Thursday, February 2, 2012

Caught in a Karma Storm...

…and I forgot my umbrella.  I’m not quite sure what cosmic law I broke which brought about my current misfortune, but I am officially focusing on good deeds in the hopes of reviving my recently clogged stream of good karma.

Realistically, I’m surprised I lasted a month before having some malady or another.  I’m the kind of person whose shoulder spontaneously dislocates the moment my health insurance terminates.  To be honest with myself, it’s about time I got acquainted with the SGU doctors anyway.

Let me start from the beginning and answer whatever questions I may have just evoked.

Last Thursday morning, before heading over to the pool at the University Club, I noticed a small, unalarming rash on my abdomen.  No stranger to heat rashes, I shrugged it off.  That evening, as I described in a previous entry, the single, localized rash had matured into a swollen welt and duplicates were swelling up all over my arms, legs and torso.  The over-the-counter antihistamine I got the next day eased the awful itching that accompanied the welts, but within a couple days their increase in size became concerning.  What was once a collection of coin-sized swollen lumps quickly became long seamless clusters, like angry inflamed continents of skin emerging across my body.

Then, Monday night, between breakouts of furiously itchy hives, I experienced a sudden onset of chest pain.  The pain was not overwhelming and seemed to come from the center of my chest, so I wasn’t concerned enough to complain out loud.  Instead, I mentally made a note of what was becoming an increasing list of symptoms, with the intention of seeing a doctor only if absolutely necessary.

Here’s how I viewed the situation: I’ve had hives before.  They were brought on by an allergic reaction to medicine.  I assume my hives are being caused by an allergy that I have not yet pinpointed.  I’ve had chest pain before.  It was brought on by an unusual amount of stress.  I’ve been pretty stressed out lately, more so recently because of these horrid welts.  I just need to wait this out.

Tuesday night the pain was back.  This time it was overwhelming.  Surges ran up and down my sternum, and spread around the base of my throat.  The pain came and went.  When it was gone, I seemed to forget it immediately, reasoning that the lack of residual pain meant the actual attack was not as bad as it seemed.  When the pain returned, its assault was twice as bad as I remembered.  Frantic thoughts cross one’s mind when racked with agony.  If only my hands were strong enough, my body forgiving enough, to wrench open my own ribcage and give rest to this torture.

Ivan and I considered contacting the on-call nurse for the SGU clinic.  Desperate as I was to find out what ailed me, I knew the pain wasn’t stemming from my heart or lungs.  And although the same caliber pain would have been extraordinarily bearable if it was coming from my foot, panic is the body’s automatic reaction to chest pain.  After all, I could theoretically cut off my foot and be fine without it.  I was reminded of the reverberating agony when I struck the tile ledge of our bathtub with my shin.  Bone pain is the worst.  But I wasn’t having a heart attack and I had no trouble breathing.

Instead of disturbing the nurse, I did what all hypochondriacs do: I spent an hour on WebMD.  This can actually be a valuable resource if you’re not crazy and don’t suffer from thanatophobia (fear of death).  Once you realize that although the most obscure terminal diseases have the most common symptoms, you are probably not suffering from one, WebMD is pretty easy to navigate and informational.  For instance, I was able to fall asleep after drinking a glass of milk after confirming that I was probably just experiencing a nasty form of heartburn.

Skip to Wednesday: At 8AM, when the SGU clinic opened, I was there.  I paid $70EC for a consultation with the doctor, then sat down and waited my turn.  (I want to point out that $70EC is about $25USD and is not a copay.  That was the entire fee to see the doctor.  I don’t know if that is a reflection of how much Grenadian doctors earn, but it was surprisingly inexpensive.)  As he took my vitals, the doctor asked if I take any recreational drugs.  Combining his Caribbean accent with my propensity to misunderstand everything I hear, the question sounded more like, “Do you take any recreational jogs?”

Ever enthusiastic to appear healthy before a medical professional, I responded, “Oh yeah! A couple times a week!  I love it!”

If you’re not feeling embarrassed for me, you should at least be laughing at me.

The doctor looked over my hives and asked if I have any mosquitoes where I live.  Guffaw!  Seriously?  I am one flashy neon sign away from opening a blood-letting clinic in my apartment.  This whole island has mosquitoes!  Reigning in some of that sarcasm, I answered, “Oh yeah! Tons!”

WebMD’s merits were proven when I was given a proton pump inhibitor prescription for heart burn and advised to stay on a bland diet.  That evening, I experienced no chest pain, thankfully.  One problem down.

The hives were a separate issue.  Bodily rash is one of the symptoms of dengue fever, typically emerging a few days after the affected individual has developed a fever.  I had not developed a fever.  In fact, I wasn’t exhibiting any other symptom of the virus.  Still, in some rare cases, a patient may have contracted the disease and display only skin irritation.  The doctor ordered a CBC.  The blood work results are expected tomorrow.  If they are negative, I may be subject to more tests.  There is a very small chance that I actually have dengue, but it seemed as though the doctor wanted to rule out the possibility.

Meanwhile, our lives have been whirling around at breakneck speed.  How is it February?  Where is the free time I so anticipated?

Every morning we wake up around 6AM (note the use of the word “around,” which varies on how many times the snooze button is pressed).  Mondays and Tuesdays we run to the school, do some lifting, and run home. We have breakfast and Ivan goes to school.  Then, in a ridiculous flurry of unaccountable hours, I may or may not accomplish half of what I hoped.  Ivan comes home and the day is winding to an end.  The rest of the weekdays are similar except that Ivan leaves for school earlier in the morning, so there is no recreational jogging (or recreational drugging, for that matter).

I don’t know how my time is whisked away so easily.  My days have sprung a leak and I can’t seem to pinpoint the crack where all of my minutes are escaping.  Always I’m rescheduling my to-do list for tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.

Our tropical fruit menu has expanded yet again.  This time we picked up some starfruit.  Sure, I’ve had starfruit before.  My experience back home, however, was of a slightly tart fruit with a tough, but edible skin.  Per usual, tropical fruit tastes better in the tropics (in my opinion).  Starfruit has a very mild citrusy flavor, crisp edible skin, and juicy flesh.  I would not describe it as sweet, like a peach, or overly flavorful like an orange, but it is a refreshing, light snack.  Before cutting into it, the fruit has an almost flowery fragrance, but any scent is still very minimal.  Once it’s been sliced, the seeds can be squeezed out, then the pieces can be eaten whole (don’t bother removing the skin).  I also found today that it makes a great treat mixed with plain yogurt and served with a graham cracker.  Yummers!

Squeeze out the seeds before eating!

Also, we picked up another soursop.

Digression: Last week we visited our favorite fruit stand.  Ivan asked the girl at the stand if she had any soursop.  She shook her head and smiled, clearly confused.  Ivan repeated, “Do you have any soursop?”  The girl stared at him for a moment before suddenly raising her head in a gesture of understanding.  “Oh! You mean soursop?”  The only difference in the two pronunciations that I could decipher was placement of emphasis.  As I repeated the word to myself, flipping the emphasis back and forth, I could not understand how such a small and basically unnoticeable difference could cause such a language barrier.  I’m starting to worry that I’ll never trust my ability to communicate effectively on the island.

Remember how I described the soursop as a Bowser impersonator?  Well, it was awful of me to give that description, then only supply a photo of the white interior of the fruit.  Issue now rectified!  I have a photo of the Bowser fruit, along with a starfruit, to give an idea of the mammoth size of a Bowser fruit.  This plump fellow weighed in at four pounds and we ate half of him tonight!

Are you sick of hearing about coconuts yet?  Until I’m sick of eating coconuts, I won’t be sick of writing about coconuts.  Ivan’s steadily turning into a coconut cracking pro.  He takes breaks between chapters to chop open a coconut.  Then we enjoy the milk and shred up the meat for cooking.  Early this week we had coconut mocha scones.  Now we have a coconut brownie dessert in the fridge.
Ivan with his coconut mug.

Enjoying a coconutty drink

There is a very real danger of us going through a fruit withdrawal when we get back to the states.

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