Chikungunya: code for THE WORST.
Really, it means “to become contorted” in a Tanzanian language where it was first identified.
If you aren’t sure what it is, chikungunya is a mosquito-transmitted virus, similar to dengue fever or Zika. The symptoms are high fever, joint pain, itchy rash, & joint swelling. And Stephen and I were lucky enough to get it (with about half of our town!) last month.
At our public hospital (used by many legal, local residents (but doesn’t include many illegal or legal immigrants) was reporting 200 new cases per day in late July, in addition to those who weren’t going to the hospital or visited other clinics or hospitals. Nearly half of our community had it. Thankfully, Oak hasn’t gotten it yet!
Of all the things Stephen & I have dealt with here in Mae Sot–dengue fever, dog bites, scabies, food poisoning, staph infections–we’d both say chikungunya has been the worst. (We both had scabies for four months before it was diagnosed. My staph infections led to two surgeries. Dengue is also called bone-crushing disease. Guys, it’s AWFUL.)
I woke up on a Sunday morning and walked out of the room wondering, “Hmm. It feels like my foot is broken. How do I not remember hitting it? Or dropping a huge piece of furniture on it?”
I limped around, until a few hours later, my other ankle suddenly weakened. It felt sprained. I was so confused: how did I not recall these injuries? I didn’t even remember bumping anything.
Within a few hours, I had a high fever and everything throbbed. I remember laying in bed that afternoon and thinking the pillow was so painful. Both of us would wake ourselves in the night to our own groaning.
I laid in bed for two days until my fever subsided and the rash came. Red bumps, all over; shockingly similar to the rash with dengue. And all so, so itchy. For me, the rash lasted for about five days. The whole week I hobbled around like I suddenly aged a hundred years, leaning over, struggling to get up, groaning in pain. Throughout the community, you could see exactly who had it: we were truly contorted.
As we left for Yangon the following Sunday it was a week after my symptoms started. Stephen’s symptoms were completely gone at eight days, so as I limped up the steps in the airports and we carted Oak and luggage together, Stephen kept telling me it was almost over.
Yangon and Bangkok were hard. We walked many miles and went up many steps. We carried Oak for days and days. And my pain really didn’t go away. Some days were worse than others, but they were all pretty bad. I was just an old lady making my way through the cities and airports with a toddler.
And then we returned, and I think that’s when it hit me: we were well past eight days. And it was still throbbing. Something different every day or two, but each morning I’d barely stumble out of bed, feeling like my right foot was broken one day, and the next day my neck didn’t move. The following day I couldn’t lift my left arm; the next I couldn’t use my right shoulder.
As it turns out, for some, chikungunya symptoms of pain and joint swelling can last anywhere from a month up to a year. A YEAR, folks. Stephen laid in bed on the first day he was sick, reading up on the CDC website and telling me about this approximately ten percent of people with long-lasting symptoms. I told him that was pessimistic: why would that be him? It will be fine.
He told me that if half the community gets it, ten percent actually becomes pretty high. And while those statistics are hard to argue, I still felt it was pessimistic.
But its looking like I’m in this ten percent. My optimism didn’t even help me.
Instead, I’m slowly–very, very slowly–stepping out of bed every morning to see which bone will feel broken that day. I’m going to sleep with swollen feet and struggling to use my swollen fingers to open water bottles. I’m still waking Stephen when I groan from pain the middle of the night.
Guys, I’m OLD all the sudden. With a two year old! Whom, I might add, really struggles to understand why one day mom can’t walk and the next she can’t pick him up.
It’s THE WORST.
So, say a prayer with us! Please pray I’m nearly done. One month comes next week, and I’m praying, praying, praying that its nearly over.