December 6, 2003

My Mind is On the Brink

Posted in General at 3:59 pm by Ian

No post for several days because Ian was So Tired.

You know how, when you’re dreaming, sounds that occur near you sometimes get incorporated into your dream. It’s a survival mechanism, to make sure that you get as much sleep as you need, so it happens even more when you’re exhausted. I knew I was going to be pretty useless on Thursday when I awoke from a dream that involved me playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with an opponent who was clearly not up on the rules of the game, or would otherwise have known that “Bob! Bob! Bob! Bob! Bob!…” is not a valid actor linkage.

Let us travel back, as in a way-backmotron, to the eve of Wednesday, when I was just about to get started on my Environmental Politics work (I was!), when Billy Hoyer gives me a call to tell me he was alright now (this fact will become important to keep in mind as you read further, which, due to the graphic nature of my description, you may not want to do. The summary is listed below, in Billy’s own words.).

I haven’t talked to Billy for at least six months, and I haven’t seen him for about a year probably. He starts telling me about his trip to parts of Asia (he spent a semester in New Zealand), and how he tried to explain what a “ballot” was to brainwashed commies and how he saw cool old temples and didn’t get exploded by land-mines. And how he started feeling rather unwell in Cambodia, eventually developing a persistent fever.

He went to a doctor at a small clinic in someone’s garage. And, by “doctor”, we mean “person who was sufficiently uneducated so as to not get murdered by the Khmer Rouge.” They took some blood (which, Billy said, scared him more than his fever, but they used a sterile needle) and sent it off to the lab, telling him to come back the next day. On his return, he was diagnosed as having Dengue Fever, an entirely unpleasant disease endemic to Cambodia. Then they got his platelet count back. A normal count is 400k or so. His was sub 200, and dropping about 40 per day. Getting down to 50 = dead.

Billy didn’t just have Dengue Fever. He had Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever.

I’d like to take a moment here to refer everyone back to the top, where I said that he’s OK. The entire time I was hearing this story, my jaw hung open. I was in such a state of “must tell someone!” that I started scribbling frantically on my whiteboard and getting suite-mates to read it. Their reaction was the same as mine: Hemorrhagic Fever isn’t one of those things that you think of as happening to people you know.

The story continues: They airlifted him to Bangkok, where a modern hospital is, and watched his condition deteriorate. When his platelet count got down to around 70k, they started giving him transfusions. They found a spot on his lungs, that quickly grew to become a full-blown respiratory problem. Fearing SARS, they set up full barier nursing. Sheets of plastic between him and everyone else, airlocks and a filtration system set up so that no one else breathes the air he’s breathing. He was put on a respirator.

At this point, Billy’s narrative gives out, he says, and he has to rely on what others have told him. He has no memory of about a week. His mother flew out. He started hemorrhaging. Several organs failed. The rest of his family flew out; the doctors told them he would die.

But he didn’t.

He turned it around, waking up to see all four parents in his room looking at him. When he asked what day it was, his mother began to sing “Happy Birthday.” Yes, Billy spent his 21st birthday on a hospital bed in Thailand, hooked up to numerous machines, narrowly escaping death (I have, as a result, pledged to buy him absolute gallons of alcohol next time I see him, as compensation).

Billy’s synopsis:

well to make a long….short i went into cambodia, contracted hemorrhagic fever, almost died, was airlifted to Bangkok, blacked out for a week or so, went into shock from a secondary lung infection they thought was SARS, was placed in a bubble, my parents flew out, and i got better.

So I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much about being tired.


  1. Kevin said,

    Haha…Bangkok. 😀

  2. Liza said,

    Wow. What a story to tell your kids…

  3. Kevin said,

    About the day I read the word “Bangkok” on Ian’s blog? I suppose…but I’d have to wait until they could fully appreciate the humor of the word.

  4. Kevin said,

    Oh, you probably mean the whole going to Cambodia and surviving hemorrhagic fever…yeah, that would make for a pretty good story too I suppose 🙂

  5. Tawny said,

    Thanks for telling Billy’s story. He is my Cousin and I remember these days, waiting to hear if he was going to get better or not. Now he is off to Palau via the Peace Corp. I tell you that Boy has the travel bug, you would think something like that would keep him home from now on!!!

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