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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Travel is SO Broadening!

I've been Tweeting... with a bunch of Travel Junkies, inc. @tomtravel2 @TastyGalaxy @thetripchicks @EliteTravelGal @miafeinstein @sueyoungmedia
@Journeywoman @FillYourHotel @GoPetFriendly @princetonrt @TRACWV @wvurl and so decided, after an hilarious conversation about an article on Not Kissing The Blarney Stone For Fear of (eeeeeeewww) Germs, to post on Broadening Ones Horizons via Travel: Infections I Have Picked Up On The Road. I am 50 and still alive, amazingly enough, and still a FIRM believer in Kissing the Blarney Stone, Feeding The Pigeons, Swimming In That Rather Brown & Murky Vietnamese River, Bathing in That Hotel Bathtub After The Hurricane, and Eating the Damn Sandwich That Dropped On The Floor, as I truly believe that our immune systems need the boost and life is too short to worry about this crap! I also believe that my mother's family's genes will see me through: she is 86, a heavy smoker & drinker, and about to enter the Golden Olympics for golf AND bowling. And her brother David (my uncle) is 97. And so I am posting a few bits on the most memorable infections I have picked up along the way...
Dysentery, 1979: Sewage backs up into drinking water on kibbutz. For several days until we realized it. I am sick, but so is everyone else, so we all keep muddling along for a few days, until I finally have to Take To My bed, as they say. Not knowing, of course, that dysentery can kill you (mom later enlightened me with tales of her experiences in the WWII India-China-Burma Theatre), secretly I am happy, for I consider this my "painless" (well, sort of) way to weight loss. But no! Friends are so worried about me that they bring me a toaster from the Chader Ochel (dining hall), & soup, & a stupefying amount of bread! Challah! Soft, yummy challah, right out of the oven! And so I manage to GAIN 20 lbs- probably the only dysentery weight gain on record.

Leishmoniasis, 1984: Got bit by the Jericho Rose Fly ("Zvoov Shoshanat Yericho") at the Dead Sea in Israel In Sept., literally DAYS before my induction into the Israeli Army. Got bit because I was kipping in a friend's room at ground-level, not knowing the little bastards can't fly above one story. Thought I had a couple of really nasty mosquito bites on my ankles for several months, but by December I had elephant legs. By order of my CO, I checked into Tel HaShomer IDF Army hospital. Told to "go home & get your toothbrush". Did so. Overheard doctor's conversation about "Leishmonaisis". Phoned mom in NY. Mom goes to NYU Medical Library & phones back: "Get to a tropical disease specialist! It's "Dum-Dum Fever" & it attacks the central nervous system & then you're DEAD"! Told Doctors about this during 6a.m. rounds. Got told they WE'RE The Tropical Disease Specialists, Thank You Very Much, & that I had "cutaneous" liesh (thank G-d), and I was gonna have it for 12 months. And that It was Really Rare for anyone to get bit in Israel (apparently true: I've never met anyone else), and that it was also Damn Fortunate I wasn't bit on the face. (No freakin' kidding). Was told I would have oozing sores on my legs for 12 months & some really crappy scars. Bandaged legs, went back to the Army. July: Mom comes to visit, we go to the Dead Sea ('cause I have Psoriasis and the Dead Sea heals that), I unwrap my legs & sit in the sun, and we watch, with our mouths open, as the lesions heal inside 2 hours! The Dead Sea is THE place for healing! I am left with REALLY cool rose-shaped scars on both ankles that look like gunshot wounds! I dine out on these scars for Many years, esp. when in the company of US Marines, who think they are Very Sexy and Really Hard Core! :-D Observation: I don't Ever need to get a tattoo- I've got cool scars!
Lung infection, 2001: After the 911 WTC terrorist attack in NYC. Coughed green phlegm and took my dog's penicillin as I didn't have medical insurance & couldn't afford to go see a doctor. Me and everyone else.
E-coli blood poisoning, 2005: Working for FEMA on disaster response and recovery operations, I was on the Hurricane Katrina Strike Team that went into St. Bernard Parish, LA (truly Ground Zero) by boat after the hurricane hit Louisiana. At some point during my 30 days in St. B (most probably when I bathed in contaminated water at the OMNI hotel my last week in NOLA), I got a skin infection that was misdiagnosed (repeatedly, for 1 1/2 years, in both LA & WV) as a fungus, and treated with larger and larger dosages of anti-fungal medications. (The awful irony is that I was So happy to see finally get a hotel room & see fancy towels, toiletries and a bath tub! But for weeks the US Navy had provided me and my coworkers with wonderful lodging on their ships- and TRULY CLEAN water! And if I'd just stayed on the USS Shreveport, I could have saved myself a heart attack!) I later run into FEMA gal from NOLA who tells me "everyone in NOLA" has the same oozing skin lesions I do... And then it turns out it's NOT a fungus, it's e-coli, as in Oct 2006 I wind up in the Bluefield, WV hospital ER w/ecoli blood poisoning, from which I have a heart attack. And "code" & spend 5 days on Life Support. And have my husband be told to "call her mother and find out how to plan a Jewish funeral". And spend 3 weeks on 14 drips and 9 IVs, & get sent to Duke U Heart Center as a transplant candidate. And from which I make a rather amazing 100% recovery- thank you Dr. Chieu Nguyen! (Back to having my mom's genes...) Try to get the CDC interested in the NOLA-ecoli issue while in Duke U Hospital's Heart Center- but they couldn't care less.
Antibiotic resistant staph & strep, 2008 & 2009: Keep picking up antibiotic resistant staph & strep skin infections while On The Road Again... Had to leave WV twice in order to find doctors who would do simple skin tests, as medical care here is in the toilet. Fortunately, FEMA keeps deploying me to places like Tallahassee, Florida that have Real doctors who WILL do such tests...