We went to Nepal to get away from the cities and the pollution and the general chaos of constant travel. We knew that hiking the Annapurna Circuit would be both challenging and rewarding, and our entire trip to this lovely country revolved around the hike. That is, until I got sick.
We had just finished our 150 kilometer trek and we were incredibly sore, but feeling really good about successfully carrying our own gear and still making it all the way through on our original schedule. I went to bed that night dreaming of relaxing back in Kathmandu with a giant burger and a beer.
The next morning I woke up feeling, off. It was cloudy and we suspected our flight out of Jomsom would be cancelled, but we dragged ourselves out of bed at 6am and headed to the airport anyways. By 8am it was crystal clear that not only was the flight not going to happen, but also that I was getting sick. I spent the next 20 hours attempting to fight off a fever and shivering uncontrollably despite being buried in both of our sleeping bags AND two huge blankets. I figured this was my body’s way of getting back at me for all the long and punishing days of hiking.
The next morning I still felt unwell, but our flight was set to go so I rallied myself and managed to survive both the flight as well as the very long and bumpy bus ride back to Kathmandu. I figured once I had a good shower and some clean clothes I would be feeling much better.
I was wrong.
I woke up in the middle of the night, feverish again, and started to worry that something was really wrong. By the next afternoon I still had the fever and it seemed to be getting worse. We started to think I might have gotten malaria, despite taking anti-malarial meds all through India. Justin called the US Embassy to get a recommendation for a doctor and we were directed to the CIWEC clinic, which caters mostly to foreigners and expats.
A few hours and many vials full of blood later I was informed that I would not be going back to the hotel that day. The good news is that I didn’t have Malaria. The not so good news is that they thought I had Typhoid Fever, though they sent out some blood cultures just to be sure.
Typhoid Fever is typically transmitted to travelers by an infected person who does not wash up properly after using the toilet, and then prepares food. I had gotten the vaccine but the doctor said that while it’s ok to have, it’s really not much more protection than having an umbrella with a huge hole in it during a thunderstorm.
I was started on a series of both oral and IV antibiotics and told that the fever would likely not be getting any better until the infection was cleared. They were right. I had a raging fever, reaching 102.5 – 103 degrees most days, for a total of 10 days. The fever was accompanied by stomach pain, a complete inability to eat more than a few bites of toast at a time, and some of the worst headaches I’ve ever had.
After a few days the blood tests came back, but they were all negative. After that I had to give blood samples every few days so that they could test for other types of bacteria and viruses, and in the meantime they added two more antibiotics to the mix just to cover all the bacterial bases.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity in the hospital, though it was really just about a week, the fever broke and stayed away for 24 hours. Armed with baggies full of the rest of the antibiotics, I was released from the clinic, even though there was never a definitive diagnosis as to what I had. The medical records I was given when we left the hospital state that it was a case of “possible Typhoid” since the blood tests apparently often come back negative when up to 50% of the time they should be positive. It’s been 5 days, I’ve finished the antibiotics, and am finally feeling more like myself again.
After all our time preparing for the Annapurna trek, it’s frustrating that we didn’t have any time to revel in the accomplishment immediately after completing the journey. The illness came on so fast, and so strong, that it seems like that’s the only thing that happened in Nepal. We’ve finally managed to pull the hundreds of photos of the hike off our memory cards and now we need to sit down and make a point to go through them and focus on those 12 days of struggle and success so that the better memories can rise up to the surface and overtake the blur that the fever created.
In the meantime, we are hanging out in Thailand, re-acquainting ourselves with our old friend ‘beer’, and making plans to go visit my brother, who lives a life full of awesome on a little island in the Gulf of Thailand.