As I alluded to in a previous post, a few weeks ago I fell prey to the plague. And by plague I mean a mild, self-limited illness. I won’t bore (or disgust) you with the details of my exact symptoms and their precise timing but suffice it to say that my intermittent fever to 103 had me worried that I might have malaria.
Of course, this wasn’t my first thought. I had been engaging in some unscrupulous food practices: street food, unpasteurized buffalo milk, fresh veggies likely washed in not super clean water…pick your poison. So I had every reason for a bout of the famed Delhi-belly with only myself to thank.
But my second thought was that I have the dreaded MalariaDengueFeverSyphilisEbolaPlague. Whatever it was, I felt awful enough to miss work (and as a medical student we are basically trained not to miss work unless we can also produce a death certificate) so I heeded my coworkers and went to the doctor here even though I knew I didn’t have any exciting physical exam findings. She listened to my lungs, pressed on my belly and raised her eyes disapprovingly when I mentioned my culinary exploits. “An adventurous one, huh?” Alas, her eyes said what my conscious was already screaming: you stupid foreigner- a few long stints in Africa do not a steel stomach make.
I went to get my blood drawn near my house instead of at the fancy-shmancy medical center. For less than $3 they would come to my house to do it (perks of living in India) but the lab is literally around the corner from me so I managed to make it there. Now I am super paranoid and had brought my own needles to India (yes, you read that correctly). But in my weakened state I had left them at home. So, with visions of Hep C swimming in my brain, I became The. Worst. Patient. Ever. I demanded to see the technician open the needle, asked her to Purell, declined their communal spray bottle of (presumably) alcohol to cleanse my skin (I Purelled my own arm) and generally was a pain in her butt.
The cost for all my paranoia? 1,300 rupees for physician consultation ($21.50), another 1,300 for all my lab work including full blood count with cell differential (measures what type of cells are in your blood), blood cultures, sedimentation rate (measures inflammation) and peripheral blood smear (to look for malaria).
And the results? Well that is PHI: protected health information. Just kidding! I was, unsurprisingly, stone-cold normal with a slightly elevated sedimentation rate that means a big fat nothing.
Did I learn from my mishaps? That would be too intelligent. Two days after I recovered I was at a huge Sikh temple eating a free communal meal with hundreds of people. But when my coworkers mentioned family members with similar symptoms I deduced the true origin of my downfall- unrelated to my food-related stupidity. Bon appetit everyone!
Note for my grandmother: I am obviously exaggerating a bit here. I am far from cavalier about my food intake: I use a steripen to sterilize water or drink bottled water and avoid street food unless things are cooked in high heat. But, as I stated in my Baroda post- there are certain calculated risks I’m willing to take: you don’t refuse fresh Buffalo milk! And as you can see- I’m alive and well.