Thursday, 28 May 2015

Fiji drags me to the curb

In my last post I seem to have entertained an illusion that maybe I had settled in to Fiji. I say that it was an illusion because since then Fiji has been trying to kill me.

The tropics are full of nasty surprises. Typically bacteria is the biggest fiend when it comes to health issues.

I reflect on my time in Indonesia. Jakarta is closer to the equator than Fiji so both are tropical. I wonder what the differences are between these two capitals because the primary health complaints are different?

Jakarta is a concrete jungle with plenty of germs. It is not the cleanest place I've been too, in fact, the amount of trash in the waterways and on the roadside was appalling not to mention the rats and flies. And food goes off very quickly in that climate, so I get that the number one health complaint is gastrointestinal issues.

Suva on the other hand has skin issues such as boils. Not once in my time in Indonesia did I see or hear of a person with a boil. But I have come across many here, expats and locals who have suffered the perils.

The biggest difference I can see is that there is a lot of greenery in Suva which may account for the large amount of bacterial infections. Nature's own little hothouse.

The long story for me included a health issue each month for the previous four months (I've decided it is over now, there are no extensions). With most of these came a course of antibiotics which doesn't do the immune system any good.

By the time I've arrived in early May I get a temperature that fogs up my glasses even after paracetamol. Not a good indicator.

A few days later at a doctors visit there was talk of dengue and chikungunya but a wait and see approach was taken. Two days later all the aches and pains had gravitated to my right thigh only. Then there was a diagnosis of onset shingles. On more antibiotics for five days (22 tablets a day). By now my immune system is so confused it is leaving town. The five days comes to an end but the pain is worse, a lot worse. As in it hurts to walk to the bathroom. The following day I couldn't walk.

After much agony, screaming and tears I was admitted to hospital on the Monday. Scans, ultrasounds and blood tests were done. An infection showed up in the blood test.

I'll preface the next bit by highlighting the good things first. I was very lucky to have the doctor I was assigned (despite him being a sadistic brute who smiled when he pressed my excruciatingly painful leg and I screamed and cried in response). He knew what it was before any symptoms were obvious (symptoms other than pain). He has been my only carer, even post op, where he dresses the open wound each day until he is ready to take me back to surgery to stitch my gaping leg up. I left him surgery instructions; next I'm going to ask him if he can embroider Fiji 2015 with the stitches.

surgical instructions - can't be too careful - PS had to edit it later to clarify that it was the bad stuff (not the leg) they had to remove carefully
For two days he drugged me up on mega doses of IV antibiotics and morphine until finally the infection presented itself in an ultrasound and showed as swelling and hardness in the leg muscle. It was a deep muscle infection formed as an abscess, pyomyositis, very close to the bone. He operated that afternoon cleaving my leg open to the bone and even drilling the bone to make sure the infection hadn't gotten in. He told me later sepsis was also a player on the field as well. I was not a well person.

At this stage I am out of hospital three days and still with an open wound. Maybe in two days I will go back in for my surgeon to close it.

I try to temper the horrific experience by flippantly referring to it as my near death experience. But it got me wondering just how much Fiji dislikes me. My eldest son has offered sound advice on future volunteer assignments 'to places that aren't prone to killing you'. Wasn't a box I ticked coming here.

So for the later part of April, the majority of May and into June my time has been and will be spent in some sort of evil health hell house which I am keen never to revisit again.
scrambled eggs

Instead of trolling up bad memories and scarring my readers by sharing photos of my hospital incarceration, I'll share with you my food porn experience while there. I did not spot one piece of cassava or dalo and much better than aeroplane food.

chicken sandwich

aussie breakfast

brought my own avocado 

lamb shank

Health hasn't been the only challenge. I alluded to accommodation issues in my last blog post. That has only escalated in the interim month. I won't go there because it will become a whinge fest. 

So, to relieve some of the pressure I had been under, when I got out of hospital I hunted down players in my life who haven't been playing nicely and gave them all a stern serve. In a nice way of course :)

From insurance companies to landlords, property managers to medical clinics and phone companies, I've shared the love around. Nothing like reasserting yourself as being back in the land of the living with a well written smackdown to ease the tensions inside.

I suppose one of the lessons I'm learning here (again) is that there is a time for patience and then a time to draw the line. And the balance between the two is not the same here as in Australia. Here more patience is required because things move slower. But that doesn't mean there will never be a time to draw the line.

I contemplate what other lessons are to be learned. How far will Fiji push me before I bail out? How resilient am I? What is the depth of my resolution? Or in other words, how much bullshit do I put up with before I finally crack the shits?

black sand beach
mountain views
So on to lighter things.....

A Saturday village visit on the east coast of Viti Levu.

and a bonus sleeper

Carved fern tree stump

A week away for a volunteer conference in a resort on the Coral Coast was pleasant (up until I got sick).

accommodation bure

beach and lagoon views

I'm hoping June will be kinder to me and Fiji can just back the f*#k off with its killer bacteria.

Silver linings are always good to find. I could have been admitted to CWM (Colonial War Memorial) hospital. They hold the title for most leg amputations in Fiji. The government data (not including private sector health) shows that over the last four years an average of 754.25 leg amputations were done per year across Fiji. Diabetes is a high contributor but so is my ailment.

I could have been one of those stats. (In reality I'm not out of the woods yet.)  So send your prayers and loving light this way for the rest of my journey. Until next time.

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