Jul 21, 2004
The fever from in the last journal entry was not malarial, and it was not an act of god, but I had no idea what caused it. It reappeared the following afternoon, and I still had no idea what the cause was. The mystery wasn't solved until the 3rd day. I rushed to the toilet and found blood when I wiped. My dysentery was back, and worse than ever.
Stomach problems are a fact of life if you travel extensively in less developed parts of the world. Months ago, in Cambodia, something moved into my stomach and set up home. It wasn't bad, but it just wouldn't go away. It was nothing more than a minor inconvenience; Once every couple of days I'd have to rush to the toilet with very mild, but slimy diarrhea.
In an attempt to cure myself, I took antimicrobial drugs (parasite and amoeba killers). Each time, the dysentery would disappear for a while, and then come back. Very gradually, the symptoms got worse. I started losing energy, losing weight and the stool became increasingly slimy. When I first arrived in Moshi, I decided it was time to take a longer course of medication in an attempt to finally get rid of the dysentery. Once again, it disappeared , But, this time it came back with a vengeance. I hadn't had fevers nor bloody diarrhea before. Previously, the symptoms had been mild. Now I had something to worry about.
I took massive doses of these toxic drugs for the past month. One of them was cleared labeled "Warning: Causes Cancer in Rats". The effects of these drugs was in some ways worse than the dysentery. I was tired all the time, and had difficulty thinking. The month flew by with me in a zombie-like state. I wasn't in pain, and I wasn't functional enough to be bored.
I'd take a course of drugs for one week. A few days after stopping, one or more of the following symptoms would come back: nausea, mild diarrhea, yellow slime, stomach cramps. I'd go in for a stool test, but since the symptoms were sporadic, the stool tests turned up negative. The only thing that I was diagnosed with was 'having eaten vegetables'. Then, I'd start on an even stronger course of drugs.
On a short vacation getting sick like this would have been a disaster. But since I have all the time in the world, it wasn't that big of a deal. Moshi actually turned out to be a pretty good place to hang out for a month. I found cheap places to stay and eat (A huge double room for $2.75; Breakfast for $0.15), so the idle month didn't use up too much of my budget. I made friends in Moshi. I debated philosophy online, and debated religion with missionaries at the Lutheran guesthouse. I caught up on email, and re-did the layout of the website. Other than being sick. it was a very relaxing month.
I was caught in a catch-22. Taking the drugs cleared up the symptoms, but that meant that I couldn't get a diagnosis. To get the diagnosis, I'd have to stop the medication mid-course, and that seemed like a very bad idea. The only course of action seemed to be to continue taking the antimicrobials. I had to go with the seemingly logical assumption: if the drugs cleared up the symptoms, then stronger cocktails of the same drugs for longer periods of time should get rid of the dysentery. The assumption proved wrong.
Eventually, despite massive amounts of drugs in my system, the slimy diarrhea reappeared. I went in for another stool test and finally got a result. The dysentery wasn't amoebic as I thought. It was actually a bacteria - E. Coli (possibly salmonella, or shigella). I switched over to ciproflaxin, one of the strongest antibiotics known to man. Cipro is also used for curing Anthrax, but they sell it in the pharmacies here without a prescription (7 cents a pill). A few days after starting cipro, I started feeling much better. Cipro also has none of the nasty side-effects for me that the antimicrobials did, so I now feel up to catching up on writing and traveling onward.
I'm still taking Cipro, but have high hopes that in another week I'll finally be healthy.
wow- that sounds so pleasant-
glad they figured it out- and that you're feeling better
mo - Jul 23, 2004
ugh! glad you're ok. did you find out if you have a worm yet or not?
Douglas - Oct 28, 2004
I just wanted to take the time to say hello and what a nice web site you have, i noticed you where planing on Russia,,, I have lived here with my russia wife for a few years now and if you need any help when you come this way just send a email, you may like Estonia as well
it is very cheap if done corect. My wife and I are paning a 1 year trip and this is how we found your site. I have a few Qs if you have the time. I was wondering what you have taken for a general first aid kit as far as tablets and things. as well what the secret for dealing with maliria you had spoke about on your site
Nice to meet you. When I get a bit closer to Russia, I'll definitely be mailing you for info.