Sunday, February 26, 2012

Turbulent Tropics

I absolutely love reminiscing!  One of my favorite things to do is to bring up past memories with my friends and family members.  I relive these moments in my head before they spill out in laughter or crying or whatever emotions they entail.  A lot of times, I pull out the photos to reminisce even more.  It’s my way of enjoying those times again.  How about you?  Do you love reminiscing as much as I do?!

There are many memories I love to think about, but there’s one I’d love to tell you about right now.  My husband and I can laugh about it now, but at the time – trust me – we weren’t laughing!  Let me tell you more…

My husband and I got married the summer of 2004.  Since my husband is a farmer, we took a short mini-honeymoon for a few days immediately after our wedding.  We decided to wait to go on a bigger trip in the winter, because it would be easier for my husband to take time off and it would be fun to enjoy the warm weather, since we live in the Midwest where the winters are cold and long.

We spent six months waiting for our tropical dream getaway to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.  During our wait, and as you already know, we got pregnant with our daughter.  Because I was so sick and because there was a risk traveling overseas to a third-world country while being pregnant, we debated whether or not we should still go.  We knew a couple who had gone while they were pregnant, so we talked to them.  They gave us some pointers to help with our decision.  We also talked with my doctor and she said it would most likely be safe, as long as I didn’t drink the water.  So, we decided to keep our travel plans and head to Punta Cana in Jan. 2005.

The day we left, it was a very cold day.  The wind-chills were well below zero so it made boarding the plane to a warm, tropical resort even sweeter.  We were both excited to spend seven days in the sun, enjoying each other at an all-inclusive resort.  Our flight was between 5-6 hours long, so we had plenty of time to talk, watch movies, read, and sleep.  We did a little of everything .  Since we were 3 ½ months pregnant with our first baby, I thought it would be fun to talk about baby names.  During our flight, we narrowed our names to the top three girl names and top three boy names. 

After a long flight, we landed at the very small airport in the Dominican.  We made it through Customs before loading onto a bus to drive to our resort.  The bus ride was about a ½ hour long, but it only seemed about 10 minutes.  The sites we saw tore at our hearts and actually made us somewhat regret going there for fear of our safety!   Mountains of garbage littered the streets and ditches.  There were kids running around in tattered clothing.  Families stared at us from their shacks.  This country was poverty-stricken and it made us feel almost ashamed that we were heading to a 4-Star resort for a week.  Reality struck – we weren’t in America and we decided we’d better take the advice of many others to stay on the resort.

Seeing our resort was a welcome site.  It was guarded all the way around with large decorative fences and men dressed in uniforms with machine guns.  The security men made us feel safe and unsettled all in the same breath.  What had happened that this resort needed to be guarded by men with machine guns?! We soon forgot as we felt paradise envelope us.  The resort was gorgeous!  The beach was unbelievable and we were so excited to relax and enjoy everything our honeymoon was ready to offer.

The first couple of days were paradise.  We spent most of our days on the beach relaxing and saying how happy we were we came.  We were both careful not to drink the water or have any ice in our drinks.   I even went as far as to keep my mouth completely closed while I was showering and not to use any water when brushing my teeth.  We cautiously chose our food at each meal and were pretty confident we would both be just fine.   Despite all of our precautions, the second night took a turn for the worse.

We had gone to bed feeling great.  After eating a wonderful supper at a Japanese restaurant, we danced a little under a starlit sky before going to bed.  Somewhere around 1 a.m., I woke up.  You know the feeling…that gurgling in your tummy that keeps getting louder and more unsettled.  After trying to decide what was going on with my stomach, I made a run for the toilet.  It wasn’t long before I realized this wasn’t going to be a one-time thing.

I spent most of the night vomiting and sitting on the toilet.  As the night went on, I got weaker and weaker, since I couldn’t even keep any water down.  By 7 a.m., I was so weak I could barely stand.  I was delirious and told my husband we needed to get on the first flight out of there so I could get home to make sure our baby was o.k.  Obviously I was in no condition to head back to the airport, make it through customs or get on a plane for 6 hours.  After about another hour or two, my husband decided I’d better go to the resort clinic.  I was so weak that he had to carry me to a golf cart to get me to the clinic.  It was over 80 degrees and I was shivering and barely knew where I was at.

Once we got to the clinic, my husband carried me in and set me down on a leather couch.  I don’t remember much because I was so weak.  I do remember there were several others in the clinic with the same symptoms.  Eventually, I was laid on a stretcher and pushed back to the ER.  The doctors tried for a long time to find a vein to hook up an I.V., but because I was so dehydrated, they weren’t having much luck.  After what seemed like eternity, they finally found a vein and started pumping fluids into me.  Because I was pregnant, they weren’t comfortable treating me any further and said I needed to head to the hospital, which was off the resort.  Remember the things we saw before making it to our resort and the guys with the machine guns?  We were told to NEVER leave the resort and here we were getting ready to leave.  Both of us were scared, but we needed to do what was best for me and our unborn baby.

The ambulance ride took about a ½ hour.  I moaned and groaned in pain most of the way.  My husband honestly thought I was going to die.    At least my vomiting and diarrhea had stopped so there was a little bit of relief for me.  Our tropical honeymoon in paradise seemed more like a horror movie at that point!

After a lot of waiting, I was finally admitted to a room on the second floor.  The hospital reminded me a lot of what an American hospital in the 1950’s would’ve looked like.  It was very small and had out-of-date décor and equipment.  Both my husband and I weren’t sure what type of care I would receive, but we didn’t have many options at that point.

Then there was the language barrier.  Luckily there was always one nurse per shift who spoke broken English.  In H.S., I had taken Spanish and had somewhat kept up on it, so I was able to vaguely communicate with the nurses and doctors, but it was still very scary.  Being in a foreign country, unable to fully communicate is a very unnerving feeling!

Very long story short, I spent 2 ½ days alone in that hospital.  They wouldn’t let my husband stay, so each night, he was forced to take a cab back to the resort alone.  Our cellphones didn’t work, so once he walked out of the room, I didn’t know if I would see him again.  It scared me to death that he would get mugged or even worse, killed, and that I’d never see him again.  I spent both nights in and out of the bathroom letting the virus run its course and watching Spanish T.V.  By the third day, I wanted to leave in the worst way.

On that third day, a nice female doctor finally gave me an ultrasound to confirm that our baby was still o.k.   Seeing her little heartbeat was a welcome site, one that was met with tears of joy.  Eventually we slowly got into our cab to head back to our resort.  This was the longest ride of my life!  My stomach was still a mess and I wasn’t sure I was going to make it back without an accident (and, no, I’m not talking about a car accident, although Dominicans are crazy drivers!)

The rest of our honeymoon was spent trying to recover and yearning for it to end.  A day or so before we left, my husband started getting sick.  We started and ended the same way!  We couldn’t wait for our trip to begin and then we couldn’t wait for our trip to end.  I’ve never wanted to get home more than I did at that moment!

Once we made it home, we saw on the news that there had been a noravirus outbreak down there and they actually had to shut down the borders.  We were very thankful we had made it out before that happened!

For about a couple weeks afterwards, our bodies had to detox themselves from the virus.  I had huge cold-sores all over my entire face and didn’t feel very good.  I looked like an alien!  Eventually, our health improved and we could smile about our “dream” honeymoon.  The main thing is that we made it out alive and our baby was o.k.

Thankfully, my husband and I were able to get reimbursed for almost all of our costs due to the outbreak.   We decided we would take our money and save it for another trip to somewhere in the U.S.  Guess what?  It’s been 7 years and we still haven’t taken that second honeymoon!  I saved all of our medical receipts for proof, so maybe someday we can enter a contest and win a trip.  Until then, we’ll just laugh about our romantic getaway!  ;)

Do you have any stories where something that should've been fun somehow went terribly wrong?  I love a good story.  Please share! 

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