Saturday, February 4, 2017

I Get Cholera, Day 1

This journal entry was written four years ago and never posted. It provides a glimpse into the things that happened and the way I was thinking about them at the time. I had been incredibly grateful that I never came down with cholera myself during all the time I was caring for the babies in the hospital in Port au Prince. 

However, after I got back from Port, I spent about half a day scrubbing the floor inch by inch in one of the rooms at Club Indigo because two American guys were coming down and were going to stay there. The room had previously been lined with babies' cribs, and the floor was caked with grime and crud, but I joyfully took a rag and bucket and washed it down, scrubbing on my hands and knees, excited about the guys who were coming and utterly unconcerned about investing some hard work into giving them a clean place to stay. (Club Indigo had a cleaning staff who would come through with a mop once a day, but they just did a quick pass over the room, and this room definitely needed deep cleaning.) I remember getting extremely sweaty due to the amount of elbow grease I had to exert, and I emerged from the room disheveled with my hair a mess.

Only after I finished scrubbing the room was I told that babies with cholera had been kept in that room while I was at Port. I hadn't worn gloves or taken any special precautions while I scrubbed the floor. I'm sure that some of that grime and crud was cholera-infested feces. And that's how I think I came down with cholera after being fine the whole time up to that point.    

February 4, 2013

Ever since I got back to Haiti, I have been trying to have a girls’ night with the missionary ladies. I brought summer sausage and three kinds of specialty Wisconsin cheese that I had gotten in the US, and I wanted to have the ladies over for fellowship, prayer, and snacks. Monday I was at the creche as usual, but it seemed like nothing was going on that night. Ah! My girls’ night! I thought. So I called and texted people and set it up.

About 6:00 in the evening, I happily set to work making some homemade chai tea. About 6:30, I went to pick up one of the ladies from her house. (First time driving at night in Haiti!) Suddenly, as soon as I walked in the door to my room, I felt nauseous. It was only slight, and I pushed it out of my mind. I continued making the chai and cutting the cheese and summer sausage. Two more ladies came about 8:00, and I served everyone chai.

Then I had to go to the bathroom. It was diarrhea. I took my temperature. 99.3. I was sure I was in for it. I told the girls that maybe they should all go home, because I just had diarrhea and I told them what my temperature was. They decided to stay, and we did have a lovely time talking, though I was curled up in a fetal position on the bed, huddled under a blanket and feeling worse all the time. We had a prayer time together, lifting up each other’s needs, and that was also very wonderful.

The ladies left, and I took my temperature again. It was 101.5. “Oh, no!” I thought. I went to bed, where I thrashed and moaned all night long, getting up frequently to go to the bathroom, and having weird, feverish, delusional sensations. I remember at one point feeling like I had four bodies, and trying to decide which one of them I would send to the bathroom. Nobody wanted to go. Finally desperate urges caused one of them to take the initiative, and I was surprised that all of me went along.

The signs of cholera are liquid diarrhea and vomiting, with a distinctive, almost lime-green color, a distinctive smell, and a texture sometimes like rice. I was sure I had it. Cholera works by stripping your body of the water in your cells. Long after the digestive system is emptied out, the patient continues to have diarrhea, because the disease is eating away at the intestinal lining, breaking down tissues, and emptying out all the water in them. Bowel movements are like pure liquid with a few small solid chunks of matter (which I imagine would be bits of villi). It was truly agonizing.


Read the next post: I Get Cholera, Day 2

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