Monday 15 June 2020

Don't brush your teeth: My wife had dengue in the time of Covid & this is what it was like

It started with a fever.

Or at least we believed my wife had a fever.

To double-check, we used different thermometers, but each thermometer showed a different temperature. Stupid cheap thermometers.

I suggested that she go to our neighbourhood supermarket and get her temperature checked at the entrance. If she had a fever, they would tell her.

She said I was an idiot.

It’s never a good time to have a fever, but this is a particularly bad year to have a high temperature.

They won’t let you into the supermarket to enjoy the aircon, I mean, buy food and other essentials.

Since the circuit breaker started, my family have avoided going out unnecessarily, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t gone out at all. (Please don’t doxx us on the SG Covidiots Facebook page.)

Is it possible that my wife got the coronavirus?

But she hadn’t lost her sense of taste or smell, which is reportedly a symptom of Covid-19. She still enjoyed her teh-o and complained about my armpit odour.

Apart from the fever, she also had diarrhoea and started having rashes all over her body. The itch kept her up all night.

After two nights without sleep, she decided to see a doctor at our neighbourhood clinic.

The doctor said the rash was a “classic” sign of dengue and took my wife’s blood to send for a test to confirm.

He told her to drink lots of water and stop brushing her teeth to prevent bleeding. Just use mouthwash.

Who knew the first thing you have to sacrifice if you get dengue is proper oral hygiene?

The doctor also ominously warned that she would suffer “bone-crushing pain” – but sent her home with medication only for her diarrhoea and rash.

Even though he told her to take Panadol for the fever and pain, he didn’t actually prescribe her any.

When she asked him what the treatment for dengue was, he replied: “Time.”

That first doctor’s visit cost $123.05.

She didn’t even get an MC because she’s a housewife, I mean homemaker, I mean stay-at-home mum, whatever.

The doctor seemed rather cavalier about a disease that has already killed at least 12 in Singapore this year with more than 10,700 infected.

Sure, Covid-19 has more than double the fatalities, but this ain’t a competition. Or is it?

Later that day, my wife received a call from the clinic about the test results.

Near my block, there was a red dengue alert banner that said: “There are 10 or more dengue cases in your neighbourhood.”

Thanks to my wife, the figure would have to be updated.

While everyone was wearing a mask, she should have worn more mosquito repellent. At least unlike getting Covid-19, she wasn’t infectious and didn’t need to be quarantined.

My wife was told to return to the clinic the next day for another blood test.

The test results showed that her “numbers” were “low”, which was a bad thing, but not “low” enough for her to be hospitalised. She was just told to keep returning to the clinic for more blood tests.

In the end, she took a total of four blood tests and had the bruises on her arms to prove it. Each test after the first one cost $17.10.

The “bone-crushing pain” came as the doctor predicted. My wife felt like a different part of her body was being attacked each day.

One day, it was her arms. The next day, it was her back. Then it was her legs. Then only her feet. Then weirdly, behind her right eye.

I made her ham sandwiches to ease her suffering and she still did the laundry.

Because of the coronavirus, we were staying home most of the time anyway. So it’s not like her illness changed our lives that much.

Except, you know, for the “bone-crushing pain” part.

Actually, for her, the rash was worse. The pain could be managed with painkillers, but the relentless itch prevented her from getting much sleep.

I slept fine.

About a week after the first doctor’s visit, my wife appeared to have recovered.

No more fever. No more diarrhoea. No more rash. No more weird pain behind her right eye.

Her final test results showed that her numbers were back to normal.

As the doctor said: “Time.”

I read that last week, the number of new dengue cases in Singapore hit a new high, breaking the record of 891 cases set in 2014. (UPDATE: It hit 1,158 last week.)

I wonder if my wife contributed to the new record.

The figure on the dengue alert banner has been updated to 20. I guess my wife wasn’t the only new case in the neighbourhood.

She is just relieved to be allowed to brush her teeth again.

Yeah, me too.

- Published in The New Paper, 15 June 2020

From a reader:
I was diagnosed with dengue on 14/6/20. My entire episode was totally unexpected.

I had loss of appetite for a couple of days. It left me weak and feel tired all the time. On 14/6/20, I woke up feeling giddy, hence went to a nearby clinic. Temperature check was ok but blood pressure was extremely low. Doctor refer me to hospital to run further tests.

At the hospital, I was suddenly told I had very high fever at 38.8! They took my blood test and confirm I had dengue. However, I do not have any symptoms like rashes, body pain etc. My platelet count was reported at 84, a normal person should be 150. I am allergic to Panadol so just left me on a drip all day long. Anyway, I was still admitted for 2 days.

I can totally relate that time is the only cure for dengue since all this while no medication was given.