Dream holiday turns to nightmare

HOLED up in bed with fevers, migraines and muscle pain is not the way Jack Hockley and Tenielle Matheson expected to spend their Fijian holiday.

It was supposed to be a week of fun, sun and surf, but when the Pottsville couple were suddenly struck down with a mysterious illness resembling dengue fever, it turned into the holiday from hell.

Mr Hockley and Ms Matheson, both 22, became so sick they had to be rushed to hospital on arrival back in Australia where they spent another week bedridden and hooked up to drips.

Mr Hockley said he had been to Fiji several times before and had wanted to take Ms Matheson there, so on December 1 they set off for a week's stay on the Coral Coast of Viti Levu.

"For the first three days we had a good time," Mr Hockley said.

"We went scuba diving and snorkelling, then on the third night I started shivering but the temperature was boiling hot."

Mr Hockley's symptoms included muscle and joint pain, headaches and fever. The next morning Ms Matheson experi- enced the same thing and the symptoms continued through the remainder of their holiday.

They knew they should see a doctor, but Mr Hockley was determined that the couple not end up stuck in a Fijian hospital, so he suggested they ride it out until they got back to Australia.

But Ms Matheson's illness took a turn for the worse on the charter bus to Nadi International Airport, and things just kept on going downhill from there. "Tenielle was so sick she fainted on the plane," Mr Hockley said. "She was just see-through; all the colour was gone from her face."

Ms Matheson said she began to panic when she couldn't hear the flight attendant talking to her.

"She was sitting right next to me and trying to sooth me, but I couldn't hear what she was saying so I freaked out," she said.

Mr Hockley said: "We were pretty sure it was dengue fever because I had used my phone to Google the symptoms, but we had to keep it to ourselves because you aren't supposed to get on the plane if you are that sick.

"The crew radioed forward to Brisbane Airport and told them there were sick people on board.

"When we got there, customs, immigration and quarantine had to clear us before anyone could get off the plane. It turns out they had an ambulance waiting for us and we were taken straight to Royal Brisbane Hospital."

Both their temperatures were up at 39.8C, with the paramedics telling them that they were nearly at the stage where they would have a fit and begin hallucinating.

In hospital they underwent rigorous testing for dengue fever (which is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes), malaria, Ross River fever and other viruses they may have picked up in Fiji, but the results were negative. In an unusual turn of events, Mr Hockley's brother, who had not been to Fiji nor visited the couple in hospital, was soon struck down with the same symptoms. Ms Matheson said it was possible all three of them had picked up a virus before she and Mr Hockley left for Fiji.

"The worst thing is not knowing what it was or whether it will come back," Mr Hockley said. Now free of the symptoms but with some remaining liver damage, the couple can laugh about their lengthy ordeal.

But, Ms Matheson says, she is not in a hurry to travel again or return to Fiji.

"I won't be going back any time soon," she said.

Mr Hockley urged other travellers to be wary and to ensure they use insect repellent.



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