Health Problems – Part 1

A lot has been going on with us and our team health-wise.  So much, we are looking at each other on a regular basis, like, what in the world is going on??  So here goes the long-story-short.  I hope.

The first week of July, Trevor had arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder for a torn rotator cuff from a ladder fall injury that happened back in November.  The operation was here in Santiago, and from what the doctor says, everything went well.  We won’t know the success of the surgery until he completes physical therapy, which he started this past week.

About the second week after the surgery, Trevor began to feel very lethargic and would black out when he would stand up.  We thought it was possibly related to the surgery, but as he continued to get more symptoms, we all recognized it to be dengue fever, something we have made ourselves knowledgeable on since moving to this country.  Dengue fever is an infectious disease spread by mosquitoes in tropical places like the Dominican Republic.  His symptoms included severe lethargy, muscle pain, back pain, headaches, eye pain, fever, a rash, and dehydration.  Our suspicions were confirmed by a blood test at a local clinic in which his platelets and white blood cell counts were very low.  There is no treatment for dengue, but in certain strands, a person is hospitalized for an IV and to monitor vital signs.  Our neighbor was hospitalized for it a few months ago.  The dehydration causes risk of blood clots, and can be fatal if not immediately treated.  His counts were not low enough to require an IV, and he was sent home with the instruction of Tylenol, a lot of liquids and to continue to watch his platelet counts.

The day that we took Trevor to the clinic, his mom had texted us to let us know she was taking his brother, Ryan, to the ER because he had suffered a high fever (104/105 degrees) for six days and was so weak he could barely stand.  He was admitted immediately because the doctors were very concerned with fluid surrounding his lungs and heart and his kidneys were barely functioning.  He had several doctors including a kidney specialist, an infectious disease doctor and a hematologist running all sorts of tests on him.  His platelet count was also very low, much lower than Trevor’s even.  (The normal range is 150,000-400,000.  Trevor was last at 137,000 and Ryan was 37,000.)  Because of this and his kidneys not functioning, they decided to move him to ICU and started a central line in his neck, in the event that they might have an emergency situation.  His fever continued to stay at 105.8 degrees.  At one point, the doctors thought they had pinpointed this to either leukemia, lymphoma or another type of blood disease.

If you know me, you have heard me say that the hardest part of being a third-world missionary is being so far away from the ones we love.  Knowing Ryan was sick and we couldn’t be there for him or the family was by far one of the hardest moments yet.  As we continued to get the updates on Ryan’s progress (or lack of), Trevor had a breakdown moment, and I insisted that he fly to Florida to be with him.  I knew God would provide the money, and He did.  Trevor was debating between flying the red eye flight that night at 2:40 a.m. which is much more economical, or flying the next morning on the same flight that Naomi had booked for months.  When we checked her flight, it was $1,100, but we were fearful that middle of the night flight would be too rough for his weakened immune system.  Even though the board had agreed to pay the $1,100, Trevor decided that was not a good use of money and he would take the 2:40 a.m. flight.  As he went online to book, we could not believe our eyes that the other flight price was reduced to nearly half-price in just a few hours!  He booked it, went straight to bed and left for the states the next morning.

Trevor arrived in Orlando yesterday around 1:30 and my sister drove him straight to the hospital.  It was a great, but emotional time for everyone and Ryan was very appreciative that Trevor came.  We wouldn’t have it any other way.  Since yesterday, they have ruled out any chronic illnesses and they believe that it is an infectious virus, most likely malaria or possibly something similar transmitted from a tick bite.  So wild.  He has not been out of the country since January when he visited us, and he was in Honduras on a mission trip last summer.  But the Center for Disease Control says that the risk in the Dominican Republic for malaria is low, and while the risk for it in Honduras is considered moderate, it is not a factor in the city of Tegucigalpa, where he was.  His malaria test came back negative, but the doctors still believe that is what it is and that it was a bad test.  They believe that the kidney failure was due to taking Motrin to treat his fever when he was very dehydrated.  He has started malaria meds and remains under constant monitoring in ICU.

Trevor was able to get his blood drawn in the states to continue monitoring his platelets in the states, thanks to our church helping us financially with that.  We haven’t gotten the results yet, but if they are still very low, he will possibly seek medical treatment this week while he’s there.  It is uber-bizarre that two brothers across the globe would both suffer from a rare mosquito transmitted disease at the same time?!

We have seen the positives and negatives of both of the medical systems in here in the DR and there in the US.  For example, to get a basic blood test in the DR, it costs only $6 US dollars and you get results in one hour.  The same test in the US cost Trevor $50 and results in 24-48 hrs, but since his test was on a Friday, it’s more like 36 hours.  That’s hardly an accurate picture of what’s going on because the platelets can change rapidly within 7-8 hours.  His shoulder surgery that would easily cost $12,000 in the states, cost $3,000 here at what is claimed to be the best hospital in all of the Caribbean.  This country does not have a prescription drug problem, because they don’t have narcotic drugs here. Trevor was given not more than a very mild pain pill after his surgery.  But the systems here are horrible.  The most astounding thing to me was that during Trevor’s hospital stay, they didn’t even put an id band on him anywhere.  There were no clipboards with his condition, medicines he’d taken, or anything.  There were no monitors or digital thermometers.  When they brought him in the room, a nurse took his temp with an old-fashioned mercury thermometer, his pulse with her fingers, and counted his breaths by watching his stomach move up and down and scribbled it in a spiral notebook that she carried with her.  We paid the doctor’s receptionist $3,000 worth of pesos in the hospital room in which she gave us one of those generic receipts from a book you can buy from Staples.  Record of payment was hand-written in a spiral notebook.  It was no different at the clinic where he was diagnosed with dengue.  There’s no order and there are no appointments.  People in this country are used to just waiting… all…the…time.

During all of this, Luke Ostberg has suffered mucho with stomach issues that seem like possibly an amoeba, even though his tests came back clean.  He seems to be better now, but he was really down and out for a while.  Their son, Ethan, has been in the states visiting his grandparents, and was found to have a large hole in his eardrum that might require surgery or he faces the risk of going deaf in that ear.  This means that he won’t be able to travel back home to the DR as planned this coming Saturday.  He will know how that is progressing at the appointment with the ENT on Tuesday, but there it is still oozing with infection as of today.  Found out today, my sister has a bad respiratory infection, and is on a strong antibiotic and steroid.  Tested negative for pneumonia, PTL.  And as an added bonus, Emily has ringworm on her arm.  So there’s that.

The rest of us, the stronger ones that God loves the most, (haha) are doing fine.  Tired.  But fine.  Ryan’s girlfriend, Mary, told me today that she has a peace about all of this, and I do, too.  It definitely has shaken me up, but I keep hearing God say, Romans 8:28—He makes all things work together for good for those who love Him.  Please pray pray pray and I will update you all soon on everyone’s progress.  I tried to stay short, but there was way too much too fast! Sorry.  Much love.