“I asked the Doctor in Australia what precautions I could take. She said ‘don’t go to tropical countries’. That’s a bit hard when all of my favourite waves are in tropical places.”
Ben Player 2X World Champion Bodyboarder & all round nice guy talks of his brush with Dengue Fever.
What’s Your Favourite Wave At Home?
BP: I love surfing Whale Beach wedge which is my local and Shark Island when it’s uncrowded, which is nearly never!
What’s Your Favourite Wave Abroad?
BP: I love Teahupoo, Padang Padang, Pipeline and Puerto Escondito. All places are warm and tropical which is good but can also be a hazard with viruses and infections
Tell Us About Your Trip. Where Were You, Who Were You With & What Were Your Plans While You Were There?
BP: I was in Bali on the 2007 NMD trip where we were filming podcasts and shooting for a feature story, so I was surfing my arse off.
The day after the trip had ended I felt like I had a sore back when I woke up, but I went on a drive to Ubud anyway. By the time I got to Ubud I had a fever and a headache, so I lay down. That afternoon I could barely move and felt extremely weak. That night my fever got worse and I started hallucinating. The next morning I was almost blacking out from the fever (that might have been from almost overdosing on Paracetamol!). I decided to get my girl friend at the time to take me to hospital which was an hour away. By the time I got there I was falling in and out of delirium. I would wake from it in a crazy shivering fit, and then get too hot and sweat profusely, then pass out.
The next 4 days went on like this. My platelet count (the gauge for how close you are to dying from Dengue Fever) was down to 30/220 which was really low, and my fever got up to 41 degree which is 1 degree off causing brain damage.
Did You Take Precautions Against Mosquitos?
BP: I didn’t at the time. I didn’t know much about Dengue Fever, only really Malaria at that time. I’d heard of Dengue but thought it was mild like the flu or something.
What Treatment If Any Did You Have?
BP: There is no treatment for Dengue fever, you have to wait for your body to form it’s own defence against it and make an anti-virus. The anti-virus is actually the biggest problem with dengue fever as every time you get it, the anti-virus from previous infections reverses, so you’re getting attacked from multiple Dengue Viruses at the same time. There is 4 different strains known, but apparently you only usually make it to 3 before you die, as your platelet count will get too low and you start haemorrhaging all over your body. You usually die from internal bleeding.
How Long Did It Take To Get Better? How Are You Now?
BP: It took about 6 months in total. I couldn’t surf for ages as all of my spacial awareness was out, and doing simple moves like El Rollos was impossible for me. I am fine now, but I can’t risk getting it again. If I get it again I will have to get a blood transfusion to help increase my white blood cells/platelets. I asked the Doctor in Australia what precautions I can take and she said ‘don’t got to troical countries’. That’s a bit hard when all of my favourite waves are in tropical places..
Do You Do Anything Differently On Trips Now As A Result? What Would You Advice To Someone Going On A Surf Trip To A Dengue Fever Area?
BP: I cover up at all times in long pants and shirt and put repellent with heaps of D.E.E.T in it. I don’t like doing this but it’s the only precaution I can take so I do it well. It’s ok in Indonesia though as you look like a local and fit in better, but in places like Mexico it’s kind of weird as everyone has their skin showing.
Read our article for more information on Tropical Fevers.
The images used for this interview have been taken from the following film by Edward Saltau featuring Ben on a recent holiday in Bali. Its an exceptional piece of filming & editing with a candid interview and inspiring surfing.