I must admit before I caught Dengue Fever I had a few misconceptions about what it really was. I knew one caught it by being bitten by a female mosquito during the day and that there was no cure. But for some reason I thought it was a recurring illness that would keep striking you down throughout your life, like Malaria. This is not the case, for most people Dengue involves one big hit of fever, and for a small minority, ongoing chronic fatigue which also eventually disappears.
I would like to give a rundown of the symptoms I experienced.
Day 1 – 3 Fever, fatigue, aching muscles, headache and no appetite: The day before I caught Dengue Fever, I had taken a 15 hour bus ride from Phnom Penh to Bangkok. When I arrived in about 10pm I felt absolutely exhausted. That next morning I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I literally could not get out of bed. I seriously can’t think of a time I have felt sicker. I was no better the next day so hopped in a cab to visit the Bangkok Hospital. The Doctor took my temperature (40C, 104F) and told me I was there to stay.
The physical sensations of this stage were excruciating, but mentally, it was a pretty cool hallucinatory trip. My body felt as it was swelling up, and then melting into the bed. I had visions of Buddha coming down and slapping my face hard while still maintaining a serene smile and voice. He was angry I had made a video featuring a dying Dragonfly many years earlier. Then a beautiful azure blue dragonfly appeared, like one I had seen deep in the Borneo Jungle. He discussed with me very calmly how everything is connected and how I should remove the video from the world’s video gutter.
This may all sound strange, but this part of Dengue I really enjoyed, feeling another reality. And believe me, it was 100 times better than the crap on TV!
Days 4 – 5 The diarrhea stage: Imagine needing to go to the toilet 40 – 50 times a day? Imagine having extreme fatigue where you are spending a lot of your time sleeping? Imagine not have eaten anything for 5 days? This scenario leads to a situation where one is basically passing water and in the end you just wish it to stop.
On a positive note it is probably a great detox, cleaning every ounce of food substance left festering on the walls of your innards!
Day 6 – The Itchy, skin rash, low blood platelet stage: I’m on day six now. Last night I could not sleep, I felt like every mosquito bite I have ever received, particularly on my hands and feet, flared up and started itching. It was a terrible feeling, but nothing prepared me for what I saw in the mirror the next morning when I prepared for my shower, I had turned into a Beetroot! I was covered in a red rash, and my feet had swelled up to make me look even more like a clown. But the fever and fatigue was subsiding, I managed to eat my first food and I hoped the Dr would see this change and discharge me.
Unfortunately, the low blood platelet stage means if I cut myself, I will not stop bleeding, so the Dr wishes to hold me for another two days until my platelet count rises.
Another unfortunate effect of catching Dengue Fever is that if one ever gets it again, there is a great risk of contracting more dangerous versions, either the life-threatening Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever, which results in bleeding, low levels of blood platelets and blood plasma leakage, or Dengue Shock Syndrome, where dangerously low blood pressure occurs. Both these forms can be fatal without early treatment.
So there you go, one bored filmmaker, in a foreign hospital, with no decent books, leads to an article on my experience with Dengue Fever.
I hope it helps someone in the future who has just been diagnosed.