Friday, September 22, 2006

Amoebic dysentery

Last Thursday I woke up with horrible abdominal cramping. I knew that getting sick here was a when not an if. But I didn't expect to get something in my first two weeks here! I'll spare you the unpleasant details which I'm sure you can predict, but it lasted for much longer than the typical spell goes for. After a week of intestinal agony, I decided this might be something worse. I called my sister, and she assisted prescribing some drugs to take. As it turns out I had a few million amoebas hanging out in my intestines, maybe kicking back a few and enjoying the never-ending supply of free food that kept coming through.

One nice thing about developing countries without many health and safety rules is that prescription drugs are incredibly easy to get. Once I had found the names of the medications in Chinese characters, I just went across the street and showed the paper to the pharmacist. I paid her $1.30 for the medicine, and I was on my way.

It's sure nice having a loving sister as a doctor, because by the next morning I already felt much better. I felt like yelling at my intestines, taunting and laughing at my parasites about horrible death that they would soon experience. They had made me suffer horribly for a couple weeks, and the vengeful, violent part my mind was enjoying the retribution I paid to it when I took my pills.

I now feel much better, and am able to function and live normally again. I really do wonder what caused this though. The unfortunate thing I guess is that it really could be anything here. There isn't really anything I can eat that is what consider 'safe'. None of the restaurants are close to being clean. A lot of them don't wash their dishes. Some restaurants will put a tag (like a piece of tape) on each bowl to show that it has been washed. You're supposed to rip off the tag when you get it.

The food you buy at the market is no safer. You have to soak all produce in a water/bleach solution after washing it thoroughly before you can eat it. Even then, it's safest to peal it first. And you of course can't drink the water here. I could have even gotten sick if in the shower I swallowed a few drops of water that got into my mouth. It really could be anything, so if you think about it, it could be scary. So we just make sure we talk to the boss before every meal.

No comments: