Getting the Plague Abroad

Amanda Landaverde
May 9, 2017

I’m going to preface this post by saying I don’t get sick often. Once in awhile I get a cold, but I haven’t gotten anything more serious than that since my first week of college. So as you can imagine, it’s been awhile since I’ve been completely incapacitated by an illness.

It started off as just a cold in Valparaíso, Chile. Nothing major, just a cough, some mucus, regular congestion. Besides the nausea and headaches I suffered the whole bus ride back to Santiago, it was nothing crazy.

A week goes by. I’m feeling better, but I still have a cough, a lump in my throat, and lymph nodes swollen to the size of golf balls. I get to class on Monday morning feeling pretty achey and drowsy. I shrug it off, assuming that I just didn’t sleep well the night before. Then the room starts to feel really hot. Then really cold. Then I realize that it’s not the room, it’s me.

I’m burning up and I can’t stop nodding off (or possibly falling unconscious) in class. I spend from 9 am to 3:00 pm wallowing in this bodily misery, melting into my seat in the back of the classroom. I look up the symptoms for Zika. I can’t pay attention to anything happening due to the fact that the room keeps going white each time a migraine stabs through my skull.

Despite the fact that I felt like I was about to die and could barely walk, I still wasn’t quite convinced I needed to go to the hospital. I didn’t know what a doctor would do for me besides tell me to get some rest, drink some water, and possibly give me a ridiculous amount of unnecessary antibiotics. After surviving 6 hours of hell on Earth, I somehow how make it to the station and take the train home to sleep for 5 hours straight. My brother gets home around 9 o’clock and upon seeing my unconscious pale fragile shell of a body sprawled on the couch, he immediately gets me up to go to the hospital.

My brother’s girlfriend walks me to the door like I’m a 85 year old woman taking a stroll around the nursing home because I can’t stand up on my own. She goes up to check me in and argue with the man behind the desk about insurance while I try to figure out whether or not the dark red spots on the floor were blots of dried blood. They were.

They tell us to wait. We wait two hours to see a doctor. I keep falling in out of sleep or consciousness again. I hurt everywhere and feel my brain splitting everytime I wake up. We finally get called up only to have the doctor tell me to lift my head up and down and ask me if my sinuses hurt. She them, without taking my temperature or even laying a finger on me, declares I have “la gripe” (the flu). She recommends I avoid going to school or work for at least the next three days but won’t give me a doctor’s note to excuse my absences; she tells me I’ll have to check in the next morning to try and get one. (Side note: I still have not been able to get a note.)

So after coming back from the hospital, I spend the next week in complete agony. All my symptoms go away by the weekend except for the lump in my throat and the swollen lymph nodes I had since Chile. I decide to look into my mouth since I knew doctor’s always make you say “ahhhh” and look back there when you’re sick. I look in the mirror and shine a light into my mouth only to be horrified by the sight of white spots all over my tonsils.

My brother, a medical student who has clearly lost faith in the system after our last hospital experience, leaves to get me a round of antibiotics without a prescription just by walking into a pharmacy. I take the round of pills, and much like Jesus, three days later I rose back from the dead.

Despite my resurrection, I would not recommend getting sick abroad.

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Amanda Landaverde

<p>Amanda Landaverde is a 20 year-old Spanish and Psychology student at Gustavus Adolphus College who aims for a career in neuroscience studying generational trauma. In her free time, Amanda likes to creatively illuminate and counteract social injustice through art, writing, and performance with her social justice theatre troupe on campus.</p>

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