14 March 2010

Whooping Cough?

-Whooping Cough?
Dealing with illnesses of various sorts is sometimes the expected cost of working in the tropical world, and while I don't at all think that we deal with sickness here any more than in the US, for the past three or four weeks it has been something that has started to affect work here. Well, this whole story starts four weeks ago when Typhoon Renee came through Tonga, and all Peace Corps volunteers were gathered in one place to weather the storm in 'Eua. During our consolidation, I started coughing a bit, but didn't feel sick. Within a week, however, it was starting to turn into a slightly more serious dry cough with no other symptoms but violent coughing with a tickle at the back of my throat. My lungs and sinuses were clear, but the coughing just was getting worse. When I went into Tongatapu for some vaccinations, a doctor checked me out and after finding very little to go on, thought it would be safe to put me on broad-spectrum antibiotics. So I went back to 'Eua after our tsunami warning two weeks ago.

Back in 'Eua, despite the medicine, my cough kept getting worse to the point where it was keeping both Elena and I up at night. I would be fine most of the time, but then I would have violent spasmodic coughing and would be gasping for breath for a few seconds after the fit. I even threw up a little bit a couple times because I coughed so violently. After a week of this, I thought it would be best to contact our medical staff here, and last monday, both Elena and I flew in to Tongatapu again to get some tests done to see if they could find out what the cause of the cough was. At that point, Elena was showing some of the early symptoms I showed in consolidation, and at least three people at Hango have been coughing like me for a month.

We went back to the doctor I initially went to who wasn't able to find anything except for the dry tickling cough in the back of my throat. Because it didn't seem like I had responded to the treatment before, I was put on Augmentin, a different broad-spectrum antibiotic, and Elena was also put on antibiotics to see if they could catch it early in her. We have stayed a week in town now for observation by the medical staff, and I am finally getting better. Elena is starting to develop a heavier cough than before, so she might end up going through the same thing as I have in the coming weeks. We still don't have any definitive word on what this cough is, but the medical staff seems to think that it most closely resembles whooping cough, or 90-day cough. In a couple weeks we will get back the results of my blood tests, throat swab, and chest X-ray, so we might find out more.

-Typhoon Thomas draws near at a snail's pace
We are clear to return to 'Eua now, but there is a tropical cyclone (hurricane) that has been brewing up around Fiji that might drop down this direction in a few days that is pushing a lot of rain our way. We will find out in a couple hours whether or not we will stay in town for another week or be able to go back home and return to work. Latest projections are saying that the storm probably won't actually hit Fiji until tomorrow, but who knows. At the moment, Thomas is moving very slowly, and will likely miss us completely except for giving us a good deal of rain. Unfortunately, because it is in our general region, Peace Corps will be putting travel restrictions on us at the end of the day, so if our flight gets cancelled because of rain, we won't be able to go back home for another few days.


  1. I've had the same cough-I'm on week three now!

  2. MARK & ELENA -- Femmy and I trust you will quickly stop whooping it up and get back to your regular work coping with wind, wave, storm, quakes, and other natural but external wonders. Bellingham has decided to bypass winter and embrace a precocious spring six weeks early -- breezy and still chilly, but hide&seek with sunshine. Birds and squirrels pursuing usual spring enthusiasms. We wish you balmy times....

    The Bellingham Stannards


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