Laid Low By Bacteria

This is how it started, it got considerably worse before it got better.

My recent trip to the Philippines ended with me in hospital for four days before staggering onto a plane home, then straight off to hospital for another four days. Then came two weeks of twice daily visits by the community nurse for IV antibiotics and dressing changes. Why? Well I contracted Cellulitis, an infection that made my left leg swell twice its size and give off more heat than a plasma television!

I think I was bitten by an insect and inadvertanly scratched the bite and that became infected. Next thing I know I am waking up with the chills then the sweats then a 41C temperature and a leg on fire. I made it to a hospital in Cebu but you have to pay up front to be looked at and then if you don’t keep paying they stop treating you but you can’t leave until you pay what you owe!

The medical treatment was fine but the hospital system there is very different to ours and without the dedication of my wife staying with me 24/7 and doing the job nurses in Australia do I would have been in a worse state. As it was our five kids and inlaws were stuck in a hotel room all the time we should have been shopping and having fun.

I had travel insurance but couldn’t get through to them on any number and when I returned home I had to try several times to get through. I gave up waiting for the promised claim form and downloaded one from the net. Who knows if 1Cover will actually pay the claim which came to $925.

My treatment at Mt Druitt and later Blacktown hospitals was excellent and I can’t complain about the PACC nurses and their home visits, they were great. We are so very fortunate we have the medical system we do in this country, it may have faults but it is far superior to many others.

What made my time in hospital in Cebu worse was I contracted amoebic dysentery. I think it was from a bottle of water purchased from a vendor across the street from the hospital. Of course the hospital doesn’t supply safe drinking water for free, you have to buy it aong with your toilet paper, extra sheet or pillow, towel and everything else! Even though this bottle had a sealed cap it is quite likely it was a refill… you can’t trust much in the Philippines. I suffered as you can well imagine and had to have ongoing injections for weeks to make sure the illness didn’t affect my liver or kidneys in the future.

The moral of the story is that any of us can be struck down when we least expect it and by the smallest of things, bacteria and amoebae. We had travel insurance because if you can’t afford that then you can’t afford to travel but when we needed to talk to someone and get some reassurance and advice I am afraid it never happened. What if we had needed a medevac flight? I worried about the flights home as we had three flights to get home and deep vein thrombosis was a very real threat to my life.

Keep in mind I had a wife, a baby, two toddlers and two primary school age kids to worry about as well as the leg infection and diminishing dysentery. It adds to the stress factor somewhat. I made the decision we were going to make that flight, we were going home and we would get our family back to Sydney no matter what. The trip back was a nightmare but we survived. Three weeks down the track I still have one leg bigger than the other, still very red and with a large scab but other than that life is back to normal.

We had contingency plans, we had family and friends who offered help and we had sufficient funds at hand to cover our expenses because we had to a large part planned for the possibility of things going wrong. I never envisioned cellulitis or amoebic dysentery but that is why you leave things fairly wide open just in case.

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