Sick Abroad

Well, in less than forty-eight hours in Kyrgyzstan, I became extremely ill with the worst food poisoning I’ve ever had in my life. Here’s a recap of last Sunday:

8AM: Wake up feeling awful. Throw up four times and then go to sleep.

10AM: Wake up feeling awful. Throw up again and go back to sleep, this time on the floor which, in my nausea, seems to be a better option.

11:30AM: Woken up by my host sister who’s bewildered by my new sleeping location. Once again, throw up. This time, the puke is green bile. (I hope you aren’t eating, my dear reader.) My host sister makes me a warm drink that I promptly throw up. She calls the medics.

12:30AM: Medics arrive. They poke around my stomach for a while before making me chug five liters of warm water, causing me throw up twice more. (I later found out that if I hadn’t drank the water quick enough, they were planning to use a funnel to force me to drink it.) Satisfied, they leave.

2PM: A doctor/college friend of my host mother, who works as a doctor in Kazakhstan, appears. She has my sister run to the pharmacy and pick up three liters of saline solution to rehydrate me as well as medicine. Together, they construct a stand for the saline solution with a piece of wood, a chair, and two scarves. My Kyrgyz MacGyver angels. The doctor is so incredibly nice. She does more than prescribe pills, she asks when I plan to marry and all sorts of other life questions while holding my hand as the saline solution drips into my arm.

6PM: Doctor leaves and I start to feel better.

Throughout the day I really missed my mom. An EMT and hospital employee for many years, she is always the first person I call when I get sick, explaining medical terms and offering incontestable motherly compassion. To be that sick and not have internet, not be able to call her, was really difficult. It was hard for her as well.

The amount of intense love from the people surrounding me was crazy though. When my host mother, an experienced doctor who deals with far worse-off people every day, heard that I was ill, she called her friend (the doctor) saying “my Ashlie, my daughter, my Ashlie is sick!” and regularly checked iin throughout the day. She told me before that she sees me as her third daughter but I didn’t recognize what that meant until that day.

My host sister only left my side to get medicine. When there was a phrase that I didn’t understand, she helped me comprehend it. Now, she’s become very strict about what I’m allowed to do:

  • Drink tea with raspberry jam
  • Lay down as much as possible
  • Wear a scarf around my head at all times while outside
  • Not take a shower

(The last rule stinks, literally.)

My school adviser worried about what was happening and regularly called to hear how I was doing, offering to come translate or find a good, private hospital.

Also, everything, all the care and medicine I received, was free. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that.

It’s difficult to explain all of the emotions of the day except to say that it ended in overwhelming gratitude to the people that love me, both here in Kyrgyzstan and home in Kansas. I’m pleased to share that I’m feeling a lot better, have expanded my Russian vocabulary in all things illness-related, and have begun my studies at AUCA!

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