Large and Small – The Injuries and Ailments I’ve Had Fighting in Thailand

Injuries and illnesses both large and small I’m often asked whether or not I’ve experienced a particular type of injury that the person asking is currently suffering from, generally...

Injuries and illnesses both large and small

I’m often asked whether or not I’ve experienced a particular type of injury that the person asking is currently suffering from, generally seeking advice on how to deal with it. I’ve been very lucky in that I haven’t suffered any large, chronic, or debilitating injuries throughout my 6 years as a full-time fighter, only very rarely taking time off from training, and fighting over 200 times in the country. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t had any. I realized recently that I haven’t generally write in detail about my injuries, at least as much as I thought I might have. I’ve written over a 1,000 blog posts on 8limbs.us and only a handful are about injuries, even though I’m dealing with injuries almost all the time. This is for a couple of reasons: 1) I don’t tend to meditate on injuries very much as I’m experiencing them in training (I seldom stop training), because it’s easier to ignore them and train either through or around them if I’m not focusing on them; and 2) when I’m recovered from injuries I completely stop thinking about them at all. If I gave them very little mental real state when I had them, they get pretty much zero after I’ve recovered to the point where I may even forget that they happened at all. I always feel injured in some way, one pain sliding into the next, it’s almost as if it just moves around, and any individual injury just washes down the stream. When I made this list, for example, there were numerous ailments or injuries that I had to go, “oh, right, forgot about that.” I have written about injury in general and how that’s different from being “hurt,” as well as the most common injury in Thailand which is the knotted, bruised shins from fights, and how to recover from stitches. This article is just an attempt to paint a broad picture of what kind of injuries and ailments I’ve had over the years in Thailand so far, and what I did to deal with them.

So here it goes, I’m writing about them all in one place. And I guess I can add to this post whenever a new one comes up. I’m not a doctor, I rarely seek medical advice for my own injuries so I don’t even have second-hand medical advice to offer, but I’ve managed to get through all of these with little to no chronic/long-lasting damage, other than cosmetic: like scarring or a crooked nose. And these are in no particular order, just how I remembered them as I made the list.

Broken Nose (x4)

I’ve broken my nose 4 times. Once in a fight, 3 times in training. The first time was a not-so-hard punch that clipped at an angle and off-set the bone at the top of my nose just a little. It created a little cut, as well. This was early in my first year of fighting in Chiang Mai and against an opponent I would face many times over, Yodying Sor. Sumalee. I won that fight and due to shyness I didn’t go see the doctor and decided to just let the little cut heal by itself. My trainer at the time said that it probably needed 1 stitch but it was late and we all wanted to go home and so we did. The next day the bridge of my nose was very swollen and I had two mild black eyes. Kevin and I referred to this swelling and the effect it had on my face as “Puma Nose,” as it kind of gave me a cat-like appearance due to the width of the bridge at the top. Here’s a video of me playing with the cut on the bridge of my nose when we got home after the fight, kind of giddy and before there was any swelling. It was the next day that it became evident than it was more than this cut, but I don’t think we even knew then that it was broken. It took a few days and the intense tenderness for me to surmise that diagnosis. I regret now not having gone to get that one stitch, as in doing so the doctor might have been able to see that my nose was broken and reset it right then and there. But, so it goes. I had to fight Yodying a week later and was kind of freaked out that I was facing the same opponent who had broken my nose, whereas I wasn’t so freaked out about fighting with a broken nose. But, I’ve done so several times now.

The next two times were the result of a single training partner, Off, who was the runt of the gym in terms of the other Thai boys and lacked the jai yen control that’s a major factor in Thai style sparring. He didn’t like clinching or sparring with me, which he was tasked to do because he was the closest to my size. In clinching he tripped me against the ropes and as I was falling he threw a knee into my face and smashed my nose. It was the hardest break, where everything went numb for a minute and blood gushed everywhere. It sucked and I was pissed. Again, nobody reset it for me but it was definitely visibly more off-set after that one. I can’t remember whether it was after this time or the next one, when Off broke it yet again in sparring, but my mom was visiting and she paid for me to get an X-Ray at the hospital. All that did for me was get a doctor to say, “yes, it’s broken, look at the bone here,” and that it would require surgery to correct, but that made no sense. Having an expensive operation when I still intended to keep fighting seemed unwise. I managed to avoid another break until maybe 3 years later, when again a hot-headed sparring partner nailed me at an angle and my nose started gushing. I kept sparring and coming after him, understandably pissed and seeking to bash him back, but one of the spectators pointed out my bloody nose to my trainer who stopped the sparring and separated us. He tried to mess around with my nose, which was already swelling immediately after that break. It wouldn’t budge but kept clicking for a few months after, which it had done after Off broke it as well. I think it’s the bone being able to move between the new position and the old position. But, again, it can’t be fixed without surgery and I haven’t got the time for recovery or the money for the procedure. So, it is what it is. I fought two days after that last break (it was my last day of training before the fight) and it wasn’t a problem other than not being able to breathe through it. Maybe one of these days it will be a dramatic break and I can get a splint or something.

Two more sources on the broken nose: “My Broken Nose – Beauty, Self-Esteem and Fighting” and the thread on the Muay Thai Forum “How long after a broken nose is it okay to start sparring again?”

Broken Hand

Gloves for fights are provided by the stadium and they can be really hinky. I have small hands and wrists to begin with, so even normal gloves are pretty spacious on the inside for me. But these were huge and old and ratty, so it was like punching with car seat padding loosely taped around my fist. No good. At some point I threw an overhand right and managed to break my hand against my opponent’s head, without that being as badass as it sounds. My whole hand went numb but I didn’t pay it much mind. It was after the fight, which I was fortunate to have won, when I was trying to get my wraps off that I really felt the damage. The outside blade of my hand (from my pinky and ring finger all down the outside to my wrist) was in incredible pain. We were leaving that night to drive up to Chiang Mai so I could fight the next night, and even 2 nights after that, so I just kept moving my wrist in circular motions the entire 12 hour drive up, trying to keep my range of motion. It got so bad that I couldn’t turn a doorknob or open a bottle of water for a couple weeks, but keeping that range of motion – I believe – made a huge difference. It was terrible trying to fight on it the next night, couldn’t clinch because my wrist/hand were basically dead weight, and I was fighting “The Farang Smasher” Nongying (big and aggressive) but nobody watching from the outside would know. I continued to fight on it over the course of maybe 5 months and never got it X-Rayed or looked at by a doctor. I stopped punching at all on that side for a couple of months and after that really started dedicating myself to bare-fisted training, which I’d learned from Sifu McInnes and the point was to get a fine-tuned feeling for the angles of my punches. Gloves mute everything out, but bare-fisted you can really feel the minute details of a slightly off punch and it builds up the strength of your wrist and all those tiny bones in your hand kind of learn to compact on impact. This is the link to the fight in which I broke my hand.

Broken Foot

I did feel the point of impact on my foot in this fight, and when I went to my corner it was numb and throbbing at the same time. I knew I’d hurt it, but I had no idea how badly. I just knew I had more rounds in the fight and would have to work through it. Kicking on it wasn’t going to happen, but the balance of using that as my standing foot was a bit tricky as well. Again, you wouldn’t be able to see it from watching the fight. It wasn’t until after the fight when I was walking around the ring to the bathrooms to shower and change that I realized how jacked my foot was. It was painful and I couldn’t really put weight on it. I had to adjust my gait so that my foot was supinating hard, basically walking with my heel pointed in and my toes pointing way out away from my body. I had to keep walking like this for a long while, which damaged the tendons in my ankle and near my heel over a period of some days and weeks, which became an injury in and of itself. I went to see an acupuncturist and that helped a little bit, so I went to see a 2nd guy who was an acupuncturist and massage specialist. He’s this huge, bald, tattooed ex-pat British dude who just does what he thinks needs to be done instead of having a chat about it. So he felt the points on either side of my ankle and could tell there was a problem with the tendons. He massaged them with deep pressure for a bit, which was insanely painful, then shot both sides full of what I can only guess was cortisone. The shots themselves were painful and made my foot burn for a few minutes. But I could walk fairly normally immediately after. I got a weird bruising on the arch of that foot that lasted a few months, I’m guessing from the injection. I wouldn’t ever get cortisone again, it wasn’t an experience I found worth the risks, but injuries to the feet are much harder to train around than a hand (for example) because you always have to be standing. So, maybe that helped me train through it, maybe not. That broken foot remained a problem for over 5-6 months, but it only occasionally gives me problems recurrently.

Cauliflower Ear

When training for my fight against Loma for the Queen’s Birthday, I was doing a lot of clinching with gloves on. I never asked my training partners to wear gloves, it was something I did for myself, but often when they saw me wearing them they would automatically grab a pair themselves to be “fair” about it. I’m not sure if it was my clinching partners at the time, or how much I was clinching, or the gloves, but I got Cauliflower Ear on my left ear. It hurts so bad, just because it’s tender so any contact at all is just a screaming pain. My trainer drained it for me a few times and I used magnets that I ripped off of an antenna to pin the skin to the cartilage after draining it of the fluid, so that helped it stay relatively small in the long term. I still have a rock-hard knot in my ear from it, but the deformity to my ear is very mild. My trainer has it on both ears, strongly on his left side. I’ve seen it on a lot of former Muay Thai fighters now that I know to look for it. It’s not uncommon. Basically you need to let it get swollen enough that it can be drained, then you suck the liquid out with a syringe (have someone help you with this until you can do it yourself), then use a magnet or something to pin the skin back to the cartilage so that it doesn’t swell back up immediately and the skin can try to rebond. Hirodoid cream helps with reducing the ultimate result of the keloid as well.

caulifloer ear

This is after it’s been drained and started swelling back up again.

cauliflower ear tools

Tools of the Cauliflower Ear trade: an insulin syringe, which I could fill each time I drained. It’s sterile and you need to use a new one each time, as well as dispose of them responsibly. Hirudoid cream, and these wax earplugs were my first attempt at cramming something into the crevice of my ear folds to keep the skin attached to the cartilage (the clothes pin also helped me in that attempt but it was too painful/ineffective and I landed on magnets as the best option).

caulifloer ear magnet

This is my improvised ear magnet. You can buy magnets designed for this, but they’re stupid expensive (for my budget) and I’m not a wrestler, so this isn’t going to be a constant problem. They might be worth the investment if you do BJJ or wrestling. I ripped these off of an antenna that can be mounted, put one in the conch of my ear and one behind, using some thin gauze between to keep the pressure of the magnets from making my ear ache. Still hurt, but my resulting hard keloid is very minimal.

Shin Splints/Plantar Fasciitus

In the first couple years of training in Thailand I had periodic shinsplints and one time some pretty bad Plantar Fasciitus. I noticed the latter mostly when going from the ring (which I’m on my toes a lot for) to the cement floor (which is good ol’ regular flat walking). I’d have a hard time in the mornings when first getting out of bed, too. Both are caused by running – Muay Thai requires a lot of mileage – but the shinsplints I basically did some stretching (using a towel or band around the ball of my foot and stretching/pushing against it) and for the Plantar Fasciitus I rolled the arches of my feet on a Lacrosse ball. Both just went away after a while and I don’t suffer from either anymore.

Black Eyes

This is a super common one and I’ve had more than I can count. I’ve gotten them from training, I’ve gotten them from fighting. Often it’s the result of the skin under my eye being pinched by a glove or the rope, rather than a direct impact, in these cases it grows over a few days before really being a black eye. Similarly, almost every black eye from a fight I’ve ever had came from damage above the eye that then drained down into the socket under my eye to become a dark bruise. This photo is a perfect example. I didn’t get hit under the eye at all, but the swelling from the cut over my eyebrow drained down and gave me this lovely eggplant color. In general, the best way to treat a black eye I’ve found is some moderate hot water massage (you can use a warm, boiled egg or a wad of warm sticky rice), but just a hot towel pressed into the socket for 5 minutes a few times per day gets ride of them quickly. The thing about black eyes, for me, is that you don’t want to over-treat them because fussing with it can often make it worse. One of my earliest encounters was one of those little pinches that became a dark bruise just a few days before I was meant to fight on TV for the first time. I used warm water and a towel, which was fine, except I rubbed instead of pressing and ended up giving myself like a rug-burn under my eye that lasted longer than the discoloration. It was ridiculous. And a black eye in Thailand is not a signal of badassery like it can be in the west, so my trainers have been displeased by me showing up to training with my face marred, but I’ve repeated it enough now that everyone is pretty used to it. It’s best though to get the color out of the eye as soon as you can with treatment.

black eyes

Callouses, Blisters, Skin Splits

Especially when you first come to Thailand, your feet will get jacked up by gym floors. Whether it’s the humidity mixed with the concrete or mat floors, or running, or both – it’s ugly. I advise everyone to spend some time trying to build up callouses before coming to Thailand, walking around barefoot as much as possible, but there’s only so much you can do. My first 6 months, the blisters and callouses splitting on the bottoms of my feet was severe. You just try to use Vaseline and coconut oil or whatever else to soften the skin when you’re sleeping, as dry skin tears more easily. But, every so often I still get something nasty. My toenails keep falling off from running and this fun blister/callous/nightmare occurs on my left foot every now and again. It’s hard to ignore pain in your feet, so this has a much bigger impact on my training than it should based on size or severity, but the only real risk is infection. Keep stuff like this covered with gauze and tape or a sock… anything you can. Floors are dirty. To counter tears in the feet, which I still get pretty regularly, I usually tape new tears up with sports tape. Occasionally I’ll experiment with putting a small coin in the tape (not a Thai coin, you don’t want to put the King’s image under your foot) in the tape which can sometimes give a structure of protection. I’ve been told that sleeping with socks on after you’ve put Vaseline on them will keep your feet from tearing, and it makes good sense, but I’ve never had the discipline to do it more than a couple of nights in a row. Finding running shoes that fit if you live here long term – for me it is next to impossible as I have very tiny feet, even for a Thai woman – is a big deal. This year I tried to tough it out with shoes I bought at the border and got my feet completely wrecked in a matter of months. A huge thank you to my friend Robyn Klenk who sent me 2 pair of emergency Saucony shoes to take me out of running hell.

foot

Crunchy Knee

That’s obviously the clinical term, Chondromalacia Patella. Sometimes one of my knees (usually the left) will get crunchy when I straighten it and I’ll have pain going up stairs or doing some movements. It hurts when I run. I’ve had this off and on, and because it tends to be temporary I don’t always do anything about it. But prevention in these things is probably the best thing and I’d even forgotten that I’d written about treating this particular knee issue before, so I really should be doing these stretches all the time. Here’s my article on how I remedied my knee problem three years ago, using a foam roller and some stretches. Having strong quads can help your knees a great deal as well.

Ringworm

This is a pretty mild one that, if you stay in Thailand gyms long enough, you’ll come across eventually. I’ve had a few different spots, usually on my arms from clinching or maybe equipment. I just get some Dettol from the store, dilute it and use it to clean the equipment myself for a week and then try to remember to do so periodically. Some more commercial gyms will have someone do this on the regular, mopping the mats and cleaning equipment and all that. But in most gyms it’s a matter of drying shared gloves, shinpads, and pads in the sun. That does kill a lot of germs, but shared equipment can be pretty rank. The only reason I include this is because it’s fairly common and the main thing is to just keep yourself clean, rather than obsessing about disinfecting the whole gym. If you shower with a good soap immediately after training instead of hanging out in your wet clothes for hours after, you’ll generally get away with not suffering from ringworm. The worst case I had was on my face and it wouldn’t go away. I eventually went to a dermatologist who put me on an anti-fungal oral medication and I washed with sulfur soap (which you can buy at 7-11 or any pharmacy, so you can just have this handy yourself). That case on my face took forever to go away and it sucked. The other cases I’ve treated with sulfur soap and Apple Cider Vinegar. A point of warning about using ACV: it’s damaging to the surrounding skin and can leave a scar for a few months. I don’t really care about scars and these ones have all pretty much disappeared over a year or so, but just be cautious using it. I soak a cotton ball or the gauze of a Band-Aid in the ACV and leave it on overnight. That’s what causes the burning to the rest of the skin, leaving it on like that. But it gets rid of the ringworm really fast.

Staph

This is another pretty common one. On a long enough timeline, anyone training in Thai gyms, even fancy ones, will come in contact with Staph. It’s not about a gym being dirty, although poor hygiene can absolutely cause a kind of “outbreak” in a gym, but Staph lives on the surface of your skin all the time and it just takes a little break in the skin to create the infection. It just happens, it can be pretty spontaneous. So, if you shave your legs and get a little nick, cover it for training. Something you’d never think to do in dryer climates. Mosquito bites, little scratches from Velcro in sparring… all these things can invite a Staph infection. And sometimes it’s just random. It starts like a pimple but for me it feels like a burn. Then it progresses to have a hard, pus-filled center, and eventually that gross inner blob oozes out. You do want it to express at some point, but don’t try to pop it – ever. You just push the bacteria around inside and can make it worse. When it is ready to start oozing, keep that shit away from everyone else, your bedsheets, etc. I use hot compresses to help move that draining part along, but do so gently. Occasionally they will require an antibiotic, which you can buy over the counter at any pharmacy in Thailand. But don’t go nuts with antibiotics, they’re over-prescribed here and if you take them when you first see the boil (pimple) then it might never express and then you actually have the bump for much longer. Use an antibiotic cream – in Thai the word for Staph is fee (use a rising tone, like you’re asking a question, fee?) – and some of them are better for Staph, so ask the pharmacist. In general, keep your infection covered as much as possible, stay away from other people until you’re healed and if you spot an infection on anyone else in the gym, point it out to your trainer and stay away from direct work with them until they’re healed.

Pink Eye

Another one that’s contagious in gyms is Pink Eye. There are two types, bacterial and viral. Viral takes a longer time to heal unusual and depending on the virus can be dangerous to your vision if left untreated, bacterial is significantly easier to treat. I got this from someone I was clinching with at a gym I was visiting who didn’t know what he had and so didn’t sit out. A few people got it at that gym and the trainers quarantined the issue until it was resolved. My infection, the doctor said, was bacterial, my eyes were very swollen and red, and they were crusted shut every morning and had disgusting, goopy green pus in the corners that I could swab out with Q-tips. I saw a doctor who gave me antibiotic drops, which made my vision a little wonky, but it cleared up in about a week or 10 days. My husband happened to get the viral version a little after me and then delayed, which is really odd (one of these may have been misdiagnosed, as that is more than weird, misdiagnosis is common). His eyes were swollen, red, crusty in the mornings but instead of the goop he had a thin kind of tearing all the time. Like his eyes were always watering. He also got drops, but of an anti-everything kind. His took a bit longer than mine to heal, but not as long as some of the stuff online said, which was upwards of a month. Both were not something you’d ever want, and took a bit to get over. When I was infected I contacted another fighter I knew who got pink eye and he had some pretty bad stories about how bad it got for him, to the point where he couldn’t see and had to be lead around. You want to go to the doctor on this one, luckily Thai hospitals are pretty good.

Food Poisoning

Another super common one that eventually everyone will have some contact with is food poisoning. It just happens. You don’t have to be paranoid about food carts or “street meat” as some people say. I’ve had food poisoning maybe 3 times in my 6 years here and every single case was from a restaurant (not street stalls) that I’d eaten at tons of times before and just a freak incidence. I’m fairly sure every time has been eating fish, but it’s always just guess work to know what exactly of all the things you ate in a day causes it. In general, the easiest treatment is charcoal tablets (again, pharmacy or 7-11 has these) to soak up the bacteria and whatever else in your guts, as well as try to slow the rate of dehydration from diarrhea. After that, tons of electrolytes. It never lasts longer than 24 hours in my experience and, after a terrible case of food poisoning where I was tied to the toilet all night, barely any sleep, and completely drained the next day, I still got in the ring to fight a world champion a few weight classes up. I felt like shit, I worried I would either vomit or crap myself in the ring, but I didn’t and that’s awesome. Food poisoning isn’t the end of the world. It just sucks.

Stitches

As of this writing I’ve had 176 stitches put into my head. Almost 100% of those were from ringside doctors (occasionally promotions have an ambulance bring you over to a local hospital instead) and I’ve never had terrible complications. I’ve written about how to care for your stitches, so I won’t go into it here, but stitches in my face are about the only thing that actually keep me from training or fighting. I don’t have a lot to write about stitches here because it’s the one injury I have written the most about. You can type “stitches” into the search box in the side bar and see all my articles there. I’ve also put up a page of bloody fight photos of female Muay Thai fighters all over the world. I have more than a few photos in there.

sylvie stitches

Concussion

I’ve very fortunately only been significantly concussed once. I was fighting Loma Lookboonmee, who is a master of body throws in the clinch, and she landed on top of me as I landed on my head and it just knocked me hard. It was early in round 2 of a 3 round fight and I don’t remember nearly anything after the fall. I remember my head being knocked, but not even getting up from it. The rest of the fight was autopilot, which is actually slightly cool. I lost, and I had both Karuhat and Dieselnoi in my corner for that fight and can’t remember anything until about 45 minutes or longer after the fight. My next memory after the throw was being in the bathroom with Emma and telling her I think I’d hit my head. Apparently I’d been like a broken record for the last hour asking, “did I get knocked out?” and everyone would say that I had not, and I would then ask, “was it bad?” Then I’d start over. “Did I get knocked out?” I had to take 10 days rest, no training at all, after that. I couldn’t multitask at all, it was hard to concentrate on any given thing, and it felt dangerous for me to drive for even a few days afterwards. I’m was fine after a little rest, but this was one injury we took very seriously, as one should. This is a question of course that I get asked about frequently, given how much I fight. Perhaps it is because of the way I fight as a Muay Khao fighter with a solid guard, but I’ve been knocked to the canvas (as a result of strikes) once in over 200 fights (photo below), while I’ve TKO’d over 60 opponents. It is a concern as a fighter, always, but for me it hasn’t been a problem, I’ve received very few direct blows to the head. That might sound odd for someone with 176 stitches to the face to say, but cuts especially in Thailand usually are produced by a splitting action, not a thudding one. I have not felt concussion like symptoms as a result of a cut.

the only time I’ve been knocked to the canvas, about 5 years ago. I got up and won, did not experience symptoms.

Shingles

I had Chicken Pox 4 times as a kid, then Shingles as a teenager, and now in the last calendar year in Thailand I’ve had Shingles 2-3 more times. That number is uncertain because I don’t know whether I fully healed form one case before it flared up again and that’s one time with a moment of reprieve between, or whether that’s two cases in a short period of time. I’m prone to it, it’s a virus that stays in your nervous system and travels up and down your nerve endings, so you don’t really “catch” Shingles, but there can be many triggers. Mainly it’s stress, and there is a very good chance that these flair ups were connected to some mental training projects I was taking on, some of which were extremely stressful for me – it was good work, but very difficult, especially when paired with my extensive training regime. It don’t think it’s a coincidence that shingles came a couple of times in this period. There are anti-viral oral medications available at pharmacies all over Thailand and a 5-day treatment is generally enough to get rid of them, in my experience. But you have to rest and when you’re in a “shedding” phase you need to stay away from other people. In Thai it’s called bpen ngoo sawat เป็นงูสวัส if you need to see a doctor.

Dengue Fever

This is the sickest I’ve ever been. I trained hard at the gym and often come home from very hard sessions feeling very tired, so there’s like a “crashing” period, usually after dinner. I’d had a tough session and felt excessively tired, so I went to bed early. Then I started feeling like maybe I was crashing in a different way. I have a strange nervous system that occasionally causes me to just need to shut down entirely for a day, I get aches in my joints and my skin hurts – basically how you feel when you have a terrible flu or Shingles, but without having either of those things. Just happens every now and again. I thought it might be that and my husband, who reads my energy really well, told me I should tell Kru Nu I was taking the next morning off. I fell asleep hard and then woke up a bunch of times to throw up. It was horrible. Kevin tried to get me to keep drinking water, because I was throwing up so much, but if I wasn’t vomiting I was dead asleep and vice versa, so I could only drink a few gulps of water at a time and usually would immediately throw it back up anyway. Very, very sick. I had to go out and get a thermometer, which was like death to even get out of bed to drive and get it. My fever was pretty high and the next morning Kevin tried to make me eat a bite of banana (for Potassium, since I wasn’t able to hold water) and that just came right back up as well. So we went to the hospital. The time from checking in at the front desk to getting my bloodwork back was probably about 6 hours, but it was the hardest, longest, and one of the most difficult experiences. Just having to sit up; just having to stay awake. Kevin wanted me to get an IV because I was clearly very dehydrated from the night before and not being able to hold water, but the thought of going across the street to a clinic to get an IV – which would take about 15 minutes, total – made me break down in tears and throw an exhaustion fit that I couldn’t handle it. Even a single moment longer without heading home seemed impossible to me. I had some powders that the doctor had prescribed to help me rehydrate and I did buy a few sports drinks on the way home, but it was a hard process to get rehydrated. I just slept and slept. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t move, I was in terrible pain and more tired than I’ve ever been. My fever went up and down but I had to keep going to the hospital every day to have my blood tested. My platelets went down and down, it wasn’t good. On maybe the 4th out of the 6 days I had to go to the hospital, Kevin and I were sitting in the waiting room after having my blood pressure, pulse and temperature tested. I felt very nauseated and lightheaded, kind of like the room as spinning. But the taste of metal in the back of my throat and the salty, watering mouth made me sure I was about to throw up, so I stood up without saying anything to Kevin to try to make it maybe 100 paces over to the bathroom. Then I woke up on the floor with a bunch of nurses around me. I’d fainted on the way over to the bathroom and smashed my chin on the reception desk on my way down, so I had a gash that was bleeding everywhere as they lifted me on to a gurney and rolled me to the ER. I had no idea what had happened. Poor Kevin. There was some emergency medical attention (shots, IV) that were required before they could stitch me up and I had to get up to go to the bathroom, which was horribly difficult. I couldn’t get off the toilet, was vomiting and had diarrhea, blood coming out of both ends… my husband had to stand at the door to make sure I didn’t pass out again on the fucking toilet but I wouldn’t let him come in the bathroom with me. I had to be wheeled in a chair between the toilet and the gurney. God… so awful. Then I just laid there, freezing from being dehydrated and so tired, the pain in my chin starting to really creep into my consciousness, and I actually contemplated and kind of came to some deep realizations about my mortality. A very nice nurse came and shot my jaw full of anesthetic and gave me some stitches, then put me over on another bed to just let the IV drip into my arm for an hour or so. I fell asleep, then would wake up from being so cold (I had several layers of pants, shirts, a hoodie, socks and a blanket in preparation for how cold I always was with this fever, despite sweating to the point of soaking my clothes and bed every hour). So, so awful. It took me about a week to be able to stay awake for more than 10 minutes at a time (unless I was at the hospital) and coming back to training was astonishingly hard. I had no power for a long while, but got back to fighting within two weeks and won my fights, so the risk of not recovering, which was something we read a lot about, didn’t seem to be the case for me. I do not wish this virus on anyone and will do everything I can to never get it again. Here’s an update I did after I came home from passing out at the hospital. Be warned, Dengue left untreated can be fatal. Thankoon Ponsupah, owner of Sasaprapa Gym in Bangkok, tragically lost his wife last year to the disease. It’s not something you want to tough out.

above, my update after a visit to the hospital for Dengue, when I split my chin open – it sucks – you can watch my vlog from my first day back at the gym as well

Telogen Effluvium – Hair Loss

As a fun surprise, hair-loss is a fairly common and not really talked about side-effect following Dengue Fever. Telogen Effluvium is this severe, but temporary shedding that can happen after any big shock to the body – fevers, illnesses, pregnancy, etc. Mine started about 2 months after the Dengue and I had no idea that it was linked. My hair was falling out in clumps, like handfuls, to the point that I was certain I’d be bald in a week if it continued like that. It was Kevin who found the link to Dengue online and I read a ton about it. The hair isn’t breaking, it comes out from the roots and it just does not stop. Basically, the hair has 3 stages in a regular growth cycle and the “telogen” phase is when it’s just hanging in your scalp, already dead, but not falling out yet. When you have a shock to the system, the follicles all die and so instead of shedding your hair at a normal rate of 50-150 hairs per day, all the hair that was in the telogen phase at the time of your shock comes out at once. So it’s a massive shedding, but because your hair isn’t all in the telogen phase all at once, you won’t go bald, you won’t necessarily get bald patches either. It’s kind of from all over the place but is more visible in certain areas, like the crown/hairline. As a woman, it’s a terrible shock and hard to handle calmly. I did eventually see a dermatologist, just to be sure, and she diagnosed me quickly when I told her I was 2 months out from Dengue. She gave me a sulfur soap to use as a shampoo and some Zinc supplements. I also added Iron (as anemia is a common cause of hair loss) and Magnesium, which is often depleted after Dengue. After about 1.5 months of massive hair loss, I’m shedding a pretty normal amount now. But it’s going to take probably a year for my hair to grow back to any point where the volume is restored. It’s just insanely thin now, which only I notice. But I notice it.

Toenails Coming Off

I’ve gone through a couple of toenails in the past year, mostly the big one on my left foot, but the big one on my right foot came off at some point as well. Usually it’s from running and the nail turns purple, then starts to hurt and I may or may not have to relieve pressure by sticking something through the nail to let the blood underneath out. When I don’t have to do that, it’s great. But the nail eventually turns white as it separates from the tissue underneath and a new nail ultimately pushes that old one off. It’s pretty similar to losing baby teeth.

So, here’s my most recent one. It wasn’t from running. Instead, the kickstand of my motorbike got dragged across my toe (by me) while wearing sandals and basically ripped half the nail off. That sucked. But something I learned in this last go-around was to soak my foot in hot salt-water, to help with the swelling and avoid any infection getting under the nail. I think it helped the older toenail detach better, as well. When in Thailand, you have to consider that the climate is very friendly to bacteria and so infections might be far easier to acquire than elsewhere (I’m from dry Colorado), so having a sock or shoes or exposure to unclean water on your feet might be a bigger risk than you might think. Dieselnoi and Kru Nu both forbid me to run until my toe was healed – which meant when the nail came off. Took about 2 weeks.

First photo: after the nail came off. Second photo: right after the injury and how I soak my foot in salt water.

Not a bad list at all considering how much and hard I train, the number of fights I have had, and the kinds of injuries and illnesses one could have. I count myself lucky indeed. Despite being lucky, part of what I do and what makes something like an insane 200 fights in 6 years possible, is that I train to and through injury. Kevin and I have a saying borrowed from mountain climbers attempting the K2 summit. “The mountain makes it’s own weather”. It means, when the weather clears on the mountain, you climb. For me, when the possibility opens up, you fight. When you can train, you train. I don’t advise people to do this, or be this way, but it is the path that I have followed.

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Posted In
Muay Thai

A 100 lb. (46 kg) female Muay Thai fighter. Originally I trained under Kumron Vaitayanon (Master K) and Kaensak sor. Ploenjit in New Jersey. I then moved to Thailand to train and fight full time in April of 2012, devoting myself to fighting 100 Thai fights, as well as blogging full time. Having surpassed 100, and then 200, becoming the westerner with the most fights in Thailand, in history, my new goal is to fight an impossible 471 times, the historical record for the greatest number of documented professional fights (see western boxer Len Wickwar, circa 1940), and along the way to continue documenting the Muay Thai of Thailand in the Muay Thai Library project: see patreon.com/sylviemuay

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