My friend recently left the US for Bolivia to live indefinitely and the other day, I got word that he had become very ill and was in a “near-coma” state after some sort of parasitic infection and the dehydration it caused.
I don’t have as many details as I would like but I figure I should post what I find out here so it might help some one else. My friend takes meds for Bipolor Disorder including Lithium which according to what I have recently found out about his condition, can really complicate a case of dehydration.
Here’s the email I got explaining my friend’s situation. I’ve removed the names of the four people mentioned and replaced them with ‘redacted,’ ‘blocked,’ ‘removed’ and ‘censored,’ to maintain the anonymity of everyone involved.
Thanks for writing me. I will do my best to be clear about what has happened and what is happening with [redacted]. [blocked] and I have been at the hospital for like 3 days, hence the lack of communication. But things are looking good and his state is improving daily.
Here is the story:
[redacted] had been having diarrhea for about 2 weeks. This happens to EVERYBODY that comes to Bolivia at some point, so we didn’t think much of it. However, [redacted]’s dehydration, mixed with the prescription drugs he is on for his various ailments, became his problem. The lithium he is taking keeps his sodium level extremely low. When you are dehydrated, sodium helps to retain water. Without sodium OR water and the continued administration of Lithium, [redacted] was unable to use his muscles to walk or to talk clearly. (This is what the doctors have led us to believe.)
So, his diarrhea, caused by stomach amoebas and colitis, among other digestive problems, led to dehydration which led to a lithium conflict and a dangerous drop in sodium levels.
So, [blocked] took him to the hospital and we got him a room and 24 hour care for 3 nights and 4 days. All of his vital signs and blood work came back at alarmingly low rates the first day he was there. He had low sodium, potassium and sugar levels. He had high creatin (sp) levels -ie. he wasn’t ridding his body of waste. His kidneys were suffering trying to get rid of the poisons in his body, but with no liquids, they were unable to do this. He was in bad shape.
However, with 24 hour care and all the vitamins and minerals he needed being pumped into his body, he improved greatly each day. By day 3, all of his vitals were normal and stable.
We brought him home from the hospital yesterday. We are giving him the medication he needs to rid his body of the amoebas and filling him with liquids and all the vitamins he needs.
As for the latest with [redacted], last night, he had diarrhea 3 times but was able to drink TONS of water. He should be finished with the diarrhea (and thus the dehydration problem) by the end of the week. We have a doctor’s appointment for him tomorrow to check up on his progress and vitals.
Now for the part that we are all worried about. Because of the low levels of lithium, we think his nervous system was affected. His speech is slurred and difficult to understand. He walks in small, assisted steps and needs help to use the bathroom and to walk. The good news, is that the doctors said there are NO signs of permanent damage. They say his speech and walking will be back to normal with practice and time. They say his full recovery is up to him.
Based on my being around [redacted] for the last 5 days, I would say that his mobility has really improved. He can and has walked unassisted, but is jerky in his movements still. His speech is understandable when he concentrates and speaks slowly. I have seen a BIT of improvement in his speech. Now that he is home, though, I think we will see more improvement, as he is around English speakers and we are going to ‘walk’ him every hour to get his muscles working again.
The doctors have assured us that this is a temporary issue and that his speech and walking will be normal within the month. However, as soon as [redacted] is able, we all think he should go back home to the states to get another opinion and proper care, as physical and speech therapy is not offered at the clinics we have been to.
If you want to talk to us, you can skype us. We are on skype under [blocked]’s name.
I hope this email helped a bit. To put you and [redacted]’s other friends at ease, know that he is being looked after by me, [blocked] and another friend, [censored] 24 hrs. We have other friends who are further researching his condition and how to speed his recovery with therapy. Bolivians are also assisting us through all of this.
I will keep you posted on any improvements or problems…
The consulate and embassy have been informed and involved as well, in case of emergency…
With high hopes,