Chikungunya Among Ya

Season’s Greetings Loved Ones,

I hope that y’all are taking notice that I have actually been blogging enough to be deemed “often”. I am certainly impressed, and I sure hope that you are as well. As promised, this post is a recap and a quite interesting one at that. To understand fully, I’ll have to preface with some science.

Although we live in the tropics and our temperature remains relatively constant throughout the year, the Virgin Islands experiences some very unusual, yet predictable, weather patterns. From late February to June (sometimes as late as July/August) we receive virtually no rain. The greens become brown, and no longer do we question the abundant cacti which abound throughout the island. It’s hot. The Caribbean breeze allows for some relief, and the lack of rain usually keeps the humidity at a tolerable level. When the rain finally comes, we rejoice in our overflowing cisterns, and so do the mosquitos. This year we were unfortunate to experience a new-to-island mosquito disease called Chikungunya (chicken-gun-ya). As one might expect a mosquito disease to be, it’s as delightful as constant full-body aches, fever, rash, and fatigue, and the best part is, it can stay in your blood for years. When the rain finally came this year, so did the Chikungunya. There were times when it seemed that every other person on island had the Chik, and when my dear friend Shruti and others at work started to get it, I knew it was coming for me. And so it did.

Let me first say that I did not go to any doctor for an official diagnosis, so take from my experience what you will. I was putting a crate on a shelf, a small crate on a bathroom shelf, and my hand would not release the crate. I slung the crate, stared at my hand while massaging my wrist, and ran to tell DJ, “I got the ‘gunya”. He thought I was crazy and overreacting, but I knew. Everyone I spoke to who got it said it started that way, a muscle refusing to function. And then came the pain. I was driving DJ to work, and I felt the muscle tension spreading by the minute from my wrist, to my arm, to my shoulders, spine, knees, and ankles. I spent the evening pacing the kitchen, afraid to get too stiff, texting Shruti, freaking out, and googling. Our cruise was in 4 days! I was not getting Chikungunya, and I was not missing our cruise!! But I got it, and there was nothing I could do about that. Throughout my googles, I found that papaya leaf extract seemed to be a cure in enough cases to make me try it. You see the beautiful thing about living in a place where you may get weird illnesses is that you have the weird natural cures all around you. We have a papaya tree in our yard! I know because I googled that too 😉

The. Worst. Part.- The worst part was the first night. I woke up around 3 am and felt like I was buried in sand. I knew I had to fight the disease that was working against my muscles and telling my brain not to move. I forced myself out of bed, and paced the kitchen, again, crying from pain and fear, and called my work to let them know I would not be coming in.

The next morning DJ valiantly cut two papaya leaves off the tree, and according to directions online, I cut the spines off, mashed up the leaves, and made a tea that amounted to 2 of the most bitter tablespoons I’ve ever consumed. And I did it again the next day. For me, I believe it made a huge difference. I went to work the following day, was very tired, and struggled with aches on the cruise, but after about a week, I saw no more symptoms and was functioning at about 85% after 5 days.

For my first island-living illness, I’d say it wasn’t too bad. Between my motivation to make it on the cruise, my refusal to lay down and take the pain, and the papaya leaf extract, I fought a good fight and never got a fever, rash, or relapse in symptoms. DJ still questions to this day if I really had the REAL Chikungunya. But trust me, I’ve never experienced anything like it.

I honestly had no intentions of ranting about the gunya for an entire post, but if I add the cruise, this will turn into a novel. “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” Hopefully this was interesting enough and not an epic disappointment.

In recent events, we’ve been enjoying island Christmas time, working hard through “season”, and DJ will be visiting home on Wednesday. More to come on that as well as a recap of our cruise.

Making Spirits Bright,

Megan

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