Monday, April 15, 2013

When the Bump in the Road is Being Sick on the Road (sometimes all too literally)

Sick David

For the record, we’ve both had our turns at being sick, although someone seems to be taking more than his fair share of turns. But, if we’re keeping score, then it’s only fair to say that while David has been sick more often, Lana has definitely been injured more often.


First, there were the bites in Montana.  Lana considers this to be an injury, since she was the injured party.
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Then, on Day 2 of the Inca Trail hike, Lana took a tumble down the backside of Dead Woman’s Pass.
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This is not a mug shot, but the only way I had to check on the condition on my face. Also to check my hair, which clearly had it’s own injury earlier in the day.

In terms of illness, David went first coming down with a wretched flu-like virus in Bolivia that we think he got from some of our fellow hikers on the Inca trail. See photo at the top of this post.
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Then, right on the heels of David’s improvement, Lana got the same wretched virus, which hampered our time in Buenos Aires, although it ended up being a great place for us to rest up and get better.  Better, but not completely healed.  That virus hung on in coughs for a couple of months.
And then, not to be outdone, Lana had a little spill on a run in Pucon, Chile.
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Fun band-aids made the pain of David scrubbing out Lana’s open wounds with a toothbrush only mostly excruciating.  Lana still has a scar on her left hand from this one, and a red spot on her chin from that scrape. She can’t explain what happened except to say she tripped while running, and trying to get her hands out in front of her, while mostly successful, did mean that they took a digger in the dirt filled patch of pavement she happened to “run to ground” in (oh ha ha ha that’s funny!).  David says she looked like she was going to pull out of it any moment, until the moment when her face hit the pavement.

After that we were feeling pretty good, if a little wary. We stocked up on hand sanitizer and wipes, we were wary about shaking hand with strangers, and Lana’s runs were very, very slow. But we did run, and we kept traveling, and we made it out of South America, through LAX at Christmas, all the way through New Zealand (which included cave tubing!, hiking and kayaking!, and trolls!) and allllmost all the way through Australia without an injury. 

Then David had a good day on the Great Barrier Reef that ended up being a very bad day when he developed a 2nd degree sunburn through his stinger suit.  It may only be his first injury on this trip, but he did it up right, including an urgent care visit.
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Maybe we loved Bali so much because we were hearty, hale and completely injury free.  Lana even had a monkey touch her ankle in the Monkey Forest Sanctuary and didn’t get monkey pox! 

We weren’t sick in Singapore, but Lana probably got sick in Singapore but only started to feel sick in Hong Kong.  But it was only a very brief cold, and it didn’t really slow us down much.

Then, Vietnam.  Lana had some GI issues that turned into a full-blown (poor choice of words?) case of traveller’s diarrhea in Dalat. Incidentally, there is some evidence that the bugs in Southeast Asia don’t respond to Cipro, so think about bringing or buying some Zithromax if Cipro isn’t working for you.  Of course, Zithro didn’t work for David when he got horribly ill in Thailand (don’t skip ahead, I’ll get to it), so our evidence is purely anecdotal. But it’s a good thing to have some of each. And while people say “you can buy it for so much cheaper in ______,” trust us when we say the last thing you want to do is try to find a drugstore, and be coherent enough to request what you need, when you can barely get the door closed on the bathroom in time to save the shreds of romance left in your marriage.

So if you’re keeping score at this point, you’ll see that Lana tends to get injured, and David tends to get sick, although with sick we pass it back and forth so it’s hard to say.   But then David had to take it to the next level in Thailand.

This last little anecdote (for now, I’m sure we’ll have more stories to tell on this front!) may be familiar to you if you follow us on Twitter, or friend us on Facebook/add us to your circles on Google+.  By the way you should really do that. We post a lot of little durm und strang about things that we found funny or interesting, and often we take pictures of things and make people guess what they are. It’s fun!

Anyway, back to David and Thailand. David got sick, of the traveller’s variety, in Chiang Mai, and spiked a fever (what—so we travel with a thermometer, don’t you?), and was really not in a good state to get on a train for a 12 hour train journey.  Despite that fact, and despite the fact that we should have remembered that it isn’t a good idea to move David when he’s sick (remember Bolivia?), we got on the train. Lana was regretting this decision six hours in when David suddenly got hot, stood up to get his fan, sat down, announced he was going to throw up, and then passed out before he had a chance to. And then, when Lana was trying to slapping his face and shaking him in a effort to wake him up, he threw up—while still unconscious.  David was regretting the decision shortly thereafter when he finally came around and realized he was covered in vomit.  You’ll notice that there are no photos of this particular episode, because we were covered in vomit and only one of us was conscious.  Anyway, Lana gives up—David wins. But winning means that he’s got to stop getting sick. And since, just two days after a move we’re calling “One-Upping Elvis,” he has the sniffles (Again! Seriously!) the game is not over.
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All of that said, being sick while traveling is different than being sick while vacationing—we have a different time scale to play with.  Sometimes, it makes sense to roll with it, and keep moving, as with head colds, and minor injuries—once they’re treated.  Other times it really pays to just stop somewhere and rest it out.  We’ve never regretted stopping and spending more time anywhere.  The reverse is true, however. We’ve certainly regretted pushing on when we should have stayed put (see above).

As mentioned above, we do travel with a fairly extensive pharmacy, including a kit for traveler’s diarrhea (pepto, immodium, tums, cipro, and zithro), an allergy kit (epipen, steroids, benadryl, and zyrtec), motion sickness (bonine and patches, the latter we haven’t yet needed). We have meds for urinary tract infection, vitamin c and zinc, salt tabs and electrolyte drink. We have general meds we take everyday, like the doxycycline for malaria (those take up a LOT of room, as we’ll need to take them through the end of May), Lana’s epilepsy meds and birth control.  All of this fits in an ultra light Eagle Creek dopp kit that Lana carries in her bag. It fits nicely in the bottom of her daypack.

David carries the first aid kit, which includes the aforementioned thermometer, a clot pack for gaping wounds (I know, but--safe side), latex gloves, bandage scissors, band aids, gauze pads, neosporin, antiseptic, an instruction manual, tape, moleskin, etc.  It’s this one, if you’re interested, but David added some of the things like gloves and the clot pack.  It’s surprisingly small for what it contains, and fits nicely next to his camera bag insert in his daypack.

This may seem like overkill, and it does take up some space and weight in our bags, but it’s been worth it. Totally worth it. Several times over. We would also suggest a clean, unused toothbrush (doesn’t have to be fancy, most basic one you can find, preferably travel/folding) in case you need to scrub an open wound. When Lana fell in Chile we had one that had been lightly used, but it was still a used toothbrush, and better than leaving damp grit embedded in her hand, and also better than going to the hospital, where they would have done basically the same thing.

Whether it’s the heat, the sanitation, or the food in South East Asia, we have felt worse or had more illness on this leg. We’re not sure if it’s local conditions, if we’re just a little more tired and dehydrated, a run of bad luck, or the antibiotic horse pills we’ve been taking for malaria. But since we all know how the bugs feel about Lana, there is no way we’re coming off them early. Malaria is rampant in Madagascar, and that’s just not a risk we’re willing to take.   We take enough risks every time we step out on the sidewalk.
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I mean really. Even the guy on the mural seems to worried about us.