Getting sick. It’s bound to happen.
With this in mind, as we were preparing for our trip we knew something would happen. We just didn’t know what it would be. We went to the travel clinic in Toronto and got all our jabs and malaria pills. We read other family travel blogs and picked up the recommended immodium, gravol, antibiotics. We had a bulky first aid kit from MEC lying around the house and, since there was room in our baggage, we even brought it along. Band-aids, tweezers, trauma kits, disposable thermometers, needles, syringes, afterbite cream (almost all gone), more bandaids. And then we set off.
This week, Saga has been fed through the wringer. Friday morning she woke up with a fever and generally feeling lousy. We hunkered down for the day, looking for lots of sleep and ibuprophen. Friday night the diarrhea started with trips to the toilet all night.
Saturday the fever gradually abated but the trips to the toilet intensified. We started calling home for advice every twelve hours from grandpa/our favorite pediatrician. Our plan A: keep an eye on Saga, get as much fluids and electorlytes into her as possible, take rest and ride it out. We identified the good local hospital and doctors for plan B: get help if we needed it.
By 1am Sunday, blood appeared in the stools and our patient was dehydrated. Diagnosis (from 11 time zones away): Salmonella or shigella. We hoped for salmonella, believing that it’s the lesser of the two. Off we went to a local hospital. Saga was put on a drip and had her tummy checked by the local MD. We were home by 4am, hydrated and happier (for the time being).
On Sunday our patient was able to drink some fluids and rest but all gains were reversed late Sunday night when she was no longer able to leave the toilet. Literally. By this time we were 72 hours in, our hero was dehydrated again and completely exhausted. So were her parents (exhausted).
We went to plan B; back to the hospital Monday morning. Although we got off to a shaky start (5 attempts were made before successfully finding a vein for the drip), the doctors did some tests, presribed antibiotics, put her on a drip and eventually diagnosed shigella.
It’s now Wednesday morning and everyone is back in our bamboo bungalow by the Kampot River. After 48 hours at the hospital, Saga is (almost) back to her normal self.
From our perspective, it was a scary combination (for those in the medical field, however, it might have been perceived as little out of the ordinary). Watch our daughter’s condition deteriorate before our eyes despite all our efforts. Mix in the physical discomfort of being tethered to the bathroom. Abort plan A. Escalate to plan B. Add sleep deprivation. Wait. Breathe. Hope.
They say that the greatest pleasure is relief from pain. Hearing the tuk tuk bring the patient home this morning was one of the sweetest moments. Saga gets the prize for being strong. Ida gets the best sister award. We are extremely grateful to our families who talked us through the experience. And the guest house staff was incredibly helpful and thoughtful.
We learned: make a plan and check it with a pro. Write it down. Review it as you get more and more exhausted. Figure out the local health resources: where the good doctors, hospitals and clinics are. Look after each other, making sure everyone in the family gets the attention s/he needs. Expect that everything will be ok.