Written on Thursday, November 8, 2012
Before I left Apia a couple of weeks ago I had a weird physical experience. I wasn’t worried, since they’re happening more frequently as I age.
In this case, I was minding my own business when my elbow blew up. As in, one minute it was perfectly normal and a few minutes later it was about double the size of the other one. It was tender but didn’t really hurt. I let the Peace Corps nurse know and we agreed to meet the following morning if it hadn’t improved.
But it did. Overnight it reverted to being a normal elbow. Still a bit tender but since I was focused on the hellish bus ride to the wharf, my elbow was the least of my concerns.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, past a nasty bout of something that invaded my digestive system and was not happy to be there to early this week. The damn elbow blew up again. I decided to ignore it. I chalked it up (along with the puking, diarrhea and every other ache and pain I’ve had lately) to the stress of leaving. It’s not unusual for me to get weird symptoms that magically disappear when the stress disappears.
I was doing a fine job of ignoring it but the kids and teachers weren’t. It wasn’t that sore, and it’s really hard to see your elbow unless you try, so it was easy to ignore. Apparently, though, from other angles it was looking decidedly odd. Kids kept sneaking up and poking it because it was large, puffy and red.
The teachers decided to use traditional medicine and my best buddy Meripa had one of the kids fetch some nonu leaves and gave my arm a gentle massage with the leaves. It helped in the same way it used to help when my mom stroked my back when I had a stomach ache or gently brushed my hair when I had a head ache. It didn’t make a physical difference but it did make me feel better.
By the end of day yesterday, I’d decided it was time to stop ignoring it because it was hurting like a bitch. To make it worse, this morning I woke up with what appeared to be filariasis. What I always thought was called elephantiasis. Where one part of your body swells to huge proportions and stays that way.
From just above my wrist to the middle of my bicep (on my arms a bicep is actually more of a theory than a body part) my arm looked a bit like Popeye’s.
The actual elbow seemed to be a bit better and I could even bend my arm enough to brush my teeth right-handed today, which is more than I could do yesterday when I was in full denial.
Bottom line, my arm is infected.
Seems it started in the elbow where I had a tiny, tiny scratch – which never looked red or infected, by the way. Since I ignored it, it spread up and down my arm. I’m concerned that if it moves to my butt and it swells as much as my arm, they’ll have to buy me a first class seat for the flight home. Or I’ll have to spend 29 hours in the john.
I’ve been to the hospital, where I spent two hours and $13.50 tala – or about $6.50 USD. I came home with two kinds of antibacterial/antibiotics, a little something to reduce the swollen joint and pain pills. With that many pills, I’m afraid they’ll make me declare them as food when I go through Customs.
So many people have been asking what I wanted to take with me when I left Samoa. This was not it.