Dual Entry #9

"And Then There Were Two"

It feels a little bit like a bad horror movie.  You know the kind we're talking about.  At the start of the doomed camping trip, there are five happy travelers.  However, as the movie wears on, each one gets picked off in some gruesome way, while the rest of the group, like idiots, decide to stay at the campsite.  "Its probably just a nasty june bug that nailed Bob to the tree with a pick axe," they always say.  Meanwhile, the killer lurks in the shadows, eliminating cast members until only the worst actress is left - saved by the fact that she looks good in running shorts and a tank top.

So it goes in the land of the Guatemalan volunteers.  The five of us arrived here nine months ago as relatively healthy U.S. citizens.  Today, it's a totally different story.  In the past three weeks, three of us have ended up in the hospital, each with his or her own brand of gruesome health problem.

Who Will Be Next??????

In truth, Brian recorded the first "Guatemalan volunteer hospital stay" long before this.  In his first month living with his host family, he caught a nasty stomach virus and had to go in to be re-hydrated.  He knew he had a problem when he realized that he had prayed to the porcelain God more times than the weirdo from your junior high Audio-Visual class has talked about his imaginary girlfriend.

After recovery, Brian stayed relatively healthy.  Granted, he did have a close call that required a doctor visit after scarfing down a chili relleno he bought off a street vendor.  He says it was filled with an appetizing mix of cheese, meat, tomatoes, lettuce, and a gut-churning parasitic worm whose name we can't pronounce.  Brian's new advice to Guatemalan travelers?  Don't let the jacket and tie fool you.  That guy selling food on the chicken bus is like the intestinal grim reaper.  After a short course of antibiotics, he was as good as new.  However, Brian, being an over-achiever, couldn't stop with just one hospital stay.  He was the first lucky contestant in the recent game of Hospital Hootenanny.

Brian in fetal position, 
(see blue knee covered w/ 
white sheet in corner?)

It seems that Brian has a problem with something around his appendix.  Not sure exactly what it is, but when we saw him at the hospital, he was in an immense amount of pain.  He was lying in the fetal position, grimacing every time he was poked by a nurse or heard the phone ring.  Looking around the private hospital in Xela, we hoped that the makeshift signage was no indication of the treatment he would receive.

When the doctor finally got a peek at the test results, it was determined that Brian would have to have his appendix removed.  They whisked him off to the operating room faster than George W.'s descent in the opinion polls.

And they're off!

Emergency!  We need a new sign!

He finally got to his private room at about 1am, where we were anxiously await his arrival by sleeping soundly on the twin bed next to his new home for a couple of days.  When the nurses wheeled the gurney next to the bed, they saw that Brian was a bit taller than the average Guatemalan surgery patient.  You see, he filled the entire gurney, head-to-toe, and the gurney was a bit longer than the bed.  The night nurse said, "El no cabe!" (He won't fit!)  After a bit more analyzing, they figured he might be able to lay diagonally.  They asked for our help moving Brian from the gurney to the bed.  So, a sock-footed Gabby gingerly stood on the bed with a nurse, while Scott helped the other nurse lift from the other side of the gurney.  By the strength of four people, he was finally in place for recovery. 

Brian in his kiddie bed

Fast forward a week and a half to our retreat in El Salvador.  We were enjoying a nice time at Hacienda Colima, when Charity began to complain of stomach pain.  Over a period of three hours, this worsened to the point at which she was ready to operate on herself to extract whatever was making her feel bad.  Since we were a good 45 minutes from the hospital, Julie began asking questions to try and diagnose the trouble.  She asked, "have you had any stomach problems recently?"


Check out the plush room!

Charity responded by saying, "a couple of days ago I threw up a few times.  Other than that, nothing besides the normal Guatemalan diarrhea."  We learned this night that there really is no such thing as "normal diarrhea", no matter how frequently you get it here in Guate.

Charity was taken to the hospital in San Salvador for a diagnosis and to get re-hydrated.  It turns out that she had a fun parasite and a bacteria having a party in her belly.  And, if these fellas are in your stomach long enough, they will start reproducing with eggs and stuff.  Fun, eh?  Gabby was explaining this to our host dad, Martin, and said, "Caridad tiene huevos!"  (Charity has eggs!)  The only problem with this was that, in Spanish, the word "huevos" also translates as "testicles".  So, Martin thought he had himself the makings of a daytime TV talk show.

Sure, she looks dead, but
we promise that she's just fine!

Wow!  All I have to do is puke
and they give me this cool dress!

In the end, Charity was put on a course of meds to take care of the problem.

Unlike Brian's hospital, where the night cleaning crew swept up so much trash it looked like they were cleaning the floor of the movie theater, Charity's accommodations were first class!  She had a television, elevator, a pullout couch, air conditioning, fake flowers, and even a guy in a tuxedo who delivers your breakfast (we're not kidding).  It was nicer than 90% of the hospitals we've seen in the states.  The bathroom was really swanky.  We considered getting sick ourselves just so we could stick around.  On the brochure, they boast that if Prez Bush gets sick while in El Salvador, he too, would stay the night here.

Jen was the last big winner in the Hospital Hootenanny.  She started feeling sick while we were still in El Salvador.  By the time we got to Xela, she had a headache/migraine that hadn't lapsed in two and a half days.  She also had the added bonus of throwing up.  When the problem didn't get better, Jen decided she should go to the hospital, too.

Jen ended up going to the same place as Brian.  Even though our explanation of the place doesn't paint a pretty picture, the truth is that Brian didn't even get an infection, and was good as new in no time.  So, Jen was in good hands.  They ran a battery of tests on her, took pictures of her brain, got her an MRI, and even gave her a fun dexterity test.

The test involved lots of touching your nose, raising your leg, wiggling things. Afterward, they still didn't know what was wrong with her, but they DID know that she wasn't drunk. The neurosurgeon took good care of her.  After seeing the results of the CAT scan and MRI, he surmised that the problem was a bad reaction to Chloroquine, the medicine we USED TO take to prevent malaria.  They shot her up with lots more drugs (interesting technique) and sent her home.  Today, she is getting better, with the exception that she can't feel her left hip due to a misfired injection that damaged a nerve.  Poor Jen.  She's been through a lot. 

Jen takes advantage of Charity's hand-me-down plastic flower from the El Salvador hospital stay

Hospital La Democracia:
Jen and Brian's
favorite Guatemalan night spot

Peanut butter and graham
crackers were smuggled in
to assist in Jen's recovery

Please pray for everyone to continue to improve.  Also, pray for us, as we went and got a poop test as a precautionary measure.  The tests came back positive for amoebas (and probably giardia for Gabby).  We feel OK, but it's a little weird knowing that you're walking around with a little bug colony in your intestines.  We're almost done with a course of antibiotics that should take care of everything.  It makes us tired and nauseous (problems we didn't have when we only had the amoebas), but we're on the mend.

Take care everyone, and we'll be bug free when we see you in August!