Taking my medicine.

Today I have to take six pills. Two every four hours. Yesterday I went to see a specialist at the infectious disease clinic at the hospital. I’ve been waiting about three months for the appointment. It seems that I picked up a parasite while rafting on the White Nile in Uganda. It lives in these little snails and gets into you when you wade around in sluggish moving water.

The only reason I got tested for it is due to the fact that a bunch of guys who worked there around the same time as me have started to get very sick. One has leukemia and one had his gall bladder removed. Another is in a very bad way with follicular lymphoma which is a cancer of the blood system. So I got tested for this parasite which is called schistosomiasis. You know something is creepy when you have to copy it out as you type. A person without the little nasty will test around 8.5. My test came back just under 60. Oh noes.

So I saw the specialist. Nice guy, knew his stuff. Asked me a few questions about symptoms. Did I have this or that? No, no, no, and no. Turns out me and the parasite have been living in harmony for all this time. It’s been doing its thing and I’ve been doing mine. Me and the little guy. But it’s time for it to go, sorry dude. The doctor was explaining all the ways it can go nasty on you. One patient that he saw had it get into his spine leaving him paralyzed below the waist. Eek – give me them pills.

I said to the doc that he probably didn’t see many of these cases. I had visions of being unique and fascinating. Turns out he sees about one a week. Tourists go on holiday and think that swimming in Lake Malawi will be a neat idea. Then after they come home they get a nasty rash. Schisto. So much for me being special.

After seeing the doc I have to go to this special secret pharmacy in the hospital. It’s unmarked and you need to get buzzed in. This is where they give out the good stuff. It takes them an hour to prepare my order which apparently involves them making a bunch of calls to check that the stuff is really for me. Then they sit me down and go through the medicine. After I finish typing this I’ll pop the first two and apparently it’s not going to be fun. The nice lady went through the side effects with me. She had that concerned look on her face that you have when you know what someone is about to go through and you’re just glad that it’s not you. It gave me the heebie-geebies.

We went through nausea and vomiting and diarrhea and a whole lot more besides. She asked me when I had been in Uganda and I replied that it was over fifteen years ago. She looked amazed that it had taken me this long to have it checked out. Now I felt special. The guy behind me in line gave me a respectful nod when I turned to walk out. Yeah, you know it.

I could put off taking this stuff by making this post longer but it’s better just to get it over with. Which makes today a fitting day to take these pills. Sometimes we may not like a choice but the alternative is worse. Do you take the medicine now or maybe some more drastic medicine later? Who knows what the symptoms will be down the line. This goes equally for individuals like me and for entire countries like, say, oh I don’t know, the USA?

Time to pop the pills.

15 thoughts on “Taking my medicine.

  1. Schistosomiasis, ugly stuff. I spent a good bit of time in the jungles of Central America, so yeah I’m familiar with tropical diseases.

    An old tropical travelers joke:
    I’ll have a gin with lots of tonic.
    Why so much tonic?
    The quinine in the tonic helps my malaria, the gin is to cut the taste.

    One of the malaria prophylactics I took turned my skin a lovely shade of yellow. I’m wondering if there is a course of treatment if Hillary wins. I can hear it now, 4 or 8 years of being called a sexist bastard.

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    1. I was the only guide at the time not to get malaria and I didn’t take any drugs as I was there for too long to put up with the long term side effects of larium. I was just really careful at covering up. That and not falling asleep drunk in the garden.

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      1. We were some of the test monkeys. Giving a drug with potential psychiatric side-effects to a bunch of guys who are iffy to begin with is never a good idea. Mosquito netting, one of the top 100 inventions of civilization in my book. The only way you would ever get me to lie down on the ground in the tropics is if you shot me.

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    1. Why the Africans let us not let them decide for themselves is beyond me.

      To all those showing concern, my thanks, but it’s just one day of yucky pills and then all good and I’m back to annoying the world.

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  2. Hope you feel better and hopefully you won’t have any serious side effects. Some people don’t…lucky bastards!

    I contracted Hep C from my military service back in the 70’s and didn’t even know I had it until 2010. A year of treatment with four different high power drugs with significant side effects. One of the drugs I took for 3 months had as a side effect, internal anal itching as well as itching all over my skin and it didn’t go away for eight months after I stopped taking the drug.

    Thankfully, I’m cured, but even 3 1/2 years after treatment, I’m still feeling side effects.

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      1. EhIntellect

        I don’t miss my riticulocytes until they’re gone.

        Re: erstwhile deadly disease, what is your trigger for avoiding illness/injury contraction? Y’all seem well-traveled and have a handle on the foreign milieu. Where would you draw the line?

        Fearless adventure? Cool. Parasite-induced cytopenia? Eh…maybe. Depends on the context.

        I’m not well traveled, and there seems like a million ways die out there.

        Occasional tree felling and logging is hair-raising enough for me.

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      2. My attitude has always been to educate myself as much as possible before arriving. When I’m there I seek out other expats who have been there a while and I get as much info out of them as possible. This has always served me well.

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  3. Post Alley Crackpot

    “I was the only guide at the time not to get malaria and I didn’t take any drugs as I was there for too long to put up with the long term side effects of [Lariam].”

    Now here’s the funny-yet-not-funny ironic bit: you might not have been dealing with this right now if you’d have taken the Lariam at that time, although it’s typically only used for treating malaria.

    Often the stuff manages to knock out schistosomiasis as well if you take it long enough.

    Next time try not to be such a tough bastard. 🙂

    [… says the guy who brought home another kind of helminthic infestation because he thought he was a tough bastard too and that tropical medicine applied only to other people …]

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    1. Heh, I wasn’t trying to be tough. The side effects of long term use of the meds was awful. It was a rational decision after weighing up the risks. And I was absolutely anal about not getting bitten after a certain time at night. Not tough at all.

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