When you´re travelling, your fortunes can turn on a dime. One day you´re flying higher than a kite, enraptured by one of the most stunning landscapes in the world. The next, everything seems to be falling apart. At least this is how it was for Quinn this past week.
First, he got terribly sunburned on the salar (let´s not re-hash that argument about who set down the sunscreen and lost it or forgot it…) leaving his face very sore and peeling, feeling like cardboard and looking like crumbling Neopolitan ice cream. Then, due to a plumbing SNAFU in our hotel, he got scalded in the shower. In his desperation to get out from under the burning hot water he slipped, cutting his hand on the sharp, open top of the courtesy shampoo bottle, taking quite a gouge out of it. We didn´t even have bandaids because they´d gotten soaked by an exploding bottle of hand sanitizer and we had to go to three pharmacies before we found decent ones. (Cultural curiosity: bandaids here are sold in strips of four, not in boxes, and in every pharmacy we went to we were only able to buy one strip.)
That night we took an overnight train to Oruro. We´d been strongly urged to buy Executive Class seats (which cost twice as much but recline much more) which we did. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the train station we found that our tickets were only for Regular Class. Since we´d bought through an agency, we couldn´t change them and had to just go with the flow. The “flow” ended up being more of a lurch, as the train squealed, rattled, swayed and BOUNCED us (up and down, as if on springs) from midnight to seven a.m. Grumpy, short-tempered and irritable we spent the next 36 hours more or less spinning our wheels in the dreariest city we´ve seen yet – a place that most tourists don´t even bother to go. And now we know why.
Then (bad luck comes in threes) just after we boarded the bus to take us from Oruro back to La Paz, Quinn started to feel very ill. First came the splitting headache, then the chills and fever, then the terrible unrelenting nausea. The bus trip was supposed to take only 3 hours, but we encountered a bloqueo (blockade) which prevented all forward movement for almost two hours, and on top of that a lot of rain, which meant that the bus was moving very slowly. It ended up taking six and a half hours to do the trip, most of which were pure hell for Quinn as he desperately wanted to throw up but couldn´t. We had an available vessel but his body wouldn´t let go. Again (don´t I learn?) we had Tylenol with us for his headache and fever (though it barely touched it) but the Gravol was packed away in a bag stored under the bus. He has never felt so sick in all his life. When I took his temperature that evening it was 40.5 degrees. Quinn swore eternal vengeance on the bus company, though it obviously wasn´t their fault. But what´s a miserable kid to do?
The mass exodus of body fluids from the other end started the next morning. We really wanted to get him to a clinic but between the D-word and his incapacitating weakness and exhaustion, we couldn´t move him until the afternoon. It was a good thing we were in La Paz as we could get ourselves easily by taxi to the best hospital in the country where he was seen immediately and given excellent care. They set him up with an IV drip right away and then proceeded to take blood and stool samples which were processed in very short order in the lab down the hall. Through the IV they administered something for his fever and within hours he was like a new man – still quite sick, but looking and feeling much better. The lab results showed the presence of Amoebas (parasites) as well as an acute bacterial infection in his stomach. We were given ciprofloxacin to start him on and told to return on Friday afternoon when they will have results from the culture indicating which kind of bacteria he has (which will determine whether he should stay on cipro or switch to a different antibiotic). At that time he will also start the treatment for the amoebas, since the doctor didn´t want to throw everything at him all at once.
Today he is without fever or pain but feeling very weak. He has no appetite (the doctor said that she didn´t expect he would for a few days). Fortunately, we have enough slush time in our ever-changing itinerary to allow for few days of recuperation here in La Paz . We hope to go to Copacabana on the weekend because a visit to Lake Titicaca will surely be less taxing than heading off into the Amazon next week as we had originally planned to do. We still hope to make it to Rurrenabaque (Amazon) but need to give Quinn some time to fully recover first.
So send him some positive vibes for healing and cross your fingers for us that none of the rest of us discover ancient life forms in our gastrointestinal tract. They are definitely NOT welcome!