June 2: By now, the Gezi Park protests were in full swing. Transportation was shut down in many parts of Istanbul. Tear gas filled the air. People were beating pots and pans outside their windows, flashing their lights on and off in their homes, and drivers were honking their horns at 9pm every night in protest against the government. And I was stir crazy. I had been cooped up for 10 days and had to make my escape.
Tyra and Selen called and invited me over for a few days to get a nice change of scenery. I loaded up on painkillers and headed for the exits.It took me a good 20 minutes (normally a 7 minute walk) to get to the Kadıköy ferry. I just made the last one for the day.
I got across to Karaköy and realized after 15 minutes that the buses weren’t running. I fought with a few taxi drivers, who all refused to take me to Tyra and Selen’s in Kurtuluş, then decided to try my luck at Kabataş.
For a whole hour, I couldn’t get a cabbie to take me anywhere, and by this time my painkillers had worn off. I made my way back to Karaköy and tried with the taxis again. More arguments. More hopelessness.
2 ½ hours after I broke out of my self-made prison, I got a random phone call from my old roommate, Matthias, to see how I was doing. After whining like a little kid, he commandeered a taxi to come pick me up and take me to Kurtuluş. He helped me up the stairs and I settled into my new prison.
June 5: By this time, the pain had gotten so bad, Tyra forced me to go to the local clinic a few blocks away, Kurtuluş Polikliniği. I got down the stairs and onto the street but the pain was unbearable. There was no way I would make it the next couple blocks to the clinic on foot, so Tyra went to borrow their wheelchair. It had a flat tire. Only in Turkey.
Tyra returned with a doctor and the two of them basically carried me to the clinic. I checked in but wasn’t asked any details. They wrote down that I was 29 and from Iraq. I rolled with it.
After waiting for only five minutes, I spoke to the doctor and begged him to test me for an infection. I knew I didn’t have normal arthritis and I had enough evidence that my self-diagnosis of reactive arthritis was correct. He drew some blood and told me to come back in the morning for the results.
On the way back to Selen and Tyra’s apartment, I got caught up in the nightly 9pm protest.
June 6: Yep, infection. Of course, the doctor didn’t want to test any further to see what was causing it. I completely lost it at that point.
“You don’t even know what kind of infection it is! How do you know how to treat me?”
I was then told to relax and come back twice a day for five days of shots of some very strong antibiotics – in the butt. Let’s fast forward…
June 12: I finished my antibiotics and I felt MUCH better! I took myself off all painkillers and was starting to move around a bit more. I was still stuck at Tyra and Selen’s, but I had company so it wasn’t bad (aside from the one night tear gas leaked into the apartment and lingered for a couple hours). I even managed to get into Game of Thrones and watched all three seasons within a five day period. Someone I liked, who happens to be an obsessed fan, recommended it to me. I’m now anxiously awaiting the 4th season. The things we do for women.
June 15: So much for feeling better. My condition completely regressed. I was in so much pain that night, I decided to fly back to Chicago ASAP to make sure this thing got taken care of. I booked a flight for the 20th and tried to make arrangements – first, to get from the European side to my home on the Asian side to pack (I had been at Tyra and Selen’s for nearly 2 weeks), and second, to get to the airport from the Asian side.
June 16: Selen, Tyra, and I had one more night of pots and pans and a “farewell dinner” before I left the next morning.
June 17: Loaded up on painkillers and waited for Isaac to come help me. We stopped to load up on medicine that I can’t get in Chicago, ran by St. Dimitrios Church to light a candle, and jumped on the bus to Karaköy. We grabbed lunch once we got to Asia. I started packing the next day.
June 20: Isaac came over to Asia to help me with my luggage. We grabbed a quick breakfast on the ferry, a taxi to the airport, I checked in, and got on the plane. 12 miserable hours later, I landed in Chicago where I was wheeled through the airport. I ended up detained for 2 hours and questioned by a US Border Agent. That was fun.
June 21: Visited the doctor, took the proper tests, and guess what??? Reactive Arthritis from bacteria I got in Egypt! Self-diagnosis nailed! IN YOUR FACE, RHEUMATOLOGIST!
I told you it was a long, complicated story. Thanks to my amazing friends in Istanbul and a Turkish doctor who actually had a clue, I’m fine now. Another month or 2 and I should be back to full strength.
This is Part 2. Go back to Part 1.