Was it the flu in Peru?

6am flight out of San Francisco. I’m headed to Peru for a little adventure, going to visit Lima for a few days and head to Cusco and Machu Picchu, with my friend Niall from Disrupting the Rabblement.

I hate early morning flights. 10am is about the earliest I like to fly out. That means I can not be stressed out in the morning and I don’t have to get up inhumanely early.

But this day, I used airline miles to book everything. And 6am was the only flight they had available to Houston, to get me to Lima.

To Lima, or bust
To Lima, or bust

And for the past 3 days, I’ve had body aches, coughing, and even a slight fever.

But I’m committed. The trip is set in stone. The flu is not going to stop me from this trip! Anyway, usually when I get a cold or flue it’s overwith in 3-5 days. My immune system is solid and worst case, I spend the first few days in Lima resting up.

My flight lands in Lima, it’s about an hour late. It’s 11pm. My head is pounding and I’m feeling like I have a fever of about 104. The only thing I want to do is get to my hotel and sleep for 10 hours or so. But….the immigration line is out of control! I would have thought at 11pm on a Wednesday night, it might be an easy time to enter a country.

Nope! 1 hour, 10 minutes later, I get through the line and get stamped on and on my way. The airport is insanely crowded. I can barely move through the mobs of people. I find an ATM, get some Soles (Peruvian cash), and walk outside and take the first cab driver. He tells me it’s 120 Soles to get to my hotel. I have no idea if that’s a ripoff or not, but at this point, I don’t care. I agree, and get in.

40 minutes and I’m at my hotel. Check in, go to bed. Sleep 9 hours.

Why not feeling better? Hmm. I grab breakfast and go for a walk to pick up a giant water. I find a place to buy some “ibuprofeno”, since my headache is not going away. This drug seems to do the trick and make me feel somewhat normal.

I go back to the hotel and grab a coca tea, thinking this might help things too, maybe cure my “flu”. No chance, zero effect and I didn’t like the taste. Niall comes by, and we go out to lunch with a new friend he just met in his hostel. The walk and food seem to pick me up.

Lima has some nice weather, and some busy roads. I’m in no mood to deal with loud noises or car pollution. That night, we meet up with Heather Thorkelson, who I knew from my interview on the Freedom Lovin’ Podcast. Fun time. I felt decent beyond my cough. Great conversation and really enjoyed chatting with Heather.

I keep thinking, “if I get more rest and sleep, I will beat this thing.” I wake up the next day with another headache, pop some ibuprofen, and feel OK. My cough is getting a little worse but I look at that as a good thing.

Niall is doing a trip around the world without flying. So I’m game to take the bus with him to Cusco. Hell, it’s only 23 hours! Actually the bus turned out to be really nice- seats go all the way back. We had a fun time chatting for hours on the way up. When it came time to sleep, I started getting a big headache again.

BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. My head pounded as the bus rocked back and forth. Chest congestion getting worse. Hours went by and not a lot of sleep happened. Then it was morning! We stopped on the side of the road for “breakfast”. I couldn’t imagine feeling much worse. Nausea all the way. When I coughed, my head hurt. I tried not coughing, but that was impossible.

Oddly, I had this feeling that, even though I felt pretty sick, “this was going to work out fine”. I always rebound from stuff pretty good. This would be no different.

Get to Cusco, grab a nap, shower, water, food. I’m starting to feel normal again! Cusco has lots of old architecture. Stuff looks like it’s falling apart on the outside, but often will be quite nice when you go in. There’s even a Starbucks with the old style Spanish architecture on the outside, but going in you get a modern coffee shop with lots of seats and outlets (along with nice views!).

It's everywhere now. Just relax and enjoy it!
It’s everywhere now. Just relax and enjoy it!

So at this point I’m thinking I’m on the road to recovery. Night hits, and I’m starting to fade. I get another night in the hotel while Niall heads to a local hostel. My head feels like it’s going to explode this night. I couldn’t eat anything. I wanted to die. I knew I had to go to a doctor.


No point in waiting. I get up the next day and eat what I can stomach, then head to this hospital where I got a recommendation for a doctor. I’m having a hell of a time even walking. I’m completely out of breath and exhausted. The hospital looks scary. I go in, and they tell me, in English, that the doctor will be back in 30 minutes. 1 hour 15 minutes later of waiting and I’m in.

The words I dreaded hearing were “We’re going to have to keep you here”. Diagnoses: pneumonia. I wasn’t surprised about the pneumonia. I know who I got it from. And I hadn’t felt this sick with anything since I had chicken pox at like 9 years old! But I had no idea I would have to stay overnight. Then he says “probably 2 days.” UGHHHH! Wow. Well the problem was my oxygen levels were dangerously low, and I needed to get on oxygen ASAP. Since I didn’t see what my choice was, I said yes, okay, let’s do it.

I survived a Peruvian hospital!
I survived a Peruvian hospital!

They gave me a room. They hooked me up with oxygen. They gave me an IV (which took 3 times to set, really not fun!). Even though the hospital was a bit 3rd world and I was having a hard time communicating with the Spanish-only speaking nurses, I wasn’t worried, I just wanted to start feeling better. Within an hour, my headache started fading. 2 hours later I was feeling quite a bit better! They checked my O2 levels about every hour. They gave me drugs via the IV to start kicking the pneumonia. I knew this was what I needed. The worst thing of all was that my cell phone ran out of batteries! I managed to snap this shot just before it went dead:
I was stuck with a crappy TV with bad Spanish shows, but also with VH1 & HBO. I watched a horror flick and went to sleep. It was fitting. I slept poorly and got woken up at 6am to get my O2 levels checked again. Things were looking up. I started getting consistently good readings all morning. My doctor came by about 10:00 and gave me the green light: I’m free!

Armed with mucho pills, I was ready to face the world of Cusco once again.


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Kevin Koskella

Kevin is a podcaster and writer on living free, despite the crazy world we live in. Kevin travels full time and explores the world and how to achieve and maximize freedom in life.

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