Monday, February 06, 2006

Nasty Feets, Part I

Porto Velho, Brazil

We were in the pantanal (the world's largest inland swamp, natch) for two days before I first noticed the swelling. There were a bunch of moscos and other nasty biters along with a lot of trekking, so my legs were always kind of sore and scratchy. But, on this particular day, I noticed that my left ankle was especially bothersome. I took a closer look and saw that it was a bit swollen. Meh. On a trip like this, especially in the jungle, you occasionally get bouts of tenderness and/or swelling from twists, insect bites, overheating, over-walking, blah, blah, blah. So, I was intrigued, but not really worried. I forgot about it.
Two days later, we were bouncing our way back out of the swamp to the relative civility of Campo Grande, when I got a sudden attack of the devil shits. I had to poop like nobody's business, and we were being kicked and battered about in the back of that truck like a soccer ball. It was rough. Luckily we managed to stop just enough times for me to avoid any really embarrassing situations. Actually, one of those times, I found out too late that there wasn't any toilet paper, so I had to use some crumpled up pieces of paper from the little mini-journal that I always keep with me... but I digress. The point is, somewhere in there, I took an Imodium, so I wouldn't be in serious trouble on the long-ass busride we were about to take. That was a mistake.
The next day, around noon, The OC was on said long-distance bus, 13 hours into a 36-hour trip across the jungles of Brazil when I noticed that both of my feet were still sore. I had just been sitting and sleeping for a while, and we had ridden horses across the pantanal a few days before, so I figured I was just the normal type of old-man soreness. But, I took a closer look, just to be safe.

Fucking gross.

Both of my feet were swollen like two bags of water. And not just my ankles, either. The tops of my feet and the sides were bulging out, too. And they were red and kind of warm to the touch. Not exactly what you want to see when you are 24 hours away from a hospital. The only "good" news was that they weren't really painful. They were sore, but not painful. I could still walk on them without issue. Also, I still had all the feeling and a full range of motion, so I figured it couldn't be anything too bad.
I decided to wait until we arrived in Porto Velho before doing anything about it. We probably could have gotten the bus to stop, but I had no idea where we were, or how close the nearest hospital was, or how we would even get to that hospital once we convinced the bus driver to stop. So, I played the waiting game.
I spent the next half-day on the bus playing around with these two Brazilian kids (Felipe and Gabriel), speaking with them in a broken spanish-portuguese hybrid and showing them how to play DOOM on my laptop, all the while trying to put the swollen feet out of my mind. As the day wore on and night fell, though, I started imagining all kinds of horrible things...

What if I have foot parasites, or gangrene? Is it possible they'll want to amputate because I waited too long? Could this be diabetes? Maybe I've got the gout.

As I was trying to fall asleep, This old man behind us was having a "conversation" with the people on our right. And by conversation, I mean a ten minute monologue. He was droning on and on about some unrecognizable topic, occasionally pausing for a moment to let his point sink in or to take a heavy breath. The thing is, with his drawled portuguese, it sounded like he was chanting. Add to that the slow, rhythmic swaying of the bus on the road, and the freaky partial-illumination provided by the weak ceiling lights, and you can get a better picture of the mood I was in. I felt like I was in some horrible voodoo slasher movie, with the tribals humming around me, making my legs swell more and more, until snakes burst out of them.

It was not so easy getting to sleep that night.


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