Dennis Cooper, editor of Key West
the Newspaper
, has generously offered to put this announcement in this week's paper; it will catch Sally's blog readers up as well:

Key West’s recovering Realtor and Red Barn Theater regular Sally O’Boyle has reinvented herself as Saratica in the blogosphere and here in Costa Rica. Followers of Sally’s blog are well aware of her mistrust of conventional medicine and her enthusiasm for healing theory that emphasizes staying well rather than treating symptoms.

She may find herself tweaking her theories a bit as she emerges today from 13 days in the intensive care units of both the private and public medical systems here in San Jose. Conventional medicine has saved her life for the second time in less than 10 years.

In the hierarchy of germs causing infectious disease, those that live in the tropics also dwell at the top of the disease food chain. Sally was very nearly last week’s lunch.

What appeared at first to be a mild fever, developed over three days into something closely resembling the mosquito borne tropical favorite Dengue. Also known as ‘bonebreak fever’ for the debilitating joint and body pain that accompanies it, dengue rarely kills you. It just makes you wish you were dead. 

Sally had visited friends in the mosquito rich, rainy, low country of Costa Rica the previous week. High fever and body aches, loss of appetite, and general weakness without flu symptoms convinced a pharmacist and a doctor consulted by phone that dengue was the likely culprit. They advised Sally to drink lots of water, take acetaminophen, and stay in bed.

Sally took lots of acetaminophen, because it made her feel quite a bit better. By the fourth day she was showing symptoms of a acetaminophen overdose, which neither she nor I were aware of. She stopped taking acetaminophen, but her fever was not improving and she now had a persistent dry cough.

In a stroke of luck that probably saved her life, a Costa Rican friend who visits the house for English lessons in exchange for Spanish lessons for me happens to be in the medical equipment business. He knows lots of doctors. He offered to call one who he assured me would gladly make a house call. A what? That’s right A House Call! You bet, I said.

Dr. Roy was at the house within an hour. He apologized profusely for being dressed in jeans and not wearing a tie. I told him I was absolutely certain he was a doctor even without a tie on. He was carrying a stethoscope, after all, and knew lots of medical terms in Spanish.

He did a quick exam and questioned us closely, then took his own car to a medical testing lab in the town where we live (there are lots of them). He returned with a blood sample kit, took a sample and returned to the lab. He waited an hour and a half there for the results. When he returned to the house he told us that Sally’s white blood cell count was dangerously low and that she should go to a hospital right then. As our car had been in the shop for a week, he then drove us to the hospital, a forty-five minute drive in the rain in heavy rush hour traffic.

Dr. Roy stayed with us at the hospital emergency room until Sally had been transferred to the ICU, which was less than two hours. The care was first rate. No waiting. There were four expert doctors in attendance, and an equal number of nurses and attendants. English was spoken when necessary.

The doc adamantly refused the hundred dollars I offered him. He was helping us as a favor to his friend, my Spanish teacher, English student. He would not be insulted with my money. He and my student/teacher have called nearly every day since.

Sally didn’t have dengue fever, she had pneumonia; a particularly aggressive and virulent strain of bacteria had completely taken over her left lung and was busily attempting to invade the other. She was kept in a medical coma for the first week, and received steady doses of powerful antibiotics intravenously. She was also treated for her overdose of acetaminophen, which luckily caused no permanent damage to her liver. Along with making her a cheap date, Sally’s abstention from alcohol probably accounts for her exceptionally resilient liver. The dose of acetaminophen she took was double what is considered toxic.

Today, April 21, will be her first day out of the ICU after thirteen days, and her second day breathing without mechanical aid. She is perfectly miserable, and glad to be alive. She is at San Juan de Dios hospital in San Jose, Costa Rica. Sorry, no phone in the room. We hope to have her home within a week or so to complete her recuperation.

She and I both want to thank the many, many people who have visited, called, sent e-mail and beamed out get-well prayers and vibes during the last couple weeks. Words fail me in expressing in particular our gratitude for the loving support of her friends from that special first-name-only club she has belonged to for over 20 years. They were at her side from the beginning of her ordeal, doing everything in their higher power to help and support her. We can’t thank you enough.

Hal O’Boyle

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