Traveling Adventures With Needles

Post my little hospital visit in Nepal, I developed a secondary infection. One that would see my time in India being very uncomfortable for the first couple of weeks. I thought that the medication that I was on for it would do the trick. Unfortunately for me the infection didn’t go and what was left made me sicker and sicker and eventually I left Pushkar in a taxi bound for a doctor in Jaipur.

When I arrived I had high fever again and they made me go through different tests to identify the type of bacteria causing my infection and what antibiotics it was resistant to. While I waited for these tests to come back for two days they put me on a series of medications to manage my symptoms and I spent two days in bed watching Bollywood sitcoms and drama shows in Hindi that I didn’t understand.

Hospital gowns… my most prominent Asian attire.

The day I went back to the doctor I sat in wait for the results. As he hands me the sheet of paper with the results, I nearly cried. Of the fifteen different antibiotics that they had run this bacteria against, only three of them worked. My infection was resistant to twelve different classes of antibiotics. As someone who has studied science, microbiology and chemistry, I understood the severity of this.

Of the three different types of antibiotics that they gave me, the one that showed the most efficacy was amikacin…. an injection to be taken every 12 hours for five days. The doctor says to me “so how long are you going to be around for? You will need to be injected by a nurse”. Me being me and stubborn as hell, I said to him “I leave tomorrow. I will give them to myself. Teach me.”

The giant pile of drugs and injections they sent me home with.

Both the doctor and the nurse stood there dumbfounded because they weren’t sure whether I could do it or not. They demonstrated where I had to inject myself into the buttocks and I dug the needle in and pressed down on the plunger. Too easy. “OK, they said, you seem to know what you are doing, here is your bunch of needles and all of the other pills you will need to take for the next week or so. Good luck!”

I left the doctors office, got into a cab and went back to the hotel where I was met by my tour leader in the lobby. I started to cry for all of the thirty seconds that I allowed myself before telling myself I need to pull my shit together and get about it. There is nothing else I can do about it other than just suck it up and deal with it.

That night I didn’t sleep well. Nor did I sleep well any other night for the whole five nights that this went on. I dreamt of needles. I had anxiety about not doing it properly and my ever growing bruises on my arse. The first time I gave myself an injection unsupervised by medical practitioners I was freaking out. But I did it. I got up and I got on the bus and I went to Bharatpur.

On the third day of having needles I still wasn’ feeling too bad. My symptoms had started to disappear and I was feeling better. It was my day to go to the Taj Mahal. So slowly but surely, I went. I got dressed up in a sari, I did my hair and make up and I went to the Taj Mahal. It was a great experience and I am so happy and lucky that I got to go. Everybody keeps telling me I look so happy and healthy in the pictures. Pictures for the most part lie. I felt happy, but also very weak and very sore. My time at the Taj was cut short by my needle schedule and I had to depart to go back to the hotel to take my fifth needle.

Looking apparently healthy at the Taj Mahal.

The following day after needle six, I was suffering big time. I could barely walk without pain. I had giant bruising on either side of my butt and it became almost impossible to manage. From here we had to leave however and go to Varanasi on the train. This was one of the worst times that I had with needles.

Because of my soreness, they put me in a side berth on the bottom bunk overnight. Many of the Indian locals however found it quite OK to use my hips as bag holders at 2 am when they were getting off the train or to lean over me and put their hands on my hips or knock me as the night went on. The amount of times I cried out in pain and started yelling at people I couldn’t count. And of course they had no idea what was going on and I couldn’t explain as I didn’t speak Hindi.

The morning bought with it a new challenge. Trying to give myself a needle on the train. As the train slowed to a stop, my friend climbed down off the top berth and helped me alcohol wipe down my skin and hands and take the medication into the barrel of the syringe. Whilst she grabbed a chunk of my flesh, I plunged the needle in and started to inject as the train started moving and we had to finish the injection while taking off. We were half concealed by a makeshift curtain sheet that I tied up that didn’t really cover very much and the men on the train sat staring as my butt hung half way out of my pants, but when it is your life and your health on the line, you kind of stop caring. We survived the train needle, needle number eight and we were on our way to the finish line.

My next needle was on the floor of a silk shop in Varanasi. We were visiting there to learn about how to identify real silk from fake ones. Three girls held up a cashmere blanket curtain and I injected myself again with help in style from behind the blanket. The whole thing had become oddly funny. Instead of scheduling my activities around my needles, my needles had just become a part of my activities.

My last needle was the following morning. Never before had I been so happy to not have to deal with anything anymore in my life. I was happy that I could finally rest without having to inject on to bruise after bruise after bruise.

My left buttocks by day 3.

Upon arrival back in Delhi three days later I went to the hospital to get a check up. After x-rays, ultrasounds, blood work, urine samples and the entire works, I left the hospital and went to the hotel to await the results. Two days later they arrived. For the first time in over a month and I half I was infection free. My body had been put through absolute hell and I was tired. I didn’t care too much about being in India even. I wanted somewhere to sleep and rest. I wanted to eat a giant steak to get some protein back into my body to heal my bruised and weary muscles. I wanted so much to not be on the road. But despite all of this, I was incredibly thankful for the amazing doctors in India for figuring it out and dealing with it so thoroughly. And I was incredibly happy to be alive. There is nothing like a near death experience in Nepal followed by severe antibiotic resistant secondary infections to scare the shit out of you. From here on in, I look after myself every day the best I can and am thankful for my health being so good ordinarily.

Calgary Stampede Yeehawww!!!

For the longest of times I have wanted to go to Calgary Stampede. 4 years ago I ran out of money and had to stop and get a job. 2 years ago I didn’t get my relocate a car in time to get to Calgary from Toronto.  But this year I arrived a month early, scored myself a job at the Stampede on the Bell Adrenaline Ranch station and a free pass daily to go with it. Even better, I also scored a job managing the backpackers hostel right over the road from the Stampede Grounds. And so the 12 days of ridiculousness was to begin.

I took one for the team over the first weekend working the night shift at the hostel on the Friday and Saturday night. The Sunday however was to be my first experience of Stampede.

At 6:30am my friend and I awoke to go to Stampede to work for two hours dressed in a sheep costume as Shaun the Sheep and his cute little baby, Timmy. I of course being the shorter of us had to be Timmy the fat baby. We stood in the grand stand and danced and had our pictures taken with a bunch of kids. Some kids pulled Shaun’s tail, one kid ran around hitting my belly and his parents wouldn’t control him. So I may have accidentally head butted him. Tehehe….. It is not like I can see out of the costume anyway. It was eventually time to go and we are tearing down the corridor pretty much blind in the suit while people grab at us for photos. We eventually got out of the hot suits and went home for a nap before the real fun began.

On break time in my Timmy the Sheep outfit.

In the afternoon we began drinking sangria at the house before heading over to go proper stampeding. The atmosphere hitting the gates was great and we made our way first to the mini donut stand. A rookie error on my behalf as it was to start my obsession over the next week with mini donuts. Equipped with food, we headed off to the bar to hang out for a while and grab a few drinks before catching Vance Joy playing at the Coca Cola stage.

Mmm. … mini donuts!

Vance Joy was awesome. We danced, we screamed and jumped up and down. It was awesome. At one point trying to get out of the crowd to a toilet I jumped a fence into a restricted area and then got thrown out over an even bigger fence. It’s a wonder that I didn’t fall on my face to be honest.

Hanging with the girls at Vance Joy

Back to the B Bar it was for more drinks, watching people ride the mechanical bull and dancing on the tables to the Spice Girls before getting kicked off them. Fireworks ended off the evening and it was down the road to the pub.

Monday was a struggle. After a massive detox session it was back to work and doing the double shifts on Tuesday. It was my first day in the evening working on the Bell Adrenaline Ranch with the Cannon Lady and the boys from Keith Sayers doing the Evolution of Extreme motocross show. I was super impressed actually. These guys do some crazy stuff on their bikes.

One of the motocross guys doing a massive aerial jump. Too cool for school.
One of the motocross guys doing a massive aerial jump. Too cool for school.

Wednesday was some more of the same except the wind got up and the shows got cancelled so I got to.go and see the Corral Show of acrobatics and explore around the BMO Centre getting fed donuts and whipped cream from guys we didn’t know and hanging about in the massage chairs. A cruisy day indeed.

Calgary Stampede
Calgary Stampede

On Friday I had my first proper day off work and so I went to go and see the rodeo show. I watched the calf roping, bucking horse, bull riding and the girls.barrel races. It was pretty good. I sat next to a new couple I met there and they explained different things to me and we had a great time judging points.

The rodeo in the main Grandstand.
The rodeo in the main Grandstand.

It was the last of my stampede experiences. And I was glad to have gotten to experience it from so many different angles. Another thing to tick off the bucket list. Done and dusted and ready to set out for the next adventure!

The Nepal Earthquake: Three Months On

I was sitting on a rooftop overlooking the lake in Udaipur when the word came in. “Tell your families you are safe and do it now. There has been a massive earthquake in Nepal and Kathmandu is severely damaged”. I started panicking. My close friend who I had trekked with a bit over two weeks before on Everest Basecamp was still in Kathmandu. She had messaged me the day before saying her bus nearly got ran off the road by a gravel truck and how much of a close call it was.  It wasn’t to be the last of the close calls. I was talking to her about fifteen minutes before the earthquake had struck. I didn’t know where she was, if she was alive, injured or whatever. All I knew was an approximate location.

The Zen Bed and Breakfast where I stayed in Nepal and where my friend was staying during the earthquake. This alleyway caved in and there were cracks in the concrete through the walls of the Zen.

For days we worried. Me, her family,  my tour leader who grew up in Nepal. We worried. And we waited. Eventually news came through that my friend was fine, but as word came through about this, it came through that my tour leader had lost two of his friends. It was an devastating time. We had no idea of what it was that we could do to help and yet we wanted to help.

Patan Durbar Square. The building on the left was a giant pile of bricks by the end of the earthquake. Incredibly sad that such a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site was so badly damaged and destroyed.

The Nepali government even now is still very disorganized.  While I was there they had a traffic strike over their constitution as they haven’t managed to come to an agreement about it. Coordination efforts for delivering emergency supplies were halted severely by the lack of organization of the government. In such disastrous circumstances coordination is one of the most necessary aspects of getting relief to where it is most needed. It is no use having funds and supplies if they just can’t get to where they are needed. And this was very much the case. Half cooked rations of rice were handed out and no water to many of people of Kathmandu. Charity organizations did the best they could in the circumstances. My friend worked for a few weeks building huts and distributing supplies in villages. But even then this didn’t seem enough.

With my new friends after finishing our attempt at the Annapurna Circuit. I am so thankful they are still with us. These local boys are amazing people!

Locals started messaging their friends through Facebook and any means necessary in an attempt to get money for families and rebuilding villages. Many foreigners had their own fundraisers and took the money to Nepal themselves to distribute funding. While many of the people mean well and do the right thing with their money, you never quite know where it is that it is going. It is a tough thing to have faith that your money won’t be hoarded by the rich and organizations and not given back to those that are most in need.

The Pathuputinash. The place where the Hindi people of Nepal cremate and bury their dead in the river that leads into the Ganges.

I feel a massive compulsion to go back. As does my friend and so many others I know that I have been there. My support can go back in the form of hiking and partaking in activities and accommodations within the mountains. The best thing we can do in times like these is help provide support by travelling there and supporting business while they rebuild. I know then where my money goes. I also know that I can spread it around and share it so that it all isn’t going to one place or the deep pockets of those that don’t need it. It is a sad thing that in the biggest times of need for most, many take the opportunity to capitalize. It is always the case in moments of war and natural disaster.

Cashmere scarves I bought at SK Handicrafts in Kathmandu from my friend Keshab.

So three months on…. The country is still strained.  Things are still far from normal. Some villages still struggle to rebuild. And in the grand scheme of things, most people have moved on and forgotten. But to my friends in Nepal who still live with this everyday I am in awe of your bravery. To those who stay and help, I am in awe of your heart and compassion. My health was facing serious issues at the time and I could not have been a help at the time. But I will get back there soon. And hopefully I can make a difference in a community of people who even before this tragedy showed me great heart and kindness. To one of the most amazing countries I have ever visited, I am still with you Nepal. For now in spirit, but hopefully soon in body too.