Manaus, Amazonas; but all was not well in my world. I started to experience what I first thought was severe indigestion. By 4 A.M. back in my not-so-posh hotel my temperature reached 102 degrees Fahrenheit and I relented. Waking my companion, I explained that a race to the nearest tropical clinic was in order. I feared my first bout of malaria and that requires prompt action. My whole torso was swollen hugely and I had extreme difficulty breathing. The pain spread from my lower right side to my neck was becoming unbearable.
I mustered the last of my energy to descend the steep stairways of the hotel and lifted myself into my car outside. Shortly before dawn, with her valiant driving we made it to the Foundation for Tropical Medicine, suburban Manaus.
By this time, my condition was critical and it was all that I could do to walk at all. My pathetic Portuguese was insufficient to convey the emergency but a deep moan of pain sufficed to relate the levity of my emergency. A friendly outpatient worker led me right to the door where I was immediately offered serious attention. For a few hours I had my own room and was visited by various doctors, nurses and orderlies. By 9 AM I was somewhat of a celebrity, the Irish guy who didn’t speak Portuguese and moaned a lot. I had been fitted with a temporary drip, blood had been taken and various doctors and nurses had attempted to interrogate the obviously perturbed foreigner.
At 11 AM a small baby, its body covered in horrendous scabs, usurped my private room and I was shunted to a ward with five others. This was to be my home for the next 30 hours where I received intensive care on a level I have never before experienced.
The tests began in earnest: two X-Rays, chest and abdomen, various blood tests, umpteen physical examinations, an ultrasound, IV drugs and glucose, free food and lodging. The care, attention and hospitable treatment was more than I could expect of a five star hotel even if the bed was slightly more primitive. My diagnosis proved somewhat of a conundrum and took almost two days by which time I was starting to feel better and my companion much worse.
The interim diagnosis is rotavirus a nasty bug responsible for some 50% of all Gastroenteritis worldwide. Once rotavirus was diagnosed I was politely asked to leave as isolation would be difficult and it was believed that I would be OK. This diagnosis was later disproven and my state was put down to ingesting amoeba. I was offered the diagnosis with my records (X-Rays included), the doctor taking much time to explain my prescriptions and care instructions to tide me over till I could return for a check up on Monday.
If the Unified Health System of the state of Amazonas is representative of the treatment offered to patients in this giant country I can only recommend Brazil as one of the worlds greatest places to be ill.
Thank you Brazil and thank you even more for the zero price tag! I owe you one.