The China Syndrome Strikes again!

from: The damp bed in Room 403. Lisas Hotel. Yangshuo, Guangxi Province, China.

It seems like we just brought Julie back from the hospital and now I am sick too. Again. This time I have been laid up in bed too weak to do anything but listen to the rain for almost two days. To pass the time I have started reading the health and safety section of the guidebook and found that the most common sickness to strike travelers in China is an infection of the upper respiratory tract. So common, in fact, that it has come to be called the China Syndrome.

The reason for this is thought to be the proximity in which people live to ducks and pigs, which are the reservoirs for the two other main populations of the virus. This provides the opportunity for the viruses to chop and change, reappearing in different forms or strains.

Now there is no way that the kind of suffering I am currently experiencing could be at the hands of something as ignoble and undramatic as a fuzzy duck cold or a piggy-wiggy fever. It has to be something more exciting . . . more sexy. It's a little like when you are polishing your David Hasslehof bust and you drop it on your foot. You want to tell everyone that the resulting limp is really from a stock car injury. OK, maybe that was just me, but you can see where I'm coming from. So I read on and, to my relief, have ascertained that I am indeed suffering from a far more glamorous disease. Allow me to explain.

Two weeks ago - over the course of 12 hours I developed an increasingly sore throat, painful joints and fatigue. The following day these symptoms remained but were accompanied by nasal congestion, light headedness and diarrhea. As the days passed I slowly improved until all that remained was a cough and the occasional need to empty my head of copious amounts of mucous into a by now very sticky bandana. Two days ago my nose became progressively stuffed until by 8pm I was again experiencing aches and pains in all parts of the body, extreme fatigue and nausea. Yesterday morning I woke up feeling stiff, but a little better. I rolled over and dozed off only to wake some time later drenched with sweat. Enough sweat to make my pillow look like a used tea bag. Temperature 100.2. One hour later 99.4. One more hour and I was back to 98.6. Nearing check out time I showered, hobbled down to the bus station for the torturous ride here. The entire time I kept my eyes closed because the scenery flashing by made me sick to the stomach and I had to put Julie's fleece on over mine because I was getting chills. Today I have been in bed all day to weak to move except when frequent stomach cramps signal the need to go to the bathroom.xxxxMy illness, which seems to have just about every symptom under the sun, is a hypochondriacs nightmare but an exaggerators dream come true.

The book says that "Stomach cramps, nausea, a bloated stomach, watery fouls smelling diarrhea and frequent gas. The symptoms may disappear for a few days, then return. This can go on for several weeks" could be Giardiasis. That's not going to get any respect because I can get that at home drinking stream water. On the other hand, "Fever, chills, fatigue, feelings of weakness and aches and pains. Followed by loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain " points to hepatitis. If that's true though, it means no beer while my liver recuperates. Where will I boast about my brush with death if not at the bars back home? That can't be what I have. Let's see, if you've got something that "Feels like a bad cold or flu on the way as symptoms are headache, body aches and a fever" like I do, it might be in the early stages of Typhoid. Not bad, sounds exotic but this very website mentions that I got the vaccination before I left on this trip so I won't be believed. Finally however, I've decided that without doubt my symptoms are best described as " ranging from fever, chills and sweating, headache, diarrhea and abdominal pains to a vague feeling of ill-health."

This diagnosis means I've hit the disease jackpot. I'm following in the footsteps of starry eyed Jesuit missionaries and famous African explorers. I have contracted that noble scourge of kings and poets, Malaria!

Instead of swooning at the sex appeal of my situation when she returned later that day, my wife simply told me to stop being melodramatic and take some more of the Tylenol cold and flu she'd brought back.
"But I do have Malaria, read the symptoms. I could die!"
"and when are you going to brush your teeth! Just because you're ill doesn't mean you don't have to brush your teeth."

OK, OK. So it probably is just the flu but you can see how a feverish body entangled in sweaty sheets in a room amongst the rainy rooftops of a very foreign country, trapped with a book full of exotic diseases with unexotic symptoms, turns the mind into fertile ground for dark thoughts. Ones mind just runs away, almost like having an "altered consciousness", which I read is a symptom of Japanese Encephalitis. Now that has a nice sexy ring to it!

~ Nigel

All quotes are from Lonely Planet China



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