On April 11, 2011, as a side note in his journal, Dave wrote he was feeling very fatigued and had a slight headache. That in itself meant nothing, but in the coming months, it gave us a clue to something larger. Something we call “Dave’s mystery illness.”
As the symptoms came and went a few times, Dave thought he must have a virus, something easy to pick up in Eastern Africa. Before deploying, Dave went through a series of shots and took daily anti-malarial medications while in the region. Nevertheless, sometimes a bug still gets through. Apparently, that is what happened. About a week after returning home at the end of May 2011, Dave was dragging, beyond the normal jet lag. Then he discovered blood in his stool. The base clinic could not see him so they referred him to an urgent care clinic for an examination and some blood tests
A few days after his visit, the urgent care clinic called and told Dave his liver enzymes were through the roof and he needed to see his primary doctor as soon as possible AND to stop his drinking immediately! Dave and I drink maybe a glass of wine a week and he’d been gone for seven months in countries where alcohol is not free-flowing. We chuckled over that.
However, we were not chuckling about the liver enzymes. Tests on vials and vials of blood could not come up with an answer why he had hepatitis. A few times, Dave gave 15 vials of blood per draw. First, the diagnosis came back asQ fever, a common disease in rural, farm areas. Dave went to a cardiologist and an infectious disease specialist. With Q Fever, sometimes the heart can get involved, but his heart was fine. The infectious disease specialist did not think it was Q fever even though the test came back positive. He felt it was Hepatitis E. We never heard of that disease. Both times the tests turned out negative, but the doctor was not convinced.
After a few months of doctors disagreeing, his liver enzymes started coming down without any medication, but he was still so fatigued and very foggy. At one time, he could not remember his deputy’s name. Another time, he forgot the route we took to the base and went a different way. He did not remember my brother and his family being at a family reunion.
He felt guilty because he missed a lot of work or worked half days. For my workaholic husband this was very hard to take. We missed many social engagements, too. I could not promise we would be somewhere because we never knew how he would be feeling.
Finally, one day in the commissary, I ran into our general’s wife. She asked if I wanted her husband to order Dave to go to Brooks Army Medical Center in San Antonio. This time I said “yes.”
After three trips to San Antonio and a liver biopsy, his levels were close to normal and we still had no diagnosis. The doctor said they did not know what caused the hepatitis, but something “really pissed off his liver, but now it was going away.” His body miraculously healed itself.