Days 304 - 336: Parasites, Heart Surgery and Airplanes

Still snowy...

Quito, Ecuador to Kingston, Ontario, Canada ... By the unfortunate airplane 

A lot has happened in the last month, it is in fact a little shocking how much our lives have changed in such a short period of time.  I sit writing this from a cozy little apartment in my home town of kingston, Ontario.   It feels worlds away from our bike trip life in South America,but right now it is where we need to be.  But, I'll back up and start from the beginning...

Parasites in Quito and Fevers in Canada

About one day after I wrote the last journal entry I got really really sick.  I was feverish, I had stomach pains, and I had enough bathroom visits to last me weeks.  It was downright miserable, and poor Glenn had to put up with my fears that I was bound to suffer in this way for the rest of my life, and that I would never be able to tour again.   I went to the doctor, she ordered three days of tests, and proclaimed that I was 'full of parasites'.  I had an amoeba, giardia, and a little bacteria for good measure.  She gave me some pills and ordered some more rest.  I was feeling much better but still very low energy.  After about a week at Santiago's Casa Cyclista we were getting pretty bored, and were starting to feel that we were wearing out our welcome, so we decided to pedal up to Quito's city centre and stay there until I felt fully recovered.  We found a very reasonable place, and enjoyed a few days wandering around at a slow pace.

Meanwhile back in Canada my dad was also sick.  He started a fever around the same time that I did, but his just wasn't going away, and he was becoming more and more drained being ill.  He had  had a pacemaker put in just six weeks earlier, in fact that was the reason he wasn't able to join us in Panama.  My sisters and I were getting more and more concerned and he was being stubborn, telling us he just needed to 'wait it out'.... 

More than just the flu

It was a Sunday just over three weeks ago when we were finally thinking of pushing out of Quito, but I woke up still feeling low energy... So we decided that since we had the time the best thing would be to wait until I was feeling healthier.  That morning we joined hundreds, if not thousands of cyclists in the streets of Quito for the weekly 'ciclopaseo', an amazing event where over 50 km of  roadway (or more!) are blocked off to motorized traffic and reserved for cyclists.   Quito sets quite the example for the world in this respect.  It is very inspiring to experience this, and we were both in good spirits... 

However, when we returned to the hotel I found a plethora of messages from my sister saying that my dad had been taken to hospital by ambulance.  His fever had become so severe that he was unable to lift his arms.  The only information that I could get from the hospital that day was that they were doing tests.  The next day they had some test results and had found an infection on his heart, and there was suggestion that surgery may be necessary.  It is hard to explain how powerless I felt, and how far away.  After much discussion in a short period of time, it was decided that I needed to go home, hopefully just for a week - but as there were still far more questions than answers we would need to play it by ear.  I quickly packed what I would need, and I was able to get a flight that night.

When your world changes over night...

As I rode in a taxi to the airport I became acutely aware of not being with Glenn.  We had spent the last ten and half months being together almost constantly, quite amazing really.  We have been together for a very long time, but during this trip we have grown to know each other more than I ever could have imagined.   

Just eighteen hours after leaving Quito I arrived in my hometown of Kingston.  I was so consumed by the unknown status of my dad's health that I didn't have much time or energy to notice the cold weather, the calm traffic, or the uncanny sense of order.  I just bee-lined for the hospital.   There I found my very unwell dad, who was pretty confused about what was happening and generally miserable.  More tests were being done, but it was clear that he had a bad infection.  The medical team was deciding what the best course of action would be.

The next day we received the news that the best, in fact the only, course of action was surgery. They had found that the infection had eaten through one of his heart valves and there was a good possibility it had spread to other areas in his heart... 

In the next days there was a lot of waiting... For the surgery to start, for the surgery to be over, for him to make it though the first 24, then 48 hours.  Now, he is three weeks post-surgery and he is doing really well.  But, he will remain in hospital for another three weeks to treat his infection with IV antibiotics. 

Two weeks in spent in different worlds

Ali's time in Canada:

After the surgery I changed my ticket to stay one more week... Hoping that arrangements could be made for my dad and my younger sister that would allow me to leave.  My older sister, Meghan, had arrived by this time and we were desperately trying to figure out some semblance of a plan.  Unfortunately, my dad does not have a spouse, so when he is unable to do what he normally does the responsibility falls on his children.   

In the end, with my dad being in hospital for a total of almost two months, the best amongst a bunch of bad options seemed to be for me to stay in Kingston until just after my sisters wedding on June 1, 2013.  With this decision finally (and painfully) made, I told Glenn and I needed him to fly back to Canada...

My first two weeks in Canada were spent in extreme contrast to our bike trip lives. Sleep was hard to come by, stress was a plenty, and exercise consisted of walking up and down the hospital halls... Needless to say by the time Glenn arrived I was a bit of a wreck. 

Glenn's time in Quito:

With Ali back in Canada, I suddenly found myself living alone. This was very strange, after having spent so much time together. My days lacked structure and direction, and although this felt vaguely like freedom, the stronger feeling was of emptiness. I had already visited many of the tourist attractions of Quito, so I needed to find something else to fill my time.

I decided to finally sign up for Spanish lessons, and in the end studied a total of 20 hours. This was an interesting experience, and definitely helped me to clean up and strengthen the Spanish we had been learning very informally during our travels. For something more fun, I rented a mountain bike on three occasions, and explored some of the fantastic trails in Quito. From downtown, you can hop on your bike and in half an hour be in a forest large enough to spend multiple days exploring.

I also managed to find some more museums, galleries, restaurants, and parks to pass the time in, but the focus of every day was inevitably any communication with Ali about how things were going back in Canada. Eventually it became clear that I would also need to return, so I packed up our bikes and all our gear and got on a plane. It was sad to leave, but I looked forward to being with Ali again. Before I knew it our plane was descending and I could see Toronto out my window, where Ali and I would reunite and continue our unpredictable journey together.


Some photos of our first chilly long ride in Canada

The Canadian Pause: Part One