Death by Dengue Fever : The Horrible Truth about Breathtaking Bali
Death by Dengue Fever : The Horrible Truth about Breathtaking Bali
Lying in a hospital bed with a drip pumping yellow liquid into my veins was not the picture I had in my head when I imagined our trip to Bali. All the research I’d done previously consisted of white sandy beaches, remote Islands, rice paddies and all the luxuries you could ever want for a fraction of the price.
I was super ecstatic about our trip, as was Janice and we had already planned out where we wanted to go, what we wanted to see and of course being the fatties that we are, all the foods that would pleasure our taste buds!
The reality however, whilst somewhat true, was missing a horrible component. One that lurked in the background until the last weeks of our trip before it made an appearance.
It all started with a last minute decision!
Two weeks into our one month trip, we made a last minute decision to spend a few days hopping around the Gili Islands. The Gili Islands consist of three Islands, Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno and are ocated off the coast of Lombok; the Gili’s as they were now known to us, were said to be a travellers paradise.
Travelling to Gili Air, who knew what would lie ahead?!
We booked a bus transfer to take us from Ubud, where we had spent the last two weeks relaxing at our hotel pool, exploring the rice paddies and soaking up the unique cultural temples that Ubud had to offer.
From here we caught a charted boat to take us to Gili Air, where we planned to spend the next 3 days. By no means did we travel on a budget. We made sure to get a decent bus and boat to make our trip more pleasant! We’re in 30’s now remember!
Gili Air is the second largest of the Islands and the closest to the mainland. It’s less active than the party Island of Gili T but has more to offer in terms of restaurants, activities and nightlife than Gili Meno. This was more our scene than listening to drunken backpackers party all night long.
No mosquito nets? No problem!
With our suitcases in tow (we were travelling minimalists at this point) we circled the Island to find the best beach hut for a reasonable price. With hindsight we maybe didn’t select the best choice but it was by far the best priced beach hut on the Island.
Being the optimists that we are, we seen the beauty in our new home. An outdoor bathroom with a view of coconut filled palm trees, a front door that opened right onto the a view of the calm ocean and a balcony, tranquil enough to sip coconut water and watch the world go by. It didn’t even occur to us that the room came without a mosquito net.
The thing with dengue fever is that the symptoms can actually mimic that of a common fever in the beginning. High fever, headaches, muscle pain, fatigue, nausea. Travelling around the world since 2008, we’ve had our fair share of tummy bugs and food poisoning. At this stage we felt somewhat invincible when it came to getting sick, like our stomach’s were lined with rock, and non-suseptible to everything!
We’d been bitten by mosquitos in the past and likewise in the previous weeks of this trip, but as usual we applied tiger balm ointment, which helped with the itch and forgot about it within a few minutes.
I didn’t feel a thing!
I’d like to say I recall the mosquito that bit me. as it caused more of an itch or irritated me more but that just wasn’t the case. Whilst only certain mosquitos are infected, it’s impossible to tell the difference, especially when you’re not actually paying any attention.
So day two into our “mission relaxation” Janice started to get a really bad fever and was complaining of the worst headache of her life, and she never tends to get headaches at all. At first I thought she was just dehydrated and kept pushing her to drink more water, convinced it would pass. She’s not normally a drama queen (in most cases that’s my role) but on this particular occasion I thought she was overreacting.
The following day as we were making our move to Gili Meno she continued to feel it and by now we were getting concerned. With an hour or two to spare as we waited on our boat, we decided to make a trip to the local clinic.
Still convinced she was just severely dehydrated, we skipped the check up and instead asked specifically for electrolytes.
Bye Bye Gili Air with your mosquito infested beach huts!
Boarding the boat for Gili Meno, I almost had to carry Jan and all our bags on board. She was feeling very weak and was not looking forward to the journey ahead.
We decided to ‘treat ourselves’ to a more luxurious room so that Jan could rest and luckily we found one a few hundred yards from the pier.
To our surprise and possibly as fate would have it, the Island clinic was located to the back of our guest house.
By this stage I was strangely starting to feel weak and also developed a fever. I didn’t have a thermometer but we could both tell my temperature was though the roof. Just to be on the safe side and to stop me from having a drama queen “i’m dying” moment, we made a quick stop at the clinic for a check up.
Face first on the floor!
As I lay on the clinic bed listening to the doctor confirm my terribly high temperature I heard a loud crash coming from the toilet and a loud scream from the clinic nurse. While using the bathroom Jan had fainted, ending up in a pile on the bathroom floor. The male nurse struggled to get the door opened to help her and when he eventually did I was shooed off the only bed they had for their new patient to be observed.
At the time, I had no idea what dengue fever was and was therefore was totally oblivious to having contracted it.
But the doctor expressed his concerns and decided it best to run a few tests on us both to establish whether we had the virus or not. One way to check is by applying pressure using an elastic band, similar to when getting your bloods taken, then checking if a prickly rash appears on your arm.
Before the Doctor proceeded with the test, he told us that with our symptoms he thinks it could br Dengue Fever but he hoped it wasn’t as you can die from it – his words! At this point we both began to panic.
My check came up clear with no rash, but Jan’s immediately appeared, confirming she had contracted Dengue Fever. Over the next 48 hours our conditions deteriorated quickly. We decided not to tell our parents at first because we didn’t want to scare them, least not until we had confirmed it’s severity at the hospital on the main Island of Bail.
Being on a deserted Island, and the convenience of our room to the clinic, both the male doctor and nurse decided it best to camp outside our room for the night and check our drips every few hours. They instructed us to drink as much water as possible because there was no actual cure for the fever and it could be fatal.
With his instruction we were reluctantly drinking 7 litres of water, each, per day. To say I was sick to my stomach with water would be an understatement, and I wont even try to count the amount of times we used the bathroom.
We struggled to eat, probably due to the huge intake in water, and were only managing a banana or two and some dry rice each day. After two days in bed on Gili Meno, we decided to make the boat trip back to Bali to get properly checked out, we made the painful journey back vomit bags at the ready.
Confirming our diagnosis.
As soon as we could, we located the general hospital, called a taxi and headed straight there.
As I lay in my hospital bed, which was less than luxurious, I lay awake staring at dirty walls with about ten other balinese patients sharing beds in the waiting room next to me. No more white sand beaches or cocktails by the pool! This was not my idea of a paradise!
With Dengue Fever confirmed it was time to tell the folks at home and prepare them for the worst. There was a strong possibility that the fever could consume our body and we might not recover.
With careful consideration, and after hearing horror stories from locals whose family members had died from the virus we traded the general hospital for a private hospital located in Nusa Dua, South Kuta.
At five times the price, we were seriously eating into our wedding budget but felt much more content knowing we were in safe hands and any treatment we may have needed would be prioritised.
Over the course of the next few days we had to get regular check ups and bloods taken to determine our platelet levels. This period when the virus was active in our blood stream was the most important in determining the direction of the virus. If the blood count dropped for a certain period and did not show any sign of increasing, it could mean the difference between life and death.
In order to prove that our condition was improving the doctor had to monitor these blood counts every 24 hours. That meant daily visits to the hospital for the next 7 days.
By now we had lost almost a stone, each, in weight. I was happy as Larry and secretly hoping I’d remain this weight, at least until the wedding. No such luck!
Because we were so thin it was more difficult for our bodies to recover and so we needed to increase our dietary intake. This was easier to achieve when we eventually found out that 7 litres of water was a crazy amount and totally not necessary. The doctor on the Island must have gotten his numbers mixed up meaning we were practically drowning ourselves in water!
Our blood counts remained below the level to fly for the next few days, meaning our immune systems were to low to fly safely incase of blood clots mid air. We hibernated in our hotel for the next few days only able to think about all the things we could do and see for the remainder of our time in Bali.
As my blood levels started to rise and eventually reach the normal rate, I was so relieved. However just as mine were rising, Jan’s were still trending downwards and she wasn’t out of the woods yet. This was the period were it was frightening for us both. We had a lack of energy, lack of appetite and were loosing weight by the second.
After 5 days of attending the private hospital Jan’s blood started to rise, thankfully!
That night when the Balinese Doctor confirmed that we would both be able to fly, tit’s hard to describe the sense of relief we both felt. We booked a flight leaving the following day to London.
After contracting Dengue Fever, reading travel blogs and doing some research we realised that every year in Bali there is a serious outbreak of Dengue Fever. It can be a fatal disease that takes the lives of many naive holidaymakers each year. Yet few take precautions and even fewer are actually aware.
We didn’t expect to get bitten by an infected mosquito and I’m sure you feel the same when holidaying in mosquito prone countries. But the reality is that almost all countries that lie in the southern hemisphere have regular outbreaks of Dengue Fever. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
For us we’ve learnt to always wear mosquito repellant with DEET in it, regardless of where we travel, so we never have to fall victim to this horrible virus again.
This is a good source to see where outbreaks have occurred and in what countries you can expect to find the small, but deadly infected mosiquito. healthmap
Still to this day, we wonder how we both were affected and what was the likelihood of this happening… has this discouraged us from travelling… it’s only made us more determined to see more of the world as we realise life is short.