Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Dengue Chronicles

Mon evening: I leave early from office, feeling a little weak and feverish, typical symptoms of exhaustion and a burn out. A friend drops me home - 530 is unusually early, and my bai is very happy at getting an early time out. I catch a nap, getting up for dinner and Bigg Boss later in the evening. My daughter is also reporting body ache.

Tues morning: I decide to skip office for the day and work from home. Daughter has a holiday at school, wifey also decides to stay back for the day. It's an impromptu family day out, but we are too tired to venture out of the apartment.

Tues night: My daughter and I have a restful night, but wife reports extreme body ache from head to toe. The bones are hurting, and we get our first warning signs of dengue - it's called bone breaking fever for a reason!

Wed morning: While my daughter and I feel fairly OK, wifey isn't doing too well. We decide to wait no longer and go for a blood test. By early afternoon, the results are out. The lab technician asks me to write my full name and address - and that confirms it. The PMC needs records of all dengue cases. Are we positive, I ask. Yes, all 3, he smiles sympathetically. The NS1 test, which is a quick and dirty check for dengue is positive for all 3, although the dengue antibodies test is negative.

Wed afternoon: We met the doc and she asks us to carry on with the regime she had started in the morning. Dengue doesn't have any specific treatment - the treatment is only symptomatic - an antibiotic, something for the stomach, and vitamins. Most important, a tablet to keep the fever down. Interestingly, none of us have really had high fever.

Wed evening: The PMC heath department makes a visit. They ask lots of questions - where have you been in the last few days, when did the fever come, which school does your daughter go to, what are your office timings? They spray pest control all over the house - a colorless liquid they promise me will dry off and is harmless to humans. You don't have high fever; it's not dengue; they assure me. They also give us a lot of general knowledge - the dengue mosquito breeds in fresh water; not in the gutters. And it bites in the day time, not at night!

Wed - Fri: Rest at home, and Googling - each attempt only making it worse. While none of us are getting worse, the worrying element is the way dengue advances. Fever goes down after a couple of days, and along with it, the platelet counts go down. The normal is 150,000 to 450,000. At 50,000, you need to get hospitalized. At 20,000, you can start bleeding and go into shock. Fatalities are not unknown, though rare, and Pune itself has already seen a dozen this year. We start eating kiwis (we hate those fruits), which is reputed to be an excellent way to get platelet counts up.

Fri morning: The time of reckoning has come. We have a blood test. And it's bad. Our counts are down under 100,000. It's normal, smiles the gentle doctor. Nothing to worry  about, she assures us. You all look fine! Just carry on with the meds and take lots of fluids and rest, and you should be fine, she says. But we are not happy. Not at all.

Sat afternoon: Huge relief. My sis and bro in law arrive from Goa. The change of scenery is fantastic. We finally have something else to talk about. Sister is also an excellent cook; our spirits rise. My sister also starts us on twice a day papaya leaf juice - it tastes horrible, but is reputed to do wonders to platelet counts. Two of my friends are generous enough to get us as many leaves as we will ever need!

Sat evening: Another visit by the PMC, this time with a fogging machine that blasts heavy, thick smoke throughout the house... along with foul diesel fumes. We have to get out, and take the chance to get out for a small drive.

Sunday: Things are looking up. While wifey is still weak, the two of us are feeling fine. We go out for some local shopping in the evening. Not as tiring as Sat, and we are all feeling very relieved. Our next blood test is scheduled for Monday morning, and we are confident as hell. Will we make it back into the high 200s?

Monday morning: We go for the blood test. We are feeling great, and are confident we have beaten the dengue. My bro in law and sister plan to leave for Goa in the afternoon, once the doc gives us the all clear.

Morning afternoon: The big shock. In spite of everything, all the terrible papaya leaf juice and the kiwis, our platelet counts have dropped further. While my daughter and I are around 75,000, my wifey is at 51,000, requiring hospitalization. We have a decision to make. I can still manage one hospitalization, but what if my counts drop too, the next morning? Then what?

Monday late afternoon: We make the decision. We will move to Goa, along with sister and bro in law. Doc gives wifey a steroid injection and blood pressure tablets to stabilize her. We 2 are better, although I am already starting to feel a little light headed. Don't know if it's just psychological, but there is no time to rest. We come home, and pack up. My cat looks forlornly at us - she simply hates when we are away, and she has just endured a long 8-10 day period of loneliness and terror during Diwali. My heart is breaking; and the cat is the least of my worries. By the time we are ready to leave, it's past 5 pm. We have a long drive ahead of us; and we have never done a night journey over such a long distance before. Will we make it safe? Will wifey be able to take the stress?

Mon evening: The journey isn't off to the best start. A drunk in a bike tries to take unnecessary panga; obstructing our free drive on the highway. Thankfully, a few kms down the road, we reach a tool booth, and talk to a cop. He graciously gives us his mobile number and asks us to call him if the man troubles us again. But that's the last we have seen of him.

Mon night: Things start to look better. We don't have much traffic, and make good time. We stop on the way for a quick soup from the thermos. We feel positive. I even take the wheel for around 90 mins. By 900, we are close to Kolhapur, a critical milestone. We stop at our usual truck stop, Hotel Sai International, for a light dinner - the hotel graciously allows us home food in the restaurant hall, and even provides us plates and spoons. We decide to press on, reaching Belgaum by 1030. By 1130, we have crossed the well-maintained but twisty and isolated Chorlem Ghat, and touch down into Goa. At 12:07, we are in Panaji. We get down. We are in Goa. The worst has to be over!

Tuesday morning. Things are looking up, better than ever before. The blood test is all important - the lab sends the technician home. By 12.30 - it's bingo! The platelet counts are going up. Wifey is close to 90,000, and the 2 of us are well into the 120s. We see the doc - nothing to worry about, he says. You are gonna be fine. It's been a worrying week, but Goa is working its charm. No diet restrictions, he assures us. For the first time in over a week, we eat well - delicious prawn curry rice and some fried fish.

Tues - Thurs: We relax in the lap of Goan hospitality. Great food, caring relatives, and the sounds and smells of the sea. Our snap decision to get to Goa has paid off handsomely.

Thurs morning: The final blood test. All good! We are back in the 200s. We have beaten the dreaded dengue.

Fri afternoon: With a heavy heart, yet, with relief that life is gonna be normal again, we catch an Air India flight to Pune. Goa looks beautiful from the sky, the light rain adding a surreal touch - and it's tough to let go. As we fly over Miramar, the clouds take over - blanking out the view, and 30 mins later, we descend over Pune. It's a perfect touchdown. We are home again.

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