Friday, September 09, 2011

Facing dengue eye-to-eye

Almost every day since last month, there has been a report of someone, most likely a child, dying because of the complications of dengue. According to the Department of Health, as of September 3, 2011, some 63,741 patients have had dengue since the start of the year, and 373 of them have died.

While the figures are better than those of the same period last year (87,409 cases, 586 deaths), it is still alarming that female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are still at it, biting unsuspecting people and putting lives in peril.

And they'll still be around for as long as there are containers and areas with stagnant water around us. Have you looked around your house, yard, and neighborhood? I think vigilance is key in combating dengue.

I'm passionate about calling attention to the need to take measures to prevent the incidence and outbreak of dengue in communities because I know what it's like to have a family member get dengue. In January, this year, I faced dengue eye-to-eye as it threatened to harm my son. And a few years ago, my 8-year-old nephew, the son of my first cousin, died of dengue shock syndrome 5 days after he started not to feel well.

My son's case started with malaise on a Wednesday and so he skipped school. Later that day he had fever, which would go down after taking Biogesic, and go up again within the next 4 hours. The next day, a Thursday, I got a call at the office saying our helper brought my son to the emergency room at the government hospital nearby as he still had fever and was vomiting. I rushed to the ER and found my son looking kinda OK, with just colds, cough, and pain in the joints that drove him to use my mom's walking stick.

The doctors and nurses at the ER thought it was just flu as his complete blood count (CBC) test showed that his platelets were at the normal range. I would have thought it was the flu too. He could have been discharged earlier but the staff had to wait for instructions from his pediatrician, who was a consultant at the hospital. As the hours went on, I saw my son becoming pale and more tired, that I told the staff I'd bring him home right then and just come back for the prescription later that night.

I drove back to the hospital that night to get the prescription for antibiotics and made sure my son rested well the next day, a Friday. We were instructed to bring him to his pediatrician for checkup on Saturday.

And so we did. Little rashes began to appear on his body, and the pediatrician thought it could be allergy to antibiotics and so she gave me a new prescription. But she was puzzled as to why he didn't seem to improve in spite of powerful antibiotics, and gave me another prescription – a request for CBC test – with the instruction to get him that test later that day if he still had fever. I brought him home and went to work at the office.

Coming home from work that night, I saw that he still had fever, and still had pains. I brought him to St. Luke's Medical Center in Quezon City past 8 p.m. for a CBC. My son had a hard time walking even with my mom's walking stick to aid him, that I felt this was no ordinary flu.

The hospital said it would e-mail me the results, and I was up all night waiting for it. When I got it at past 2 a.m. on Sunday, I saw that his platelet count – still within the normal range – had gone down.

I reported this around breakfast time to his pedia, and she said to make sure he is hydrated, took his meds and got lots of rest. Technically, his platelet count, you see, was still normal.

But my son's face and ears have turned red, and I just didn't know what to do anymore. My dad told me to bring him to the hospital right away and have him confined to be sure.

I drove him to St. Luke's Medical Center – this time at Global City as they had a promo that time (50% off room rates, my niece, a doctor who works there reported). They immediately worked on him as soon as he was wheeled in the ER from the driveway – got his blood pressure, et cetera. And they performed a CBC and a dengue antigen test (NS1 test), the results of which were to be available in 2 hours.

Within 2 hours, the ER doctor said my son's CBC even went down from its level the previous night and confirmed that my son was positive for dengue, and that we had a choice whether to bring him home or have him admitted. Of course, I chose the latter option for my peace of mind.

A pediatrician consultant was called in and he looked at my son. He assured me not to worry, as even if my son's platelets would still go down, the hospital had enough fluids on standby. He also said he didn't think it would go to that stage.

I texted close friends to ask for prayers for my son as I knew dengue is deadly. I also posted a status message on Facebook calling for prayers and support, and wishes for his recovery poured in. It was also Prayer and Fasting Week at Christ's Commission Fellowship where we go to regularly, and I even texted our pastors to please include my son in their prayers.

By Monday, my son's platelet count still went down as his pediatrician said it would. The doctors and nurses would check on him often, and ask if he felt any stomach pain. His liquid intake was monitored, as well as his urine output to make sure he was not getting dehydrated. The good thing was my son's appetite was still normal. He would also just have slight fever, not a high grade one.

The next day, Tuesday, his platelet count went up a bit, and he still had no pain in the stomach (a sign of internal hemorrhage). His energy was also up. My son's pediatrician gave the go signal for us to go home. Praise God!

During the next few days, my son would continue to rest at home. On the second day, he got red again in the face, so I brought him back to the ER at St. Luke's Medical Center in Global City to be sure, and after CBC, his platelet count was at the same level as it was that Tuesday. It was to be expected, his pediatrician said, but he was on the way to recovery.

It took about another week for my son to completely recover and be strong enough to go to school. We are grateful for the many people who prayed for him, and for the attentive service given to him by his doctors and nurses. We believe God answered our prayers for his healing.

Where could my son have encountered that dengue-carrying mosquito? We traced it to a shallow pit near our garage which would get filled with rainwater. The pit has since been cleaned and repaired.

Dengue is now not just in season during the wet months of June to August. It's affecting people all year round. Take the time to check your surroundings – from plant pots and flower vases to gutters and pits – to keep those pesky mosquitoes at bay. Dengue is not something to be taken lightly, as life is a precious gift.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Both teachers and non-teachers alike will learn much from the little book Letters to a Young Teacher: The Art of Being Interesting by Joseph V. Landy, S.J. In a conversational style, the author talks to the reader and asks questions such as why do you want to teach? He then goes on to advise those whose main goal is to earn money to try something that can earn more money: "trading or farming or even hair-styling." Teaching is a noble, but "relatively low-paying profession", he says, yet is so rewarding to those looking for fulfillment. He shares many tips for teachers, which parents and trainers may heed: Have the "knack of making the seemingly dreariest subject interesting."

VERSE OF THE WEEK: “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” ~ Psalm 143:10

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