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Dengue Fever - Aedes Aegypti MosquitoDengue Fever – Aedes Aegypti Mosquito
Photo Credit: WHO/TDR/Stammers


When my older son, John, was eighteen years old, he took sick with what I thought was the flu. At the Italbras tannery, my Italian boss had arrived in Brazil for a five-day visit by our largest cut-and-sew client. The day our two visitors arrived, John was bedridden with high fever, headache, and muscle and joint pains. Our over-the-counter medicines for fever and colds only provided temporary relief.

Around ten o’clock, when John called me, I knew that something was wrong. His condition had worsened. After telling my boss that I had to take my son to the hospital, I returned to Fortaleza in a company vehicle.

At the nearest hospital, the Outpatients Department was crammed with sick people. Still waiting in line at midday, I bought snacks and drinks for our lunch at the hospital cafeteria. Around one thirty, when I knew my younger son, Stefan, would be home from school, I called to give him the news.

Our turn to see a doctor finally came at three o’clock. The doctor requested blood tests. Off to the hospital laboratory we went. More waiting. After the lab technician took the blood sample, we returned to the Outpatients Department to await the results.

At 5:00 p.m., the doctor gave us his diagnosis: hemorrhagic dengue. His grave expression was not encouraging.

He looked at John. “Your blood platelets are too low. You’ll have to be hospitalized immediately.” Turning to me, he added, “Your health plan doesn’t cover our hospital. You’ll have to go to one in your network.”

Hospitalization. My anxiety bled internally.

I called Stefan again. “Your brother has the worse kind of dengue fever; the one where you can bleed to death. Meet us at Hospital Antonio Prudente. Bring his night clothes and other things he’ll need. Call for a taxi. You’ll take too long by bus.”

At the busy Emergency Department of Hospital Antonio Prudente, we waited until 7:00 p.m. to see a doctor. By that time, Stefan had joined us with his brother’s clothing. The doctor requested another blood sample, to be taken at 9:00 p.m.

“Someone will have to stay with him while he’s in hospital,” the doctor said. “We can’t risk any bruises or cuts to cause bleeding.” He looked at John. “Rapaz, you can’t even brush your teeth.”

Stefan stayed with his brother while I went home to get a change of clothing, nightwear, and other articles for my hospital stay. On my return, it was difficult to send him home alone. He and his older brother had never before spent time apart. I knew that he would be okay. In our apartment building, he had several friends to keep him company. He could also cook his own meals.

The next day, I called my boss. How long I would be away from the office was uncertain – dependent upon John’s platelet count. For four days and five nights, I stayed with my son in the hospital. What a relief when our ordeal was over!