From the CDC website:
- "There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection."
- "The most common symptoms of chikungunya virus infection are fever and joint pain. Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash."
- "Symptoms usually begin 3–7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito."
- "Most patients feel better within a week. In some people, the joint pain may persist for months."
From a clinical review of Chikungunya:
" In long-term follow-up studies, up to 64% of patients with chikungunya fever reported joint stiffness and/or pain >1 year after the initial infection, and 12% still reported symptoms 3-5 years later
Not going to the doctor or Emergency Room was my decision. This decision was made because:"
From WikiHow.com, there is a fantastic webpage with detailed information on what to expect with this virus after the worst is over. I would definitely say that this site described my symptoms in more detail with the use of words such as debilitating and severe. I am now in the subacute phase and have experienced persistent joint pain and Raynaud’s phenomenon.
- I had just returned from Dominica and Puerto Rico where the Chikungunya virus is spreading and I was told of the possibility of obtaining the virus.
- I had textbook symptoms of the virus and I felt that there was nothing a doctor could do other than prescribe pain pills and tell me to rest. I already had pain pills left over from a previous ailment.
- I have a high deductible insurance plan and did not want to have this cost on top of taking off work for a week.
- I was in so much pain that moving myself to the car was not something I thought I could do. I did try a few times and almost passed out while trying to get ready.
- We were able to control my fever and none of my symptoms were life threatening.
- I had an amazing nurse taking care of me the entire time.
NOTE- The Department of Health and the CDC has informed us that they have closed all level 3 labs for an internal problem and that my test results will probably not be available for a month. I can only assume I had Chikungunya at this point, but am fairly certain I did in fact have this virus. All of my symptoms matched and I traveled to two islands where Chikungunya is spreading.
If you are not able to accept the fact that I did not want to put myself through additional misery by going to the doctor when I was pretty sure there was nothing additional that could be done for me, then don't ready my story. When you are in the same situation, I promise that you will not want to move or go anywhere also. If I did not have someone taking care of me, I would have definitely tried to get admitted to the hospital because I required complete and total care during this illness.
Now that I have stated my disclaimer, lets begin the nightmare. And boy was it a nightmare! We did a lot of research on this virus during my illness and I never found a detailed account of someone going through this, so I thought it might be helpful for people to read a day to day account of how this virus affected me. Normally I would not post pictures of myself that look this bad, but it may help others who think they have this virus and want to know what to possibly expect. If anything, I can guarantee that the pictures will make everyone want to use bug spray/insect repellant more often.
June 19-24: Aaron and I vacationed in the beautiful nature island of Dominica. We were there for six days. I only noticed mosquito bites a few times and we sprayed bug spray on ourselves every evening to be safe (haha).
June 24-27: Aaron and I vacationed and did a bit of business in Condado, Puerto Rico. Looking back, I really don't remember getting bit by mosquitoes at all.
June 27-30: We were back home in St. Croix, went to a friend's wedding and started getting back to normal life. No symptoms were present at this time. I even ran 3 miles twice during this week and that is quite the distance for me.
July 1-2: I had insomnia on both Tuesday and Wednesday night and did not fall asleep until about 3:00 am both nights. My heart was racing and I felt very anxious both nights. This is very odd because I usually do not have any trouble falling asleep. Insomnia is not listed as a symptom of Chikungunya so maybe I had a slight fever and didn't realize it. My eyes were also really tired and slightly puffy.
Thursday: July 3: I had a tiny rash on my chest but I thought at the time that I was breaking out with some acne and wasn't very concerned. Throughout the day at work I felt flushed and tired, but I attributed this to not sleeping the two nights prior. When I got home from work, I had a noticeable rash on my chest and by the time I went to sleep it had spread to my arms. My eyes still felt tired and puffy. I was kind of concerned but really thought I was having a reaction to Mangos that I had peeled previously.
Friday: July 4: We took it easy during the day and went to see fireworks that night with our paddle boards. The rash was still on my chest and had spread to my shoulders so I wore a long sleeve rash guard while out on the water. This was an attempt to not let others see me as a polka dotted person :) Little did I know that this rash was nothing compared to what was to come later. While paddle boarding, I did notice that my wrists hurt a little but I ignored this at the time. The fireworks were unbelievably awesome to experience from paddle boards! I am still very glad I went even though I had a rash.
Saturday: July 5: I woke up feeling terrible and before looking in the mirror, I knew that my face and eyes were swollen. This was probably because I used to get bad allergies in Texas and waking up like a swollen balloon happened to me often. My ankles and wrists hurt too (3 on the 10 scale), I had a slight fever, and the rash had spread to my arms, legs and face. This was the day that I looked up the symptoms for Chickungunya and Dengue. It definitely seemed like Chickungunya... Crud... I took some Aleve and Tylenol, laid on the couch, and watched movies all day. Even though I wasn't feeling well, t did enjoy watching the movies :)
By the time my fever broke, It was early in the morning. We were both exhausted and I know that Aaron was worried and probably didn't go back to sleep. Once during the night during my painful journey walking to the bathroom (now at 7 out of 10 pain), I stubbed my toe on the door. TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE PAIN!! Could I make it any worse!? Really? Tears were falling and I almost never cry.
Tuesday, July 8: After surviving the fever the night before, the only thing I did all day was lay on the couch. I almost passed out when I first tried to stand up because the pain was too much. I had to have Aaron help me walk to the bathroom. When I say help, I mean that he was practically carrying me since each step was sending searing pain up my legs. It is now an 8 on the pain scale and I am now crying each time I try to put weight on my feet. I took a pain pill before I even attempted moving downstairs. Walking is almost completely out of the question now. I am lucky if I am able to hold on to the counter and hobble to the bathroom without passing out from the pain. The swelling in my legs is more than I have ever experienced. Because my lower legs were so swollen, putting any weight on my feet caused piercing pain in the back of my calves. Like a knife being stabbed in and sliced upwards. The bottom of my feet feel like a solid bruise. Each step is excruciating pain. I now know that it takes 14 steps to get upstairs to the second floor in my house and I hated each step. To make it worse, my hands are also in terrible pain so holding on to anything just adds to the pain. I have broken many bones and hurt myself many times before. This is by far the worst pain I have ever experienced and little did I know that it would get worse.
The rash is now bright bright red and it looks like the rash has a rash. A description that came to mind was that I looked like a red avatar. My eyelids are tinted purple and even my ears are swollen. My tiny little ears look like huge red Dumbo ears! Aaron had to force me not to look at the mirror or I would start hyperventilating because it looked so bad. We received calls from friends who are doctors and started calling doctors for advice on this day because we and they were getting concerned. The symptoms online didn't really say anything about excruciating pain. I was in no way moving and did NOT want to go to the doctor unless something was going to make this better for me. I already had pain pills and still could hardly stand to move at all. All of our friends told us what we already knew. That there is no cure or treatment for Chikungunya. You can only treat the symptoms and that is what we were already doing.
We called the Department of Health to get tested so that they could track the disease. But guess what? St. Croix's Health Department told us that we would have to go to the emergency room to draw blood. What the heck!? Usually our emergency room requires 4-7 hours of waiting before they can even see you and it would be very expensive for me since I am on a high deductible plan. There was NO way that anyone could have convinced me to go to the ER and wait. I don't care about duty or responsibility or anything enough to put myself through 4-7 hours of agony for no personal benefit when I felt this badly.
I only woke up once during the night with another high fever. Because I knew that Aaron hadn't slept much, I tried getting to the bathroom by myself. Mistake! I of course woke him up when I fell to the floor with tears in my eyes. As a grown woman, it is very humbling having to have someone help you go to the bathroom. I felt really light headed and nauseous and was really happy when I fell back asleep. I HATE throwing up!
I made it to the toilet and then the problem of raising myself up became a serious problem. I couldn't do it. So, I was laying on the bathroom floor in tears when Aaron came to my rescue. He was of course mad that I didn't yell for him to help me to begin with. After going to the bathroom, he helped me stand up and I could immediately feel my face getting hot and everything started to go black. I started breathing fast and yelled "Gonna pass out, gonna pass out". Aaron sat me back down and I immediately felt like I was going to vomit. "Gonna puke, gonna puke!" So there I am laying with my arms holding on to the toilet, tears streaming down my face, waiting for my guts to be forced out. Luckily I didn't throw up and Aaron was able to get me back to bed and give me a pain pill. After swallowing the medicine, I felt clammy and my mouth started watering. Going to puke! It was amazing how quickly I made it to the bathroom considering I dragged myself there just 15 minutes before. So here I am on my hands and knees again waiting for the inevitable. But, nothing happened so again we made the journey back to the bed with a bowl this time.
I had a smoothie for breakfast and after the pain pill worked its magic, Aaron carried me downstairs to the couch. About an hour after eating, I puked everything up. Then I puked again, and again. Lovely... When I woke up this morning, I didn't think I could stand anything else on top of the pain and now I get to puke my insides up all day. I really felt like dying would be an okay option at this point. The vomiting was so forceful that my eyelids and underneath my eyes were purple. Aaron tried to give me some Tylenol about 30 minutes later, but I quickly puked it up. I suppose out of pure exhaustion I fell asleep for a few hours. Aaron went to the store to get powerAde and saltine crackers. When he returned, I ate 5 crackers and took some anti-nausea medicine. Luckily for me I puked all this up after about 20 minutes (yeah...). The anti-nausea medicine must have kicked in because I didn't puke for the next 5 hours and just slept. Almost immediately after waking up, I puked again and just went to sleep. I slept for 18 hours this day, had to have Aaron carry me around, and wanted to die. I prayed on this day. Something I haven't done in years...
We tried Papaya Tea and Noni leaves today since so many people here have recommended the "healing powers" of the plants. Papaya Tea is the most bitter, terrible, horrible, disgusting thing I have ever tried to drink. Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! I was only able to drink half of a cup. We put the Noni leaves on my feet and then I soaked my feet in a bucket of water with the leaves. I really am not sure if I believe in either of these remedies but it was worth a try.
The rash started showing evidence that it was going away starting on this day. By the end of the day, the rash was as shown below. Much much better! The deep red color was no longer present and I now had hope that this virus was actually going to go away. I had a slight fever pretty much the entire day, but I felt better. After eating and drinking all day, I was hopeful that I was on the road to recovery.
I tried putting my legs in a bucket of ice water to reduce the swelling and it did seem to help a bit even though it was terribly cold. After two long ice treatments, I was able to walk a little. I also tried Epsom salt in warm water later in the day. This was a BAD idea! It made the swelling worse and the rash on my legs came back. If you are in this situation, use ice not heat.
By the end of the day, my hands were almost back to normal but I still had the joint pain in my wrist and fingers. The rash had disappeared even more and I was feeling much better. I was still very fatigued and couldn't do much other than lay around all day so I just watched movies.
A friend came to visit me and the act of putting on clothes and braiding my hair exhausted me. Really? 10 minutes of light exertion was too much? Each time I tried to do too much (5 minutes of activity), I would feel myself getting hot and light headed. Then I noticed the rash becoming more red. So, I tried to do nothing even though I felt much better. This is hard for me to do...
Around noon, I noticed that the swelling in my feet was starting to go down just a little. Awesome! And I was able to put weight on my feet and walk around very slowly (like an old lady without her walker). In the evening, I went to the ocean for a salt water soak and it felt great! I am not sure if it helped but it definitely helped just getting out of the house :)
Monday - Tuesday, July 14-15: The swelling finally started noticeably going down in my feet and my feet were normal by Tuesday night. I still had joint pain and it felt like I had arthritis in my hands, feet, and knees. About a 2 on the 10 pain scale. I felt fatigued and the rash would come back a bit each time I did much more than 20 minutes of anything. Luckily I was able to work from home these days and not miss even more work!
Wednesday - Thursday, July 16-17: The rash is still slightly noticeable on my arms and stomach and does turn more red each time I am on my feet too long. At this point, the only issue is joint pain. I have read that this can last for many months and am hopeful that it will go away sooner than later. It does make it difficult to type for long periods of time or walk long distances. The pain in my knuckles does feel very odd... Like I need to crack the knuckles in my fingers and toes, but not really because that would hurt.
This was a horrible, terrible nightmare that I hope to never have to go through again. Luckily, Chikungunya is a virus that does not infect you after the first exposure. I am so very thankful that my husband is a nurse and that we were able to have him take care of me during this illness. Needing someone to help you go to the restroom, take a shower, cut up your food, cook for you, carry you, and take care of everything for you is a very humbling experience. I am not sure how someone would survive this virus on their own.
I feel much closer to Aaron after going through this ordeal, and we are both thankful that the illness is over. If you have contracted this virus or know someone who has, I hope my daily record is helpful.
PS. Wear bug spray!!
Updates on symptoms, treatment, and status:
Subacute Phase 7/19/2014
Symptom Update 7/25/2014
Recovery, or Not... 8/12/2014
Chikungunya Facts 8/23/2014
Chikungunya Update 9/18/2014