Dengue fever infection can strike when one least expects it. On reflection, taking into account an incubation period of anything between 3 and 10 days, it was probably in Ubud, Bali, at a ‘ Jungle Resort’ that my wife AJ contracted a dengue fever infection in May of 2016. The resort, located on a steep hillside about five miles outside of Ubud, was no different from most and had a ‘spa’ within its complex. The spa was located at the lowest point of the resort area where a river ran through a narrow creek. There was more rain than usual this year during the month of May in Bali and there were a shower most days – usually in the afternoon.
The resort, located on a steep hillside about five miles outside of Ubud, was no different from most and had a ‘spa’ within its complex. The spa was located at the lowest point of the resort area where a river ran through a narrow creek. There was more rain than usual this year during the month of May in Bali and there were a shower most days – usually in the afternoon.
After four days in Ubud, we transferred from Bali to a bungalow on Gili Meno, and then after a further two days moved on to another on Gili Air. We had planned to stay at this particular B&B for nine days. It was on the third day of our stay on Gili Air that AJ began to feel unwell.
It all started with an extremely intense headache.
AJ described it as “like my head being in a vice similar to that experienced when I had meningitis some 10 years ago”. Very soon after AJ experienced a sensation of the most dreadful, extreme nausea, followed day after day of alternating between sweating and feeling cold. She suffered tiredness, muscle ache and loss of appetite, and then a rash – the appearance of measles with the sensation of prickly heat.
After a couple of days, thinking that this was not just a case of too much sun or a general virus we asked our host to call a doctor. All three of the Gili Islands have medical centers and the doctor and a nurse turned up pretty promptly. The doctor suggested that it might be a case of dengue fever infection but was not completely sure.
Paracetamol and plenty of fluids
He gave AJ a ‘ pressure’ test and concluded that this was not dengue fever. He prescribed some paracetamol for a headache and electrolytes for salts replacements and recommend lots to drink.
The headache and fever went away after a couple of days, but the horrendous feeling of nausea and the aches, tiredness, and feeling of general malaise continued. The nausea was so bad that AJ could not even face the idea of taking a sip of water, let alone the thought of eating anything.
Our initial thought was to cut our holiday short and return home to the UK as quickly as possible but unfortunately, we had booked ‘cheap’ tickets that could not be changed or canceled. The cost of buying new flights proved prohibitive and, in any case, AJ was really in no condition to spend 24 hours on boats, planes, and trains.
After our nine-day stay on Gili Air we were due to move on to Gili T and from there take a four-day trek up a volcano on Lombok and then a four-day boat trip to Komodo. On the boat trip from Gili Air to Gili T we discovered that we happened to be traveling with a medic, based at the medical center on Gili T.
He took one look at AJ and immediately told us that she had to come to the medical center for treatment.
AJ’s strength and overall health was rapidly deteriorating. She was finding it hard to walk more than a few meters and it was with considerable effort that we got her to the medical center. Whilst the team at the medical center made AJ as comfortable as possible and took a blood sample, I went off to cancel the volcano and Komodo trips.
Within a couple of hours, the blood test results were back. Dengue fever infection came up positive. The medic advised an urgent transfer to the nearest hospital – that being on the neighboring island of Lombok.
After much back and forth with our travel insurance company and their respective representative in Indonesia, AJ was rushed, first by sea ambulance and then by road, to the International Harapan Keluarga Hospital in Mataram, Lombok. By this time, it was one o’clock in the morning! AJ was immediately put on a drip and given an injection to quell nausea, as well as paracetamol to reduce headache.
The next day brought more tests. Results showed that whilst platelet levels were not dangerously low at 100,000 they had nevertheless dropped considerably from the normal count. AJ was kept on a drip for four days and regularly tested and monitored.
During that time the platelet count was rather unstable and wavered between 110,00 and 124,000 and alarmingly the rash reappeared and was worse than before. However, by the third day in hospital AJ’s headache and rash had disappeared as had her muscle ache. By the fifth day, the platelet count remained steady at around 125,000 and AJ was discharged.
AJ and I have to say that the treatment and attention that she received for her dengue fever infection at the hospital were second to none. Doctors and nurses alike were very attentive. Observant, sympathetic, patient and professional they were a great help to us through this horrific experience. On the sixth day, we transferred back to Bali and spent a further week in Ubud for ‘ convalescing’ before returning to London.
Even after some three weeks, AJ is not one hundred percent.
Our local GP is checking on the general condition of AJ’s liver and platelet count and AJ is continuing to have weekly blood tests at our local medical center in Settle, North Yorkshire. We are confident that a full recovery will not be far away.
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