20 May, 2008

Welcome to my nightmare

Thanks so much for your nice comments! We are, in fact, feeling much better. I've made an appointment for the kids with the pediatrician for later on this week for a full checkup. Since we don't actually know what we had there's no way to know if they might have a parasite that could rear it's ugly head again later.

The whole incident was very scary. I've always been pretty relaxed about food when I travel. M and I were laughing at the irony yesterday: we traveled illness-free for a week on a safari through Tanzania and ate chicken that was kept for days on end in a cooler filled with water. It was cooked by the time we ate it, of course, but still! I guess that time we just got lucky with the Russian roulette.

This time we didn't.

And what made the whole ordeal even scarier was that we have no idea what it was that made us sick. We were staying in a good hotel which was supposedly taking precautions for foreign guests and their sensitive stomachs. We only ate out twice, and then, as recommended, at busy restaurants where high turnover supposedly ensured that the food was fresh. We only drank bottled water and didn't use ice in juices.

Despite these precautions, however, M and S got sick, then B 12 hours later, and then, after playing Florence Nightengale around the clock, I eventually succumbed.

Once we'd recuperated enough to keep anything down we were too weak to take the hour drive into the center of Cairo to forage for food, but were also too afraid to eat much of anything in the hotel. It was a nightmare. Literally, because I'm still waking up every night in a panic after dreams that the kids are eating bad produce or are playing in dirty water.

On the 15th S was terribly ill and I called for a doctor. He came and inspected S, B and M and, without explaining what he thought they had, he wrote out two long lists for medications. When I, as a lowly female, asked what each of them were for, he got angry. And when I mentioned that I didn't need a fever reliever because I had Ibuprofen with me he got up and stormed out of the hotel room and didn't return. (!!!) (How dare I question his authority, no matter how politely!)

Someone from the hotel went out and bought the medicines for us, but I had no idea how much to give, because the dosages he'd written were vague (1 big spoon??) and differed wildly from the amounts given in the package inserts. Luckily M had his Blackberry with him so we were able to email with my dad and my Grandfather, who is a GP, for advice. (THANKS AGAIN, GUYS!)

We had a very scary moment with S later on that evening. He had a high fever but was feeling too nauseous to take children's ibuprofen or any of the anti-microbial medicines. He was very weak and seemed to be getting worse, so M and I picked him up and put him in the shower to bring down his temperature. After that he started feeling well enough to take the ibuprofen and when that kicked in we could move on to the other medicine. If that hadn't worked the next step was definitely the hospital.

Oh, and the icing on the cake was that the bathtub leaked. Every time you took a shower water would stream out from underneath the tub onto the floor of the bathroom. So every time we bathed or used it to bring down various fevers the flooded bathroom became like an ice rink. At one point S needed to vomit, jumped up from his bed in a panic, raced to the bathroom, wiped out and skidded into a wall. It was just such a nightmare!

And I haven't even gotten to the insects yet. The ones that feasted on the kids and had S waking up one night screaming because he thought that he'd been stung by a wasp.

Let's just say that this travel experience was less than optimal.

We did have a chance the first few days to see some interesting sights. I'll blog some more about those tomorrow...


G in Berlin said...

Wow, it just sounds so awful. I am really rethinking my desire to go to Egypt this winter. I can't imagine how I would handle it if we were all that sick. I'm glad you are feelin better.
Btw, I got amoebic dystentery 20 years ago, in Mexico, while being careful. After I was back in the States., they put me on serious antibiotics.

Betsy said...

You know, G, I think that we just had some very bad luck. There were plenty of other people in our hotel who didn't get sick. And I've talked to a lot of people around here who've been to Egypt and had a great time.

I'd hate to discourage you from doing an interesting trip. If there's any advice I can give you, though, it would be to take some medicine along with you that can kill microbes (and stop diarrhea) at the first sign of trouble.

I didn't get hit as bad since I got sick after the rest of my family and was able to start taking the "intestinal disinfectant" immediately.

I still felt awful, but at least I wasn't in danger of dehydration...

Astrid said...

Oh my godness Betsy, it feels like something out of a scary movie!! A doctor that is not exactly spreading trust and harmony, a foreign (and not a too friendly) country and all four of you ill at the same time.

Maybe your travel insurance will cover for lost days, medical assistance etc?


I'm glad to hear you are feeling better now though.

Goofball said...

wow...talk about a trip that "in het water valt" (or in the toilet).
How horrible.

I'm quite sensitive myself and usually I have some mild diarrhea on vacation...in Italy, Greece, Turkey,etc. In India and in Turkey I felt bad enough to stick half a day in the hotel room.
Ironically enough both our weeks in Hurghada, Egypt have never cause any such problems. And we went eating out each day.

I guess it is truly a bit of Russian roulette if you didn't hear about an epidemic in the hotel....

I hope the pediatrician will confirm that all is fine now!

anno said...

What an unfortunate experience! I'm glad you're safely home where reliable medical care is easier to find.

I was comforted by the pictures. If you could make me laugh after such an obviously hellishly miserable trip, things must be getting better. Right?

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the report of glasses or mugs left in the room of hotels for your water or coffee. Loaded with bacteria because all the maid did was rinse it out and wipe it with a dirty towel. (hidden camera report)

We were in Baden-Baden last week and I called the front desk and asked for clean coffee mugs. There were finger prints on them! Ewww. Holiday Inn Express.

Considering that you were the 'last' to get the illness, I wonder if it was a just a flu bug passing through the family? You may never know.

I hope you feel better and nothing lasts. Lurking Lisa

Greg said...

Your posting yesterday proves that old adage: Bad trips make better stories! Glad you are all doing better. Be well, friend.

GL'sD said...

Have you given any thought to the fact that in the kitchen of your hotel all food is washed with tap water. We ran into that in Rome about 20 years ago.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Betsy, nightmare indeed! I'm so glad that you're all on the mend, and it's still probably a good thing for the boys to see a pediatrician.

The last time I had an experience like that was oysters in Paris. At a top place. Go figure.

I'm especially sorry that you had such an experience with that doctor.

Betsy said...

Astrid: Thanks! :-) I think our insurance should cover the doctor's expenses and the medication.

Ellen: See, I think you're right-- it is a Russian Roulette and this time we took the bullet. I'll keep you all posted on what the pediatrician says on Friday.

Anno: The kids have made a miraculous recovery. The visit to the doctor later on this week is just a precaution. I'm still not feeling quite 100% but will visit a doctor if I'm not feeling fit by the end of the week.

I think humor must be the last thing to go. If you ever notice me losing that then the end is nigh. ;-)

anon: funny you said that, because I saw the guy who cleaned our rooms doing just that, rinsing the glasses out with water and wiping them dry with our bath towel. I went in after he left and washed them with my bar of hotel soap. ;-)

Greg: I'm so glad you dropped in! I miss having you around in the blogosphere!

gl'sd You know, I'd thought about that and asked M's colleague about it. He's lived in Egypt since October and has never had any problems. He says that the big hotels supposedly rinse all produce in a bath with something to kill the microbes. And in the end I don't even know if it was produce that got to us or not...

Jen: Ugh! Oysters! that must have been completely miserable!