tested positive for Dengue Fever.

The moment I heard Dengue, I was immediately taken back to the tiny little clinic in Liberia that diagnosed me with Typhoid Fever. In both cases there was a very distinct moment, directly following the ‘verdict’ where I could do nothing but kind of laugh and think, “are you fucking kidding me? ______ Fever? That’s still a thing?” I think in these instances, a positive person is truly defined. Shitty things happen to everyone, whether they’re a positive or negative person. But one’s attitude is definitely defined by their interpretation of those situations. Luckily for me, I have the ability to laugh at the sheer absurdity of a situation like this one. I mean, who can predict I would get Dengue Fever? That’s hilarious. Well there were less hilarious moments.

The group (read: SIT Staff) decided it was best to admit ourselves into the hospital the next day so that we could utilize an IV, take medicine, rest, and hopefully be well in time to catch up with the rest of our group, which was leaving Sunday for a week-long excursion. So Saturday morning, armed with absolutely nothing, we began our stay at the hospital. I was handed a pair of super funky fitting hospital scrubs, stabbed with my first IV, and given a room with 3 bickering brothers and their very sick father. The brothers discovered that it was very interesting reading through my medical papers with the nurse. There was nothing interesting of course- it was just blood test results- but it was still strange watching people read through my private information. The previous day, when we had met with the doctor, the 4 people in our group shared his office with three other people and we all took turns explaining our current medical conditions. I don’t think I need to explain the absurdity of that situation, just try to imagine a random guy chilling in the office with you when you’re meeting with your doctor… pretty strange…

Luckily, I was soon transferred to a room with just the two other students. One of the SIT staff is incredibly well connected and happened to know the CEO of the specific hospital so we got a good room- so it works in India. There were three pretty uncomfortable beds, a TV, and a bathroom. So began FIVE DAYS of doing nothing but eating bad food, watching bad movies, and getting bad nights of sleep. To be honest, it really sucked. I had no idea that we would be staying there so long. Expecting to only stay there Saturday, I didn’t bring with me anything I needed. (luckily my laptop was brought to me.) Having this expectation also made the morning announcement that we were no closer to leaving so much more frustrating. The first 36 hours my stay was terrible. At one point after washing my hands in the bathroom, I passed out into the corner of the wall, cutting my nose, bruising my forehead, and scaring the shit out of everyone in the room who found me unconscious, shaking on the bathroom floor. I could barely do anything without feeling like I was going to faint. Then when my symptoms started to disappear, I learned that my blood platelet levels were so low I might need a transplant.

Just like my time in Liberia, the illness seemed to jumpstart a period of total negativity, doubt, anger, questioning, and ultimately disappointment. I came to India to love it, to experience awesome new things, not to sit in a hospital room while I missed an amazing excursion. I wanted to challenge myself but this didn’t seem like the right type of challenge. I felt weak and powerless to the powers that be. I underestimated how hard it was to be sick. The physical symptoms of the disease seemed to pale in comparison to the mental mountain that was quickly appearing in my head. It wasn’t until this morning, 5 days later, when the Doctor announced that we could go home, that any sense of hope started to return. Those 5 days were so incredibly boring yet so taxing. I had no choice but to lie in bed all day. 5 IV’s a day, countless pills, two blood tests, and what seemed like an endless stream of hospital staff became my life. I cant say I did anything interesting because I didn’t really do anything. I spoke with Sam frequently, talked to my parents every night, and read every article on ESPN and the New York Times. Thus, the announcement that we were leaving was truly awesome.

I’m home now, clean, and looking forward to getting back to my everyday life. The last week has been pretty hard but I really hope it can teach me a thing or two. If anything, it has added some urgency to my trip. The doubt and disappointment it brought out in me hopefully serves as a reminder that, the more I miss home, the more important it is for me to make my experience here everything it can be. I’m so incredibly lucky that I was able to have my always-supporting parents and wonderful girlfriend next to me the whole way. Now it’s time to get some sleep and head back to the hospital tomorrow for more blood platelet tests! It’s unfortunate that this has been my first blog post in a while, but I’m looking forward to posting more about the economy, my family, and maybe even city-life. Hope everyone is doing well!

2 thoughts on “A Rough Week

  1. Kate

    So happy that you’re on the mend…..and that you have the insight that your dark perspective on everything now is largely a function of your illness and the resulting feeling of total powerlessness. Know you will turn it into lemonaid! Much love, Mom

  2. tom shaub

    jULIAN, you have definately been in my thoghts since we rec’d word of the dreaded fever diagnosis. With time and your incredible introspection of this unfortunate health experience, you are bouncing back for the adventures ahead. I sure love reading about your time in India. Here comes the ‘rising from the ashes’ moment for you-I can feel it even this far away….
    Cheers and love to you, Tom

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