Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Kuya's Philippine Journals: Amoebiasis!

After we got back from the ride from hell, my wife still wasn't feeling well so she went to lie down in her mother's bedroom. I think at this point everyone thought it was morning sickness that had been exacerbated by motion sickness from the wild van ride. However, an hour later a different story presented itself and I began to have my doubts. My younger brother-in-law came up to me and said that my wife was requesting a Tylenol so when I entered the room, I was expecting a wife with a headache. Instead, I found her broken out into a cold sweat, doubled over in pain and shivering violently. I knew something was wrong. It was too late to go to the doctor so I dosed her with the Tylenol and sat by her side until the fever broke and she fell into a troubled sleep. We made plans for her mother to take her to the doctor the next morning and since she was downstairs and our bedroom was upstairs, I left her there for the night under the watchful eye of her mother and went to bed... alone.

First thing in the morning I went down to check on my wife and saw that she was still very ill. I wanted to go to the doctor with her but my presence would be sure to increase the price by a factor of two or three so reluctantly I bid her and her mother goodbye as they caught a taxi to the hospital. I instead traveled to a local tourist spot to see about picking up some souvenirs for friends and family back home but my heart never got into it. I got back home shortly after lunch and ended up worriedly waiting for my wife to get home around six thirty that evening. The good news was that she had caught a treatable disease called amoebiasis. The bad news was that the drug of choice was not recommended for pregnant women.

Amoebiasis is a parasite that is primarily transmitted by fecal matter in water of third world countries. It is a virulent form of giardia that can be found in many rivers and streams of this country which is why you don't see people drinking directly from streams around here. Similar to giardia, a healthy person can ingest small quantities of the parasite and not get sick. That is why we can go swimming in contaminated waters and live to tell about it. But unbeknownst to both of us, pregnant women's immune systems are particularly susceptible to things like this which might explain why I didn't get sick. But there could be some other explanations. Although I think we both avoided unbottled water and ice, my wife is a fruit-eating junky and after spending over two years away from some of her native fruits, she had gone on a native fruit binge. Much of this fruit is cut up and rinsed in unbottled water and I for the most part avoided any that I hadn't prepared myself and knew that it hadn't been rinsed. I assumed my wife would be immune since she was raised on the stuff but evidently that wasn't true. However she got it, she was sick and definitely needed medication to treat it.

The OB-GYN doctor treating her said that the drug of choice (insert long Latin name here) shouldn't be taken by pregnant women and instead prescribed her something else that my wife, who is also a doctor, knew nothing about. We were both concerned about taking the drug but both knew that not taking it wasn't an option. So I told her to hold off for an hour while I did some research. I grabbed a pocket full of pesos and walked up the mountain with my younger brother-in-law until we found an open internet shop that rented computer time by the half hour. Soon I was sitting at the station typing in the familiar address, the all-knowing site only to be presented with a site in a language I didn't understand. However, I quickly found a button for an English translation and off I went into cyberspace trying to google some reassurance.

What I found wasn't very helpful because I could find absolutely nothing on the prescribed drug on pregnant women. I did find several reputable sites that said the drug of choice, which shouldn't be taken by pregnant women according to the OB-GYN, was largely misrepresented based off wives tales in developing countries and that no modern studies showed any harm towards pregnant women. What worried me is that all the articles ended with a warning that pregnant women shouldn't take the drug unless necessary. Not very heartening to read. I did find one more article that said that drugs in this category can't pass through to the fetus after the first trimester of pregnancy and since my wife was in her second, I was slightly more assured. But try as I might, I couldn't find any information relating to pregnancy on the prescribed drug.

Slightly off topic, the entire time I was in the internet shop, which was just five computers set against a wall of an open-air garage, two-dozen Filipino kids who were either playing video games or watching those playing them constantly jostled me. My chair was constantly leaned on and over so that whenever I sat up straight, the back of my head would bump into some kids face and my back would pinch his hand against the chair. This happened almost every five minutes and the kid never learned. Later, my brother-in-law told me the full story. Since these terminals were rented by the half hour, you had to type a code in to start a big red timer that counted down your remaining time in the upper right corner. The boy had been constantly watching the timer and asking my brother-in-law if he could use the remaining fifteen minutes, ten minutes, three minutes and yes, even asked if he could use the last minute before the computer screen went blank. However, I didn't know this and by the time my computer screen went blank, I was extremely claustrophobic in that place and staggered out of my chair outside. I am not a crowd person and that small room was just too much.

Feeling better in the fresh air, we walked back down to the house and I told my wife what I knew. She made an overseas call to our American doctor on call who at 1:00 a.m. on the morning after Christmas wasn't all that coherent, didn't know what amoebiasis was or the effects of either drug and why should he? He doesn't practice in a third world country. So in the end, we put our faith the Filipina OB-GYN, hoping that she knew her stuff, and in God and my wife swallowed the pill. I couldn't help but think of the movie Matrix and wonder what was on the other side of the rabbit hole. My wife slept again downstairs mostly to be close to the bathroom, and I spent a second night alone.

In the morning when I hustled down to check up on my wife at the half-cocked rooster's crow, (definition of half-cocked: Rooster who crows at 3:00 a.m. instead of 6:00 a.m.) I found her much improved. As the day wore on she got better and regained her strength and by New Year's Eve she was back to normal. But to tie this in with yesterday's post, I think we both worried about the ultrasound and what our baby might look like. So when we saw that we indeed have a beautifully normal looking child with ten fingers and ten toes and no extra tentacles or tails, we were both relieved. Thank God!

1 comment:

⋆✌㋡ღ⋆ ChenMeiXi ★ 陳美西 ⋆ღ㋡✌⋆ said...

Hi! Stumbled upon your blog looking for info regarding amoebiasis and pregnancy and judging from the date of your entry and today's date, still nothing of relevant info can be found online :( I'm 28 wks preggers and just got diagnosed with the disease. Currently posting this comment from the hospital bed I'm in right now. I'm putting my faith in God and my OBGyne that everything will be alright with me and the baby.