Being Sick on the Road: World's Biggest Baby vs. Skin Abscess, Round I

Rice fields in Cianjur, Java, Indonesia
Really enjoying these rice fields in Java, Indonesia. Yet my leg is starting to feel funny...
This blog is becoming in serious danger of being renamed I Traveled, I Saw Stuff, It Was the Worst.

This week while in Yogyakarta, Indonesia I discovered that a tiny blister on my leg had evolved into a full-blown, bloody, oozing skin abscess. I'm a tough cookie but even the slightest sickness has me snivelling like a child who just dropped their ice cream. If I get sick twice in a row I start thinking it's my secret HIV that the blood tests never picked up on. A weird skin rash is indicative of a deeply buried tumour. I'm terrified of needles, sharp instruments, gloved doctors and that hospital smell. Even the feel of my own bones under my skin grosses me out, I'm that adverse to bodily functioning and professional practices associated with it.

So it was with a lot of trepidation that I chartered a squeezy tuk-tuk to take my boyfriend and I to the nearest hospital. Taking a bicycle tuk-tuk itself is a wonderful experience, especially on a busy Indonesian street where it's like being a cat running with ravenous wolves.

I was all moon eyes going in, imploring Miguel not to take me to the big bad place where they would surely cut into the festering wound, causing great curdling screams and unbearable pain. Then they would slap me repeatedly with their gloves and laugh at me before kicking me out of their facilities.

Pain is more delicious with Yogyakarta's street food.
Of course they just poured iodine on it, bandaged me up and gave me a prescription for three random meds. I was not to touch it for three days, except to pour iodine into the bandage every eight hours (iodine ... who uses that anymore??). I lasted about two until the giant diaper-like bandage started giving off odours that definitely were less than delicate and feminine.

I spent about ten seconds in the shower, trying to clean it, before bawling. Because obviously the pus which had finally worked its way to the surface meant I was going to lose my leg. Also, no way was I going to touch that festering mass. Miguel came hurrying, his ear now acutely tuned to the sound of me crying. I am embarrassed to say that it ended with me lying in our hotel room, bawling into a pillow, while he was forced to doctor to my gaping wound. Which really wasn't that bad and just needed some alcohol-soaked pads and a little fortitude.

Not long after I was washed and in my ridiculous cupcake dress, eating rice and tempeh out of brown paper, then ice cream, embarrassed but also satisfied that I had managed to outsource a most disgusting aspect of being human. Ain't love grand?

Borodubur Buddhist temple in Java, Indonesia
Managed to hobble out to Borobudur Buddhist temple near Yogyakarta. So worth it.
The thing with traveling is that when you're weak, you're really weak. This trip has been a greatest-hits collection of Bronwyn's Weakest Moments. I actually tend to be pretty cavalier when alone but being coupled allows you to really indulge in self-pity and weakness, to dig deep into those low moments. I've started digging and now I probably won't be able to stop until my head comes back around and goes up my own ass.

More likely, in a week I'll feel better and tramp around again like I'm God's gift to travellers. When you're sick, traveling is a little special circle of hell and when you're well, it's all shiny unicorns and endless potential for self-renewal. More or less.

But the leg abscess followed a bout of flu, which is usually Bronwyn's Body's way of saying, "Hey partner. Going a little fast, aren't we? How would you feel about a couple of days in bed not doing the stress thing?" This time it was like, "Fuck you! You sit down motherfucker and you don't get up. Don't even THINK of moving! You move and I swear to God I will send shooting laser pains into your BRAIN. How you like them apples???"

Bronwyn at Borodubur temple in Java, Indonesia
Trying to look excited at Borobudur while my leg tries to eat itself from the inside.
True to form, life delivered me the quietest, cheapest, cushiest little hotel with free breakfast, outdoor deck, wi-fi and comfy bed (La Javanaise Homestay) in which to recover in relative comfort. So I sat my ass down, forced myself to forget sightseeing and got comfortable with doing nothing. I booked a flight to Bali to avoid the stresses of Indonesian road travel. A real love-in of sorts. 

This isn't new. Two years ago my body gave me serious anemia so I'd stop pushing myself so hard. I spent most of my non-work time in bed. Then I forgot about it.

So when don't I forget about it? When do I actually start taking care of myself? That's the answer I've been waiting for for a while.


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Lilje said...

I could have written this post. Serioisly, your views on life (and illness) sound quite remarkarbly similar to mine. I'm a huge hypocondriac, convinced that every single bump or bruise means that I'm going to die a slow and painful death. Couple that to a total distrust of doctors and voila, you have a lovely package. With that in mind, I think it's a small miracle that I didn't completely lose my mind after getting dengue fever and spending 8 days in a Thai hospital on Koh Samui. Actually, when you're forced to stay in the hospital bed, things kind of fall into perspective: this is the situation now. You're being looked after and taken care of. Now shush, let them do their job, and watch endless hours of series from your laptop (and complain to your faithful boyfriend who stayed with you the whole time <3). Hope your abscess is better already and you get to enjoy traveling again.

B.Kienapple said...

Haha thanks for the perspective. Dengue fever is my NIGHTMARE, you are a tough cookie for sitting (or laying) that one through. Yikes! Hope you're nice and healed. The abscess is doing some healing stuff now and walking is more of an option so it's all good, thanks for asking. :)

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