With apologies to Terry Pratchett
Picture from here.
A casualty to handle, a week end on-call, and personal emotional turmoil.
But all that's besides the point of this post.
I walked into a medical ward yesterday... sat down near the house officer (an old friend) and started a random chat. I can't explain the difference I felt... was the air somehow heavier in this ward? Was there somehow less light than the one I worked in, or was it just the generally overcast day?
These musings at the back of my mind were cut short by wails and screams of agony. Over and over again... now high pitched, now low... different voices... different levels of torture ripping through souls. At times a confused babbling.... at times just incoherent moans. Over and over again...
I listen for a full minute, mouth agape... "what is that?" I ask, horrified. My friend looks glum. "Them? They're the lepto patients..."
The farmers call it mee una (rat fever). The spiral like bacteria lives in the kidneys of rats... and when they pee, get passed into drains and canals and paddy fields. Unwary farmers go sloshing around... and get infected through the cuts and scrapes on their feet. The fever sets in and chills shake the bodies of these young, strong, healthy males. Blinding headaches. Uncontrollable vomiting. Delirium. And the complications are killers : inflammation of the heart and brain, liver failure, kidney failure, relentless bleeding tendencies.
It is "Lepto season" again in Sri Lanka. There is an epidemic going on... but I don't have the statistics or the numbers yet. Many many are transferred to Colombo... from all over the country and they die like flies... young men, reduced to moaning shells of their former selves. Women die too... young and old... some who have only stepped into the paddy field to help a friend during the sowing.
There is hardly enough space in the dialysis unit for patients with chronic kidney disease. The unit is full of lepto cases, their blood being fed into machines in a desperate attempt to clean out the toxins that are poisoning them. The wards overflow with the infection... the systematic removal of bodies is only matched by the relentless inflow of even more patients.
Antibiotics can cure... if given early. As soon as there is even a faint suspicion of the presence of Leptospira. Before the complications set in. I believe there's an island wide awareness programme going on. Cut off as I am from newspapers, TV and other mass media that is available to the normal population, I haven't a clue as to what they're saying. But please listen, and take care.
It was close to 9 pm as I walked to the flat, the full moon radiant overhead. I bump into another friend, moodily making her way to the canteen.
"Heavy weekend eh?"
"You have NO idea. Three early morning arrests today"
(cardiac arrests... not good, obviously)
"How many survived?"
"Damn! Poor you... hope the rest of your day was better..."
She looks at me... tiredness, and something else I can't define seeming to ooze out of her very being.
"I got a call from the dialysis unit at about 10, a patient had arrested during dialysis. While giving CPR, I got a call from the ward... another arrest."
I didn't have much to say after that. Obviously her weekend was a helluva lot more shitty than mine. I only had one question.
"Yup, all lepto."