This time, it's my turn.
About five or six days ago I noticed a rash appearing on the left side of my right calf. I've had this twice before in the past couple of years, both times while in Mexico. But this time it got much worse.
The last two times I got it, I put it down to a reaction from insect bites, but I wasn't sure. It's really itchy for the first two days and little blisters appear. Almost like chicken pox, but not the same. The last time, although it was still localized on my calves and ankles, the blisters appeared elsewhere. After three weeks it was all cleared up.
A couple of days ago I went to the pharmacist and got some antihistamine, but it wasn't doing anything. So yesterday when I got up (after very little sleep due to the severe itching) and I noticed that my right lower leg and ankle was a bit swollen, we decided to search out a doctor. Also, the rash and blisters had spread to my waist, chest, and a bit on my back. It's quite nasty.
There is a skin rash called Dermatitis Herpetiformis that occurs in a lot of gluten intolerant and celiac patients. From what I've read, it is more common in men. From my research, I think this is what I have. You have to do a skin biopsy to prove it, so at this point we're just guessing. At some of the hostel breakfasts recently I jumped off the wagon and ate some bread simply because I was hungry and they had nothing else. I believe this is what brought on the rash.
There is a drug called "Dapsone" that is apparently very effective, so we walked over to the big drug store near the hospital. He looked it up but doesn't stock it and would have to order it from Bogota. He made a couple of other suggestions, but at that point we decided it would be wise to see a doctor first. I had noticed a private clinic near the hospital, but he said to just go to the Red Cross building...it would be quicker.
The Red Cross building in Popayan.
We got there about 11:00am, and saw the sign that says they close at 11:30am on Saturdays. I showed the guy at the gate the rash on my arm, and asked if we could see a doctor. He hummed and hawed, then said fine...the cost would be 20,000 pesos ($9.10 CAD).
He let us in and we went to the registration, where the guy wanted ID. The thought of that had never crossed our minds. I had left my wallet and passport locked up in our room. We rushed back to the hotel and made it back to the Red Cross building by 11:15, and fortunately the guy still let us in!
We did the registration and paid the 20,000 pesos. I got the receipt so that I can claim back from our Saskatchewan health care. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it'll be funny to see how much of it they will reimburse!
We were led over to another desk where a guy asked us some questions but we were having a hard time with the Spanish. He noticed this, and went and got a girl who who led us to an exam room. When we got in there, she says "so, how can I help you" in very good English!
This young lady was the doctor, and it turns out she had done one year of training at a school in New York City! Her English was quite good, although she says she doesn't get enough practice.
She takes a look at my rash and blisters. I showed her on the iPhone about the Dermatitis Herpetiformis and Dapsone and asked what she thought. She said it's possible, but they can't get Dapsone there so we'll try something else. She wrote down three things to pick up at the drugstore...an antiviral drug, an anti inflammatory injection, and some ibuprofen. I told her that although the rash looks really bad, I have no pain...just itching. She said don't take the ibuprofen unless I need to.
We went to the drug store just outside the Red Cross building, and he had everything in stock. Cost was 29,000 pesos ($13.20 CAD) for everything.
Back into the Red Cross where they injected that stuff into my butt. Ouch! Almost needed the ibuprofen just for that!
Back at the hotel room, of course the first thing I do is look up this antiviral medication. Turns out it's usually used to treat shingles. This rash looks like it could be shingles, but I have none of the associated symptoms. And if it is Dermatitis Herpetiformis, it likely won't do any good because that's not a viral infection. I guess only time will tell...if it is a virus, we'll see improvement in two to three days. If it's not, it could be two to three weeks.
Fortunately, other than the look of it and the bad itching, I feel fine. So unless things get worse, all it's affecting is my lack of sleep. Anyhow, we'll keep our fingers crossed because it sure is annoying!
In the afternoon, we wandered around the city some more, and found a place for a late lunch.
This old "Chiva" bus getting loaded up with supplies.
Still a few horses being worked.
Colonial buildings in the downtown core are almost all white.
Putting Christmas decorations up in the park.
We notice more of a military presence in the southern part of the country.
This group of young people came up to us and said they were in the local university English class and asked if they could videotape an interview with us for a project they're doing. Sure! I only noticed after the fact that at least three (possibly four, I can't read the one on the left) of them have U.S. based clothing on. I just found that interesting.
More white buildings.
It had been drizzling with rain, but it started raining harder and we were looking for somewhere to eat. I saw a place that looked a little pricey, but we wanted out of the rain. Sure enough though, they had a lunch special on. This one was higher than normal, at 14,600 pesos ($6.64 CAD) for the two of us. It was just okay. We've had better lunches here.
Fresh fruit juice, and bean soup.
Then the meal came. I had the pork, and Ruth had the chicken. With rice, a small salad, and plantain.
Didn't sleep well again last night. The itching was really bad. Rash doesn't look any worse this morning, but it doesn't look any better either.
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