Traveling overseas can involve a few risks as many seasoned travelers will tell you, and one of the more serious risks is falling ill on a trek.
There is always the concern of inadequate medical care compounded by language barriers. In my college years, my science professor and her husband were on a trip to a small town in Spain, when her husband fell ill, and needed surgery. Since neither of them spoke Spanish, she related to the class the difficult task of communicating with the doctors on her husband’s symptoms and medical treatment. As a medical scientist, she was allowed to participate in the surgery, and all ended well. However, in some cases things may turn tragic. A few years ago one of my close friends, while vacationing in Mexico, experienced chest pains and died of a heart attack in a local hospital.
These events should not deter anyone from traveling since they occur rather infrequently. During my treks, I have been ill very few times. I suffered from food poisoning in Morocco and caught the flu in the Mideast, but these were relatively minor illnesses. On a flight from Paris to New York, I experienced stomach pains and a trip to my doctor the next day revealed it was appendicitis. My most troubling illness occurred on my latest watery trek mentioned in the previous blogs.
There are many creeks, rivers, and lakes that attract visitors, and on a hot day, the urge to splash is irresistible. On one such splashing venture in a creek, I stepped on a thin, sharp bone on the creek bed and it penetrated the sole of my left foot. After a day or two, my foot became swollen, painful, and could not bear my weight. There were no hospitals or doctors nearby, and I was unable to walk unaided. To make matters worse, I caught a fever, and lost my appetite. Transportation to the city was a week away by aircraft, and not guaranteed, so my friends enlisted the aid of a local shaman.
He gave me a bitter tasting concoction to drink made from herbs and plant leaves, and applied the aloe plant to the wound. The aloe plant was cut at one side, and the soft gel like part applied to the wound and wrapped around my foot, bound tightly by leaves and string. Within two days, the swelling was gone and I was back on my feet. The aloe poultice had drawn out the infection or poison from my foot, and the bitter concoction had cured my fever.
Since that experience, I have become a firm believer in local remedies (or “bush medicine” as they call it in the rainforest), especially in the benefits of the aloe plant. In New York, we get a variety of the aloe plant that is different from the one the shaman used, but nevertheless, I always purchase some to keep at home. In my next post, I will expand on local remedies, or “bush medicine”. I am very interested in your stories on local remedies. Do you believe in local remedies or natural cures for sicknesses, or have you taken any? Please share, as it will enlighten me and other readers on this aspect of medical treatments.