Straight from the Children's Hospital in Riga...

Yes. I am hospitalized again.

Here's a nifty Timeline to track my progress...

Three Thursdays ago: I arrive back in Valmiera after the Liepaja hospital.
Two Saturdays ago: My course of antibiotics finish. Immediately I feel sick again.
Two Mondays ago: I went to the ENT at the Valmiera hospital, who smeared something gross on my throat and told me to come back Wednesday.
Two Wednesdays ago: I went back to the ENT, who smeared something gross on my throat and told me to come back Thursday.
Two Thursdays ago: I went back to the ENT, who smeared something gross on my throat and told me to come back Friday.
Two Fridays ago: I went back to the ENT, who finally decided to prescribe me antibiotics.
Last Saturday: The antibiotics cause a drastic improvement. I feel well enough to go to a friend's house for the first time in 3 weeks.
Last Sunday: In the afternoon I start to feel worse.
Last Monday: I wake up with horrible side effects from the antibiotics and experience some of the strongest pain of my life. I go back to the doctor, who tells me it's because of the Latvian climate and I didn't wear a hat.
Last Tuesday: I have stopped taking the antibiotics after researching them and finding out that they have a black box warning (!!!) in the US, only currently allowed for the treatment of anthrax. It also is proven to work against thyroid medication, something any competent doctor should have known. I print out literature proving both this and that my pains, which were very specific, were side effects. The doctor tells me that I need to wear warmer clothes. Host brother backs her up by telling her that when I walked the five feet from the door to the car in 55 degree weather, I was only wearing a long sleeve shirt and a sweater. Gasp.
Last Wednesday: I try to go to school because I cannot stand another day in the house. Also, can't sleep all day because my bed is infested with both bed bugs and fleas. (Not new, but couldn't tolerate any more bites than I already had.) I go to school and am told by each teacher and classmate that I need to go to a tanning booth and that I look different... almost... Asian. (That swollen.) I come home, take a nap, and wake up to the realization that I am feeling as bad as I was when I checked myself into the Liepaja hospital. I take the easy way out this time and call my pals at the Embassy, who kindly spoke to my host mother and convinced her that I needed to go to the ER. We go to the ER, they take my temperature and the same ENT looks at my throat again, and then she recommends that I go to the Children's Hospital in Riga. Apparently the Valmiera hospital was not equipped for my case. As my host family has no car, I am taken by ambulance to Riga.
Last Thursday: At 1 am, I arrive at the Children's Hospital in Riga after the 2 hour ambulance ride. I am met by Ieva, our hosting coordinator. Now I hold the record for exchange student emergency midnight phone calls, apparently.
Last Friday: Although I have been on antibiotics for 24 hours, I am worsening. Apparently I look like hell. (Heck, according to Jordan, because he is a Mormon and doesn't curse.)
Last Saturday: Antibiotics changed. Improving.
Yesterday (Sunday): Improving. Sunday night my mother arrived from the US.
Today (Monday): Improving. Lots of ultrasounds. Gourmet feast from my mother.

I can't keep track of when my visitors came and went : my contact person Silvija has been coming every day, sometimes with her daughters, providing me "real food"; Jordan and his host mom Aija, who happens to be a brilliant doctor, have stopped by multiple times; a family friend from the US; my host mom dropped off some clothes and my computer on Saturday;  my real mother has now come from the US and will stay here until I'm released; tomorrow the president of AFS and a board member are coming to visit. Due to the kind hearts of my visitors, I have been spared the horror of Latvian hospital food. There's no vegetarian options either - I ran into that problem in the Liepaja hospital - and luckily this time I didn't have to wait two full days until I had human contact (and real food) from the outside world.

Currently, the diagnosis is unclear. The doctors are pretty sure I have mono, although the last two tests (from Nov. 15 in Valmiera and from the previous one in Liepaja) were negative. The strep throat I had in Liepaja probably never went away in the first place. Right now they're thinking mono, strep, and tonsillitis, but only the last one is officially diagnosed.

After I'm released from the hospital, I won't be going back to my host family. For a variety of reasons, it was not a good fit, and my doctor thinks the circumstances were detrimental to my health. At first I was resistant to the change. I didn't want to switch schools; school and my class seemed to be the only things keeping me sane. Now I face the strong possibility of moving cities and schools, as host families are hard to come by in Valmiera, particularly for a vegetarian. When I officially put in the request for a change, I had that cheese-grater-on-the-chest feeling that my exchange as I know it is over. Even if I don't have to change schools, I may be out of school for another few weeks - possibly right up to Christmas break. I thought about it a lot today, and I essentially I am missing almost 1/5th of my exchange being sick. But I realized that in this time I have drastically improved my medical Latvian, met an incredible variety of people of all different backgrounds and ethnicities (nurses, doctors, patients, their families, medical students, etc.), grown closer to the people who have been helping me through this, finished two more college applications, come to understand the Latvian folk-mentality that still tinctures anything related to health... and I got a fantastic Common App essay out of it. So, who knows where I'll be in a few days. (Okay, probably still in the hospital, but I'm trying to be philosophical here.) Despite the fact that I'm switching families, both my parents have had to come to Latvia to oversee my medical care, and I've been hospitalized twice in three months, I'm still excited and optimistic about my exchange. And I think that's the main thing Latvia has done for me - I'm now one of those annoying glass-half-full-of-cheer-and-a-magical-unicorn people.

Note: It's really hard to type with an IV in your arm.

2 Response to "Straight from the Children's Hospital in Riga..."

  1. My Name is Julia Says:

    Wow! The fact that you still sound so upbeat about everything is amazing!
    I am sending lots of good vibes over to you in Latvia *checkes map so brain knows where to send vibes*
    Hope your out of hospital soon and I hope everything with your next family goes well!
    Your attitude towards this whole fiasco is truly inspiring!

  2. Ms. G Says:

    Okay, you're crazy. Just sayin'. My mom agrees.

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