At 8pm that night, I was suddenly gripped by a sharp and severe pain in my belly, and I seriously contemplated whether that glass of water had somehow been contaminated on route from heaven. Later, I came close to posting something to that effect on my Facebook page. I had been violently sick and the pain had pain eased, but I was tired, and I couldn't be bothered logging on to my laptop. I fell asleep, waking sometime around mid-night with a high fever that caused my muscles to rigor. I had suffered from frequent migraines since before I was a teenager. Debilitating though they could be I'd had to learn to live with them. As a result, I could bear the pain I felt now.
I developed diarrhoea. It was not severe, but there were signs that it was caused by a bacterial infection. I didn't believe in taking to my bed. I did believe in the capacity of my body to heal itself, which, had always been remarkable. However, the exhaustion and lethargy I felt during those days was incredible, like nothing I had ever experienced. I reasoned that the long hours I had put in stabilizing Jusmy, followed by a week of night shifts that I had pulled to cover staff sickness, one of which, backed onto a day shift, had drained me. I started a protocol for travelers diarrhoea, which, consists of oral rehydration solution and an antibiotic. Diarrhoea is such a common problem in the developing world that it is not considered necessary or practical to visit a Doctor and obtain stool cultures before antibiotics are started. Doctors provide the guidelines for self-treatment and nurses and travelers commence treatment by themselves, and seek medical help if their symptoms worsen. The pattern of my fever strongly suggested that I had a bacterial infection. I knew well enough that my immune system was not handling the infection this time. I knew well enough that I better not try to work anymore than was absolutely necessary, so, I swallowed the pills and I took to my bed.
On Thursday Afternoon, I lurched between delirium and lucidity, and developed some worrying signs that suggested I needed medical help. The pain had moved very low in my pelvis on the right side, and my abdomen was tender. I realised that I hadn't eaten for 3 days. I'd had no appetite. Despite Almost 72 hours on antibiotics, my fever had not broken, and diarrhoea was still a problem. It hurt to move, it hurt to breathe. Miss Vicky, an American nurse, walked by outside my room. It was raining heavily. I couldn't muster a deep enough breath to call out to her. Something was wrong. I suspected appendicitis. I told my roommate I needed to see a Doctor. She grimaced. I knew it would be dangerous to drive down the mountain in this weather. Tomorrow, we agreed. Tomorrow morning.
And then I woke up.
I had an overwhelming infection. My heart was beating 165 times per minute and my tissues were poorly oxygenated at just 86% following the walk upstairs. 95-100% is considered normal. 85% is considered pre-terminal. Five minutes later, my oxygen levels were hovering at 88-91%. I knew there was little time to lose. I knew that my life was in danger. Convincing my colleagues of this, though, was another matter. I made two attempts to persuade my room mate, who worked in the office, that I needed to be transferred to the city for urgent medical evaluation. My colleagues, though, had other plans for the day - matters to be dealt with that they believed were more pressing. In a last ditch attempt, I asked my room mate to write down my vital signs and to call my boss, a registered nurse, who was in the Dominican Republic. I was certain that she would tell the staff that taking me to see a Doctor in the city had to be the priority. But no, an adoptive family was to appear before the local judge to get approval to adopt the child who had been matched to them. There weren't enough drivers or vehicles. I was told I would have to wait. I had no fight left in me......I should call Mme Bernard...... I needed oxygen and IV fluids.......I should call Dr Nathalie on my cell phone. She would understand....... My phone was just out of reach...... I would get it in a minute....
I fell asleep. I woke, I got up to use the bathroom. My mind was drifting. I forgot about the oxygen, and the fluids, and Mme Bernard. I fell asleep again.
Thankfully, my heavenly father, the warrior king, commander of the troops and the God of the universe had me in the palm of his hand at that time when I couldn't take care of myself; when there was no-one else to take care of me. He and showed me his divinity and his sovereignty but also his tenderness and devotion. He had me right where he wanted me. That's what he had said.