1 mosquito and 3 hospital beds
This morning, I found myself staring at a list of to-do’s and scheduled a day off to accomplish them.
Three weeks prior, I was stuck in a hospital bed, an IV drip attached to my swollen left hand. There was no TV to distract me, only plain walls and the sound of nurses moving in and out to check my blood pressure.
By then, I had had about six injection wounds and way too much quiet for thinking horrible thoughts. There were good things, too, yes: my parents and a bunch of close friends dropping in to visit. But I couldn’t imagine how a seemingly ordinary fever turned into an unwanted case of dengue.
From a young adult trying to be independent, I reverted to being a child. I couldn’t go to the toilet or take a bath without help. I couldn’t sit up or walk around because gravity was playing tricks on me. I couldn’t eat on my own. There were even times when I couldn’t hold my food down long enough to digest it.
Not long after, my younger sister, who had come just to tend to me, was diagnosed with dengue, too. We soon moved to a semiprivate room.
A week passed and I felt my body getting stronger. I was getting sick of the hospital. I wanted to get out so my mom could focus on caring for my sister who was struggling with her then five-day-old fever.
Unfortunately, the supposed happy story of my platelet count normalizing was superseded by bad news: My younger brother, who came around to pay bills that day, also caught the fever.
My parents, who already had two children confined in the hospital, feared that we would be adding another bed in our room. They were proven right.
For about two days, there were three of us being cared for by the nurses. There were three IV drips, three thermometers, three patient bracelets, and three rations of hospital food.
Thankfully, I was discharged the next day. My platelet count had exceeded the target and I was stable enough to go home.
On the night of the day I was discharged, I went to the mall with my dad and youngest sister to buy supplies for the hospital and the house.
I wouldn’t let them leave me in the car, but as we walked around, I felt out of breath. I walked slower than usual and felt dizzy when I turned too fast. But I didn’t mind it. I had been told that I was okay.
I held on to that mindset in the days that followed. I went back to work and returned home late, the way I used to do before I got sick. It was only when I felt overwhelming pain while eating out with my coworkers that I realized how weak my body still was.
We were at a restaurant when I suddenly felt a vein in my head hurting and the rest of my body replaying a bad experience at the hospital.
I tried to shrug it off as stress at work, but I found that I was barely breathing already. I texted my dad to come and get me because I knew I couldn’t make the commute home.
My body was still recovering. I failed to acknowledge that. I was so frustrated at “doing nothing” for almost two weeks in the hospital that I pushed myself to get to work immediately.
I eventually realized that I needed rest. By then, I still had two siblings in the hospital and my mom didn’t need to worry that her first child was overworking herself toward a different kind of sickness.
Fifteen blood bags and a ton of tears later, the three of us and our mom were all sleeping in the house again. There were no more empty bedrooms, only breakfasts and dinners together.
Today, we spent quite a while talking over breakfast. We acknowledged that dengue had also taken a toll on our minds, not just on our bodies. The three of us discussed our common experiences and the thoughts we kept in.
I guess we found it so difficult to assimilate back into “the real world” because we had this notion about sickness — you catch it but you get better and then you never have to worry about it again. That was the case with a cold or fever.
But dengue paralyzed us, kept us stagnant, until we felt like burdens to our family and to ourselves. Because of that, once the doctor gave us the thumbs-up, we felt the need to prove that we had been okay all along.
Though I would rather never have this experience ever again, I am at least thankful that being sick reminded me how human we all are.
We aren’t invincible against sickness. We cannot always be moving, doing, and remaining ignorant about the effect of everything we do to our bodies.
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Pauline L. Navarro, 23, is a teacher at Stonyhurst Southville International School.
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