Logan has not been feeling so good lately. She hasn’t been her normally smiley self; before about 4 weeks ago she would smile really big as soon as you made eye contact with her, but starting about a month ago she began to just stare you down instead – no smile. She still giggles and laughs whenever Zoe is running around near her or paying attention to her, but she’s very serious with Carolyn and I. We thought it was just a developmental stage and lamented the loss of the adorable smiles.
On our flight to Sri Lanka on Thursday, June 19th, Carol had Logan in the papoose for the flight and towards the end of the 3.5hr flight she said Logan was really hot. Logie was asleep with her hair all wet from sweat, so I held her outside of the papoose for about 15 minutes and she cooled down a lot. We decided it was just from being sandwiched up against Jean and the body heat getting her hot.
When we took the train ride on Friday, June 20th, we noticed again that Logan was really hot. Her arms, chest and head were very warm and she was sweating, so I held her in a way that allowed lots of cool air to get to her. She cooled down and again we decided it was just body heat from her being snuggled up to us while she took a nap.
On Saturday and Sunday Logan was really cranky, crying a lot, rubbing her eyes and just generally being upset at the world. We decided that she was finally about to sprout some teeth. Zoe had been in pain and wasn’t so happy when she cut teeth, so Logan was the same. It was hard to get Logan to calm down. We tried everything – feeding her, changing her diaper, putting orajel on her gums, and so on. She was just crabby and nothing was soothing her.
On Monday morning it got even worse. On Sunday night we had setup for a van to transfer us from Bandarawela to a hotel in Colombo, leaving our hotel at 9am. We planned on having breakfast from 8-9am and then taking off, but when we got up for showers at 6am Carolyn noticed that our crabby baby now had a rash on her chest. After I got out of the shower Carol announced that it had spread to her face. We panicked…
We told the front desk to postpone the transfer service to 10am and asked that they arrange for us to see a doctor immediately. They called a tuk-tuk and off we went down the road to a local doctor in Bandarawela. I was really freaking out because Zoe and I had received about a dozen mosquito bites the night before when we were outside, and I was fearful that Logan had been bitten earlier and developed dengue fever. All the recent symptoms came together in my mind and I was terrified for my little girl – fever on the plan and train instead of being warm from cuddling with us, painful joints and headaches instead of cutting teeth, and now a rash.
We pulled up to this dumpy building with the front door open and a couple of patients sitting in the waiting room. We took our seats and waited for about 10 minutes until the next group rotated into the doctor’s office and came out, then we were asked to go in. We explained what symptoms Logan had shown and the doctor told us it was a viral fever, which he said are common for children, and he said that while it certainly could be dengue fever he thought it was unlikely. The doctor said to keep her hydrated and it’ll have to run its course. He suggested that we get blood drawn and have it tested to completely rule out dengue, but I asked if she’d be OK for the 5 hour ride to Colombo and he said “for sure”, so I told him we’d wait and have the blood drawn there instead. I wasn’t comfortable with her blood being drawn in this tiny town and if she’s good to go for the ride then I’d prefer to get her checked in the capital where surely the medical services are better.
The doctor gave us a prescription for some medicine to control her fever and we went outside to pay for the visit. I asked how much I owed and the young receptionist-chemist told me “fifty”, so I gladly handed over LKR 50 ($0.38) for the consultation with the doctor and the prescription. That was the cheapest doctor visit I’ve ever experienced in my life. At the time I thought, “you get what you pay for”, but now it is exactly a week later and I realize that he hit the nail on the head, it was a viral fever that went away on its own.
We took the tuk-tuk back to the hotel and ended up being actually swindled for the first time in Sri Lanka. I asked how much we owed him for the 30 minutes of riding us around the corner and back and he thought for a second and said “300”. The ride would have been probably 50 for a local, but I paid the $2.31 and we went to breakfast.
After breakfast we loaded into the van as a wedding party gathered in front of our hotel to take photos. The wedding party had on some pretty fancy clothes and they looked cool posing next to a vintage VW bug.
Even though Colombo is only 200km (123 miles) from Bandarawela, the ride took almost five and a half hours. It’s times like these that you really appreciate the road systems in the US, where at most this would have taken 3.5 hours. I understand that it can’t go too quickly because about 85% of the drive is through twisting roads that hug the sides of the mountains you’re trying to come out of, but there are many places where a little extra dynamite would have gone a long way. Another factor that led to the excruciatingly long ride was that almost every road we went on in Sri Lanka was two lanes (one lane for each direction of traffic), and they never have any sections with double lanes on the same side for passing, so that leads to lots of honking and overtaking of slower vehicles in blind turns. We got behind many slow buses, tuk-tuks and motorbikes.
In case you’re planning a trip and want to know the cost of things, we paid LKR 18,000 for the van ride, which included air conditioning. I don’t think $138 is a huge number for 5 hours in a van, especially considering the driver most likely doesn’t have a fare going back for the 5 hour return trip, but if we’d had more time on this vacation we would have likely saved money and taken the train back to Colombo since the ride was much more comfortable and it felt like a much safer way to travel through Sri Lanka. We were offered a “special discount” price of LKR 16,500 for the ride to Colombo when our driver originally picked us up at the Haputale train station several days earlier, but we couldn’t find him the night before our departure so we ended up paying an extra $12. That being said, the hotel in Colombo tried to absolutely gouge us by offering transfer services for LKR 32,000 ($246), and they quickly dropped it to LKR 22,000 after I responded to their email by telling them they were crooks and trying to rip us off. If you’re making this trip, or something of similar length in Sri Lanka, it appears that LKR 16,000-19,000 is a fair price for private vehicle transportation. By the way, that same hotel tried to gouge us on the ride to the airport by more than doubling the price of what we ultimately paid to a regular taxi that was a brand new Toyota Prius and very comfortable.
During the slow trip to Colombo I sent several emails to private hospitals and lined up a visit for Logan as soon as we arrived. We checked into our hotel, were given a room with a nice view along the waterfront, then Carol and Logan went to a nearby private hospital for Logan to get checked out. Zoe and I stayed behind and worked on getting our room moved since they were doing heavy construction above and beside our room. Carolyn was back within an hour and said the doctor told her that Logan had a heat rash and wasn’t used to the tropical heat. She tried to explain that Logan was born in Singapore and has lived her entire life except for a 2 week trip to the US in the tropics. He tried to explain to Carolyn that the heat in Sri Lanka is different than what we Westerners are accustomed to, but apparently he hasn’t looked at a map recently or he’d know that Singapore and Johor Bahru are much closer to the equator than Sri Lanka.
Apparently this doctor had seen children with dengue fever before though and he said that if Logan had dengue she’d be screaming and wouldn’t let Carolyn hold her like she was because she would be in too much pain, and he said she wouldn’t have been eating or drinking like she had been. Again, in retrospect the first doctor in Bandarawela was correct because now that this all happened almost a week ago I know that the rash cleared up over the next two days and Logan started smiling and playing again as the viral fever cleared up, but Zoe and I caught whatever it was and we were both violently ill for a little over 24 hours just after getting back home from Sri Lanka. My temperature got up to 103.2F and I was shivering underneath a comforter even though Carolyn said I was burning up and sweating, and Zoe threw up a half dozen times and had a fever too. We’re all finally good to go now, but it was a bad situation and very scary when we weren’t sure what was wrong with Logan.
We eventually relaxed at our hotel in Colombo and wound down or Sri Lankan trip in a quiet fashion. We were relieved that Logan would be ok, we had really enjoyed the train ride and tea plantations, and the people in Sri Lanka were the undisputed highlight – all very friendly. The rooftop bar had nice views looking down towards a large green area along the ocean, and late into the night they served some pretty decent mojitos. The next morning I got up early and walked along the oceanside with Zobug, where she posed beside a cannon and a policeman let us pet his horse. We finally checked out of our hotel and caught a taxi to the airport and left Sri Lanka.
We got to our car around 11:45pm on Tuesday night and didn’t get back home until almost 4am. I slept for a couple of hours and went in to work on Wednesday. On Thursday and Friday Zoe and I were very sick, and this weekend was a long holiday weekend because Ramadan has begun here in Malaysia.
Here are the final pictures from our trip to Sri Lanka, taken just before our departure from Bandarawela (while our little Logie was sickly) and of Colombo: