Sick on the Road

Face of pain

Face of pain

Sick ON the road, not sick OF the road.
You may want to skip this post unless you’re a really close friend or family, since it’s basically a bunch of whining combined with a cheap ploy for sympathy.

So after being sick most of last week with a bad cold that I feared was H1N1 (but I suppose wasn’t since I got better), I went for a run on Wednesday to get some much-needed exercise. The next day I was in such pain that I could barely walk! Guess I overdid it, dummy. Friday (yesterday) my legs were still aching, but I decided to visit the Incan ruins of Ingapirca (more on that in another post), since I’ve got to get a move on and finish seeing Ecuador.

On the bus ride back from the ruins my eyes started tearing and getting irritated. No problem, I thought, it’s probably just something in the contact lenses – I’ll take them out when I get back to the hotel and all will be fine. It wasn’t fine. I was supposed to go out with a (male!) Couchsurfer last night but had to cancel since my eyes were a mess – swollen, painful, itchy. Tried washing them out with tap water, saline solution, and eye drops. For several hours. Tried taking a long hot shower thinking the humidity might help. I couldn’t understand it, it really felt like some grit was stuck in there, and if I could only rinse it out all would be fine. I kept thinking it would clear up, but finally around nine o’clock I went to an all-night pharmacy to see what they could give me. They said Visine would do the trick, which of course it didn’t. I considered going to the hospital, but thought maybe a good night’s sleep is all I needed. Plus I was scared to go alone to a foreign hospital in the middle of the night.

I slept pretty well.. it doesn’t hurt when my eyes are closed. But I woke up this morning to the same condition – swollen, tearing, painful eyes. Fortunately the hotel knew of an eye doctor in town who was open on Saturdays thank goodness, and he was able to fit me in pretty quickly. It felt good to get a proper examination, and fortunately he knew a bit of English, so we were able to communicate after repeating things back and forth to each other in both languages to confirm that each other understood.

The doctor told me I have an eye infection (he didn’t tell me exactly what, and I didn’t think to ask the name), and he prescribed three medications, all antibiotics: 1) eye drops to take every three hours for the next 10 days; 2) drops to clean my contacts with twice a day for the next five days (but to not wear them for two weeks), since they’re probably infected; and 3) ointment to put in my eye before bed each night. He said it might take a week or longer to clear up. I’m going back for a check-up in three days. The meds cost $67, three times more than the exam ($20). The contacts I was wearing are brand new, in fact they’re my last pair of the pack of disposables I brought. And I’ve been a good boy, I only wear the contacts when I want to wear sunglasses, i.e. about 30% of the time. He said the infection could have come from anywhere my fingers touched, then touched my eye. Who knows. He said it’s normal for such an infection to come on so suddenly.

In the meantime, I’m in pain! It hurts every time I blink, it feels like sand is in my eye. As a result my eyes are constantly tearing, causing my nose to constantly run. I look like a stoner mess. I want to be out with people, eating in restaurants, but I keep thinking they’re staring, like I’m a leper or something. Not that I would wish for any other kind of illness, but you know most of the time when you’re sick you can just sit and use the computer all day or watch TV or whatever. But I can barely see! I’d like to hang out in the park, but bright light hurts. This would be a good time to dig into my new book, but I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to focus. In the 30 minutes it’s taken me to write this post my eyes are already burning. I suppose I could lie down and just listen to podcasts (or language tapes) all day, but gawd, that’s going to get boring.
Although I thought I would be in Peru by now, I’m going to have to hang around southern Ecuador for the next week until this clears up. Thank goodness I’m in a large city with medical facilities.

This is one of those times when it’s difficult being alone on the road. No one to confer with or help me, it can feel pretty lonely and scary when sick and not sure if I can trust my own judgement. On the other hand, as Nietzsche is so often quoted as saying, getting through experiences like this will only serve to make me stronger.

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  • Lisa says:

    Oh yuck. Sounds like a really bad case of conjunctivitis… occasionally, the kids get it when it sweeps through their school. Not fun. Hope you feel better soon…. Lots of hugs!

  • Vikki says:

    Ouch. Lay low. Keep your eyes closed. Meditate. Wish I could send you some chicken soup.

  • christine and jimmy page says:

    JOSH! We are so sorry to hear about your eyes. We hope you get better soon. Now this is Abi speaking. I’m at Josh and Christine’s! I came back to NY to see the company perform. Yup, it looks you’ve got a ripping case of pink eye. Keep doing your meds, put cool compresses on your eyes when you lay down, and keep the contacts out for a while. You’ll be good as new soon! We miss you! Lots of love.

  • Chloe says:

    Yosh, I’m so sorry to see you so ucky! Hope the meds are working by now. Sending lots of love.

  • Rocío says:

    Ay Josh… Me duelen los ojos a mi sólo de ver la foto. Terrible la conjuntivitis que tienes (mi mami dice que eso es lo que tienes). Te sientes mejor con la medicina que te dio el doctor? Sí necesitas algo, pegame un grito…
    Ay Josh… My eyes hurt only to see yours in the pic. Terrible the conjunctivitis you have (mum said that’s what you have). Are you feeling any better with medicine doctor gave u? If you need something, give us a shout.

  • Josh says:

    Muchas gracias to all of you who expressed support and sympathies, that meant a lot to me in that time of crisis.
    You’ll be happy to know that I am much better. I visited the eye doctor today for the check-up, and he confirmed as much.
    Indeed, it was a severe case of conjunctivitis that had spread to all parts of my eye, above and below the lids. But the antibiotic eye drops are doing their work, and I should be good as new in nearly a week.

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