I just this minute got back from the hospital. I went to the nicest private clinic in San Jose as I felt like this was something that I could not screw around with, and I am glad that I did. It was not cheap but it was an extremely nice hospital and I received top notch treatment, however the news was pretty much abysmal.
I have developed some ulcers on my skin that have become infected with some pretty nasty stuff. They aren't sure exactly what all is in there yet but they did some tests and have got me on some heavy doses of antibiotics. They are fairly sure these are tropical skin ulcers which are pretty terrible from what I have learned. I have had a painful rear end for pretty much the entire trip, and so I figured it was just something that I would have to live with. The pain has gotten a lot worse in Central America sometimes causing me to even cry out while riding at the end of the day, but I accounted that to the heat and humidity, and just thought I would have to push through it until I got to the Andes where I would gain elevation into a cooler, drier climate. I guess you should not ignore pain like that.
I told them what kind of trip I was on and asked them a million questions about how it would affect me and apparently these ulcers are caused by a combination of factors, most importantly are open wounds on the skin that come into contact with contaminated water sources. The infection then breaks down soft tissue, eventually causing the tendons and bones to become exposed and damaged resulting in permanent scaring, further infections, fibrosis, and all kind of other terrible maladies including skin grafts if the ulcers grow too large. Worst of all, if left unchecked it often leads to cancer and possibly death. Apparently it is very rare, but people that are constantly exposed to dirty water, have a lowered immune system due to fatigue or malnutrition, and inadequate hygiene or medical care are most susceptible. I fall into pretty much all of those categories while cycle touring.
I am out of immediate danger, but I have to stay here for two weeks minimum while they continue to monitor me and clean the wounds. They think that since the bacteria causing most of the damage should be killed by the antibiotics, that I should begin healing normally, however they warned me not to even think about a bicycle for the next three weeks minimum as if I try to ride before these ulcers are fully healed I run the risk of a new breakout.
They are pulling my medical files from America apparently and I have to go back on Monday to see what the final results of the tests and what not are.
This is obviously pretty sobering news and I am really just reeling from it right now. I do not know what to think or do, but I am going to hang tight until Monday and see what they have to say then.
I am sorry to everyone reading this, there will be a little bit of a pause here in the action as I try and decide what the best thing for me to do is. I knew coming into this that some sort of disease or infection was a possibility, but the idea and the reality of it are two totally different things.