Friday, August 1, 2008


I've been experiencing many of the rarer events down here (yukimarimos, halo crosses, etc), and can now check off another. It's not supposed to happen at this point in the season, but for the past week I've been really sick.

It's not supposed to happen because there are only 60 of us, and by now, we should all have been exposed (and developed immunity) to any infectious diseases on station. Quarantines do just as good a job of keeping bugs out as in, and we've got a perfect quarantine situation; this ought to be among the most germ-free environments on earth.

My previous medical difficulties - the stone that led to an infected salivary gland - wasn't all that odd because it was my own bacteria that infected me. People have a large bacterial flora, and it's not all that uncommon for some portion to go a bit out of control. Some of the bugs in my saliva got trapped and did just that.

Well, this time was different - I got a legitimate infectious illness, which for several days had everyone on station (doc included) quite confused.

It started last week with a sudden fever - alternately shivering under dozens of blankets, and lying in a cold sweat. I went to see the doc, and after a quick check, he told me it couldn't be viral, all viruses having long since been cleared out of the community. My white blood cell count was normal, so if it was bacterial, it wasn't too serious. He told me to drink lots of fluids and sent me on my way.

Three days later, still feverish, I returned. My throat and tongue had become covered in (very painful) open sores, and I clearly wasn't improving. As it turns out, there is a single, highly communicable virus still on station, and about 2/3 of the US population carries it: Herpes simplex 1, the source of cold sores. Apparently I've never been exposed, or at least I hadn't, until sometime a couple of weeks ago, probably from taking taste of someone's drink.

My immune system hasn't had anything to do since March, and looks to have gone on vacation. I was caught without defenses, and within a day or two, I had full blown viremia, viral presence in the blood. That's what was causing the fever, and by the time we caught it, I was pretty much doomed to a long and painful illness. I've been on antivirals for several days now, and things have finally started to heal.

For the past week, eating has been nightmarish experience, so I've more or less stopped. The last three days I haven't even been able to talk. I've been generally locked in my room, surviving off mug after mug of tea, and watching every movie the store can loan. It's been a long week.

Stuck in my room, my toastiness has been growing unchecked. I went to DSL today for the first time since the fever started, and the whole walk out I was angry. On the return trip I caught myself swearing at and kicking a lump of snow on the path. I mentioned this to someone, and they pointed out that it is now Angry August; I've just been catching up with the rest of the station.

Looks like it'll be an interesting last couple of months.

1 comment:

Hallie said...

I can't believe in all the conversations we had about the various ways the south pole could kill you, "felled by a simple infection because you lost your immune system" didn't occur! I mean, this is effed up. How are you going to return to the world? Don't lie in any snowbanks, friend.