April 20, 2010

Our Wedding Anniversary

Esperando was out of town in Washington, D.C. on our wedding anniversary. Bummer! And that was the day I thought I had discovered that I had—worms! The thought that my body might be infested with an alien life form was almost more than I could handle. It made my skin crawl. I told Esperando on the phone that I didn't want to live here anymore. I made a doctor’s appointment for 11:30 am and sat in his office waiting until 1:00 pm for him to arrive. I stifled the urge to cry.

Street food vendors are always suspect

One of the hazards of living south of the border, or anywhere where the food or water can be suspect, is parasites. To avoid this problem, one is encouraged to soak any raw vegetables in a microbial water solution, don’t eat street food, drink only purified water, wash your hands after going to the bathroom and before eating, etc. Which of these I failed to do properly is hard to say, except that I did eat sushi made from yellowtail that was freshly caught here in the Sea of Cortez by The Cowboy several months ago. At the time it was delicious, but afterwards I read you could get roundworms from ocean fish and you wouldn’t be able to see them in their flesh.    

Ascaris--it said that an adult female may measure 35 centimeters
 in length and lays up to 200,000 eggs per day.
The doctor finally arrived, ushered me into his office and asked what was wrong. “I think I have gusanos,” I said. “No, here we call them ascaris,” he said. That he seemed inclined to agree with my diagnosis and confirm my worse fears was devastating. After checking me over he said that my intestines were inflamed and that I needed to follow a bland diet he gave me: lean meat, eggs, no pork (but ham was ok), white bread, plain pasta, clear fruit juices, no sodas, fruit purees and cooked vegetables, none of it with any salt, pepper or any kind of seasoning at all. Ghack! Then I was to take a poop sample each day to the laboratory for testing, because I might have more than one kind of worm. Double ghack! He told me to come back on Monday at 11:30 am and we would figure out what I needed to do next.

Stargazer Lily carries a heavy perfume but are poisonous
to humans and cats if ingested. Who woulda thunk it?

I drug myself home. When I walked in the door there was a big bouquet of pink roses and Stargazer lilies sitting on the dining table. Those were in my wedding bouquet. The room smelled wonderful from the lilies. But I was so stunned that all I could do was wallowed in self pity. I looked up ascaris on the internet and found out it comes with living in unsanitary conditions and having poor hygiene. That made me feel like I was the scum of the earth.  Then I saw a photo of a young African boy with worms coming out of his nose and mouth. That made me gag. I decided after reading over the symptoms that I had had worms for a really long time, like maybe ever since we moved down here. (Did I mention I have hypocondria in my genes?)

For the next several days I dutifully followed the diet and took my samples to the laboratory. The diet was extremely dull and I didn't even lose any weight, but in the next few days I began to feel better. Then yesterday, Monday, I went to the lab with my last specimen and told them I had a doctor’s appointment at 11:30, since they normally don’t have results until 1 pm. I didn’t know how they would handle that. They said, come back at 11:00 and we will have your results to take to the doctor. Sure enough at appointed hour I showed up and they folded up a little piece of white paper and stuck it in an envelope for me to take to the doctor. Unlike the U.S. I was to carry the report to the doctor, and unlike the U.S. the envelope was not sealed. When I got outside the clinic I opened the envelope. It said:

1– negativo
2– giardia lamblia
3– giardia lamblia

Giardia lamblia-If the organism is split and stained, it
has a very characteristic pattern that resembles a
familiar "smiley face" symbol. Is that a peculiar or what?

Aha! I did have a parasite, but it was not worms! It wasn’t a serious parasite. I’ve had it twice before when I was out of the country. It made me feel sick then too. It comes from bad water. We don’t have bad water in the guesthouse, nor in Casa Abeja as we have filters to treat the water in those places and we drink bottled water. Our ice is also made from bottled water. I must have gotten it sometime somewhere when we went out to eat. Maybe ice cubes—who knows? At 11:30 am I trotted over to the doctor’s office. This time the office was crowded with patients. Bad sign, now I would be waiting forever. The receptionist said, “What are you doing here?” “Well the doctor told me to come on Monday at 11:30.” “I don’t have you down,” she said, “He never told me. You’ll have to come back tomorrow.”

Today I went back. The waiting room was even more crowded. It appeared all these people had been waiting a long time as one woman got up and left and told the receptionist she would call to make an appointment. The doctor arrived and the whole group raced into his office. The receptionist called out to them, "no wait the Señora here has an appointment." Ah, all these people were waiting without an appointment but me. It didn’t much seem to matter because they went in and I was left out in the cold. After about 20 minutes they all came out (it seems it was one large family) and I finally got to see the doctor. He said you have a protozoa, not worms. He gave me a precription and said I would have to be retested in 15 days. He told me it was a hard parasite to get rid. Great, but I’d still rather have that than worms.

I hestitated to write this blog about such an indelicate subject, but Esperando said I should. He said this is part of life down here and you should tell people. If you don’t live here and just visit as a tourist you are far less likely to contract these weird things. It’s the daily grind that gets you.

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