Family Travel

On the Other Side of Dengue Fever…

Me Ra Koh

Where does one begin after the last couple weeks?  I must admit that I’m in tears, as I start writing this post.  At one point, I never knew when I’d have the strength to write a new post.  But you, all of you…

Thank you for EVERY prayer and loving wish of recovery.  To be in a jungle and feel the isolation start to suffocate as your fevers spike…it has been overwhelming.  But to be able to have Brian come back to our house, after finding an Internet connection, and read all your loving words to us…I can’t tell you how much your prayers gave to me and Pascaline.  Thank you so much for taking the time and caring as much as you all do.

Before this trip, I had never heard of the Dengue Jungle Fever.  It’s transmitted by a mosquito bite, a daytime mosquito.  (The daytime fact is what made me fall out of my seat.  I haven’t even seen a “daytime” mosquito!)  But he saw us, and he did bite.  They call the Dengue, the Bone Breaker, and I have never felt pain like this before.  You literally feel like all your bones are breaking, starting with your legs and working its way up to your head, feeling as if your head is splitting open in seven directions.

The intensity is enough to make you never want to come back.  This was how I felt at different moments.  I just wanted to be home where the weather wasn’t 102 degrees as if it was competing with our 104 degree fevers.  Pascaline and I could have felt betrayed by this place we love so much.  But I think the jungle somehow knew we were reaching our breaking point because at the worst hour, the jungle surrounded us with love and wonder.

The moment of feeling surrounded by love and wonder was in the middle of Pascaline’s worst fever run.  This is what I wrote to my brother when it was over…

Pascaline is about two days behind me.  She is still suffering on and off.  She has been such a trooper.  I sat and cried in the doctor’s office and told him that we felt like our bones were breaking, and he told me the fever’s street name “The Bone Breaker”.  It was comforting in a very disturbing but relieving way.

I have never felt pain like this Shauni—ever.  I have been in and out of delirium with faint memories of Brian putting cold washcloths all over me, trying to bring my body temp down to no avail.  I have seen his eyes scared.  It’s hard to see it in his eyes, and at the same time feel like the fever has taken me a hundred miles away.

Yesterday morning Pascaline woke up screaming.  She was screaming that her nose broke off.  Her whole body was twisting and turning in pain.  I had just been through it all night, and I held her and wept.  There is no medicine.  There is no immunization.  Your body must simply let go.  Everything in you wants to fight the pain away, but this only makes it worse.

Brian sat above her, as he sat above me the last five nights, and whispered instructions to her as he gently held her legs down.  “Pascaline, the fever has already lost.  Don’t fight the pain.  Let go and focus on this spot.”  He laid his hand over her collar bone.  “There is no pain there, and that is where God is resting.  Rest with Him, and let the fever swallow you b/c I won’t let it take you.  I will be on the other side.”

To stop fighting the pain and let it pull you under like the sea’s undertow is overwhelming…but to feel like you won’t ever surface, to see the sheer fear in my baby’s eyes…

As I held her, I couldn’t help but cry with a feeling of such helplessness.  Our Thai housekeeper came up behind me.  Her name is Cha, and she has the most beautiful smile in all of Thailand.  She laid her hands gently on my shoulders and whispered words to me in Thai, comforting words that I couldn’t understand, but I knew she was speaking from one mother to another.

And then something magical happened that I must back up to tell you about…

We have monkeys here, as you remember.  There are two kinds of monkeys, and then we also have Gibbon Apes.  The Gibbon Apes are high up in the trees and give off a beautiful call in the morning.  It’s like a whirling, siren noise that washes over you, repeating itself, with different apes joining in at different octaves, and the whole jungle is quiet as these beasts sing.

They never come down to our house level, but you can see them with binoculars.  And yet the other day, Pascaline was mimicking their sound off the back deck.  And FIVE of them came down to the trees off our deck and watched us, mimicking back to her, swinging through the trees with such speed and fierce ability, your mouth dropped open.  That morning, Blaze was fevering his worst.

Yesterday, when Pascaline was screaming with pain, the Gibbons started singing.  I didn’t notice at first until someone said something.  Except they weren’t high up in the hills, they were all around the outside of our bedroom and back deck—watching from the trees.

Healing Singing Gibbon Ape in Thailand

They were in the low trees and whooping their call so loud and so divine, it swallowed Pascaline’s screaming. It was then that she actually smiled with her eyes closed from the pain.  “Can you hear them mom?  They’ve come back down.  I think they’re singing to me.”  And so they were.  I can’t explain how magical the moment felt with Cha whispering faith into my ear in an unfamiliar tongue, and Gibbons singing to my daughter, but I felt held by the jungle, held and not shunned by this fever any longer.


Two days later, Pascaline’s fever broke for good.  She has bounced back with such amazing speed.  But still, we have taken life very slow.   On most days, it feels as if the fever has beat the energy right out of my body.  But at sunset we make our way down to the beach, when the heat is not so merciless.  Brian and I have sat and watched Pascaline wade in the water with Blaze, listened to her laugh, and have confessed that her laugh is the most beautiful sound we have heard in weeks.  The little one even rock climbed yesterday with utter grace as twenty plus people watched from below as she made her way up the 100 ft rock face on a  6b route—making it look like child’s play.

In a few days, we start our journey home.  We’re going to start a day early, break up our flying time a bit more, so that our bodies don’t feel pushed as hard.  The kids cried because they felt like they’ve just begun to play here.  But at the same time, I think we are ready to return.

Some of you must still be praying because our last days here have been rich with joy and wonderful memories.  God is somehow already restoring the time our fevers stole.  And even more so, what a blessed family we are to know we are returning to all your love and support.

From one mother to many mothers, fathers, grandparents, and dear friends, thank you so much for praying for us in one of our scariest hours.  Thank you for praying for my babies.  Thank you with all my heart.

Mom and Daughter healed at the beach


Me Ra


  1. …i teared up hearing about the gibbons singing to pascaline. so glad to hear that everyone is on the road to recovery…

  2. CA says:

    Forgive me if this sounds like a selfish comment after all that you have been through, but I thank you for such a naked and true description. Until October of last year, I had been a worship leader for more than 10 years. Events over the last year had beaten me into a dark corner where I couldn’t find God, couldn’t see Him and really, didn’t want to. Your simple, honest description has just catapulted me forward in a re-discovery of Him that started a few weeks ago. I can’t imagine how such things as those that happened in your post just combine by accident.

    Just know that even after your tired bodies were ravaged by the fever and pain and weakened to the point they were, your words were so strong they fed me this morning.

  3. The pic of you and Pascaline at the end of the post took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes. THANK GOD that you are both okay.

    I got your email, but I am sitting with it for a bit, trying to find just what I want to say in response. Thank YOU!

  4. Natalie Johnson says:

    Sooo glad to hear you are better. I pray that God gives you very special memories during the last few days you have left there. I think the Gibbons have found a friend in Pascaline. You will be glad that you recorded the experience in words to Shauni so you can look back and see how far you have come. I will continue to pray that your trip home will be easy and uneventful and you all will have the strength for the long trip. I can’t wait to hear your other stories from this experience.

  5. Natalie Johnson says:

    p.s. The beautiful photo of you and Pascaline reminds all of us how precious life is.

  6. Melisa says:

    I am so happy to hear you guys are all doing better. That image of you and Pascaline is gorgeous!

  7. Jennifer Armstrong says:

    oh my stars.
    i am so happy. thank you SO much for sending a picture of your lovely faces. it’s beautiful and so unbelievably refreshing to hear that you are doing so much better. Thank you Lord!!!! And your letter to your brother is amazing. What a beautiful, beautiful story about the apes. Thanks so much for your update, Me Ra!!! YAY!!!!!!!

  8. Oh I’m so relieved.

    The faith and courage you showed by allowing yourselves to succumb to the fever is overwhelming to me.

    Seeing your beautiful smiles warms my heart.

    Safe travels home.

  9. Nickie says:

    So wonderful to see you and Pascaline smiling again. It seems that in our most terrible hour God gives us his tender mercy. I’m so thankful the gibbsons where there to comfort Pascaline. I know how scary it can be to see your baby so sick. I’m so glad you both are doing better. I hope the rest of your vacation will be filled with special memories. Return home safely, can’t wait to hear about the good parts of your vacation.

  10. Dana Fontaine says:

    I have been away for a while and discovered your call for prayers as your fevers were breaking, but I have prayed nonetheless for you, Pascaline, Blaze and Brian that you would each be healthy to enjoy the end of your journey and that you would still love that corner of the world that has become a part of your soul, perhaps now more than ever.

    My eyes welled with tears as I read your words as your recounted how your jungle home and family surrounded you with love and faith in languages unknown to you. Your family is truly connected there, and God has made it so that that connection will never be lost, despite time or distance. What incredible gifts to come from such pain.

    Much love to you all, safe travels home.

  11. Merri says:

    Hi Me Ra,
    Its Merri Van Houte(yes, high school Merri 🙂 ). I just wanted to tell you that I have been following your blog for awhile now and so appreciate your raw and authentic honesty, that is the person i have always known you to be.
    Today’s blog made me cry at my desk here at work. I am so moved. You have been in the valley of the shadow and God met you and your family as faithfully as ever. The way that Brian was able to comfort Pascaline is beautiful and deeply moving, what a blessing that you are able to remember that in the midst of your own anguish.
    I just want to tell you thank you from the deepest part of my heart for sharing your life in such a transparent manner, it is a feat of incredible vulnerablity that you choose to give and it is a blessing to those of us that are lucky enough to follow your blog.
    The pic of you and Pasc is radiant.
    Merri Van Houte

  12. jess says:

    i’m sitting here in my office at work…crying. it looks like some others had the same experience 🙂 thank you so much for sharing, me ra. most importantly, i am so glad that you are all healthy and able to head back home. i can’t imagine the roller coaster this trip has been for you and your family. as much as i already feel like i know you through your blog, i can’t wait to finally meet you in OC in a few weeks! you are such a blessing and inspiration to me and so many other women out there…

  13. Genie says:

    Beautiful. Relief. Love. Would love to be a gibbon right now outside your window. Pascaline can sing angels onto her bedside. So moving, speechless and stunned by your trust and love. Looking forward to more, blessedly….safe, easy travels to you.

  14. Marcel says:

    So so glad to know that Pascaline and you are recovering. Your family is amazing, loving and inspiring. Safe travels home~

  15. Jen MacNiven says:

    I’m so excited to hear that you all are doing well now and being able to enjoy your ‘home’. The discription of what you all went through, from Blazes fever, Pascaline’s screams, Brian’s helpless eyes yet comforting words, Cha’s reassuring hand, your unbelievable pain and remarkable recovery was simply amazing. I prayed for you all…a speedy, healthy recovery. I saw others on facebook praying as well. I talked to Genie and she too noticed all the prayers and love you were receiving. It’s true that prayer works and who more deserving of prayers…then your family? God bless you all and I hope the last week is a most precious one.
    Safe travels and BIG HUGS to you all!

  16. Amanda says:

    Praise God for your restored health!

  17. Sandi B. says:

    I thank God for all your recoveries and thank you for posting that beautiful pic of you and Pascaline. It was like a breath of fresh air after we’ve been waiting to hear how you’re doing. It’s like we can all exhale now. We’ll keep praying for a safe trip “home” and for strength for your bodies.

  18. Melanie J says:

    From one mother to another, I am breathless after reading that! I actually have chills after reading about the gibbons singing to her – it was God! He was singing through the gibbons and had His angel come to you at the same time – a miracle if ever I’ve read one! Bless you all for the rest of your journey!!!

  19. Sue Christianson says:

    So glad you guys are doing better. I cannot begin to imagine what you have been through. MeRa you write so beautifully. Thanks for continuing to share with all of us. Imagining the Gibbons singing to Pasc is amazing! God is good and he is a God of miracles!

  20. Rhonda says:

    I can’t stop the tears from flowing.

    I am so grateful to God for how He met you and comforted you guys in your time of need. I haven’t felt so burdened to pray for someone I don’t even know in a long time. On the day I first read about your journey, I felt God ask me to commit to pray for you every day you would be gone. A couple of days before the post about the Dengue Fever I really felt burdened for you and your family, and felt so guilty that I hadn’t done a better job of praying specifically for you EVERY DAY. So I prayed and I got my prayer partner to pray with me and hold me accountable for how I prayed for you because I sensed that my usual “be with Brian, MeRa, Pascaline and Blaze and bless their time in Thailand,” wasn’t enough. I realized just how much it wasn’t enough when I read how ill you and Pascaline were a couple of days later. I have fasted for you and your family and now as I read this I am overwhelmed by our incredible God. And I feel blessed that He chose me to be a part of this in a small way.
    I continue to pray for you – your journey’s not over yet 🙂
    Much love to you!

  21. DAWN DAVIS says:

    God is so good Me Ra…… so good!!! I’m so happy you’re all on the other side of Dengue. The power of prayer is so amazing. You had so many praying for you, Brian, Pasc and Blaze! We send our love. Until we meet again…….. all my love! ~ Dawn

  22. Ashley J says:

    So relieved that you all are feeling much better. That God would give Pascaline such a sweet gift of having the Gibbons sing to her…priceless! I have tears in my eyes.

  23. Gina says:

    so relieved that you are all ok. i will continue to pray and have a safe trip back home.

  24. denise karis says:

    I cant even say…mera this made me cry – with the singing and then scrolling down to see your photo with pascaline – im so glad you’re ok. You and your family are always in my prayers!!!

  25. Freida says:

    The two of you in that photo… priceless… it paused my scrolling for sure!

  26. I am sobbing with tears of JOY that you are all ok now and tears imagining the pain and feelings you all encountered. You are an amazing family! You are so blessed and the blessings you provide to us through your words are unspeakable!


    LeeAnn 🙂

  27. Lisa Acord says:

    Oh, I wish you had warned us (me!) that I was going to cry while reading this post. I haven’t even finished it…I’m going to have to compose myself and read the second half later, or I’ll be a sobbing mess sitting here at my desk at work. I’m just so thankful that your entire family has come through this. God bless you all.

    Love ya girl!

  28. Jenny says:

    Oh my word, mera!
    I am so glad that you guys are feelin better!!
    Praise the Lord that he carried you all through
    this and gave Brian the strength to comfort and encourage!
    Sending you my love and prayers. XOXO- Jenny joy.

  29. Carrie Hasson says:


  30. Kate says:

    So happy to hear you’re all on the mend MeRa. And what a gift for Pasc to have the Gibbons sing to her, and for her to feel God sitting on her shoulder during her worst pain. She’ll always remember that. And what a special and thoughtful Daddy Brian is to comfort her that way.

    Tears are in my eyes too, at your faith and recovery and the beautiful picture of you and Pasc. Have a safe trip home. Blessings to you all.

  31. Suzanne says:

    I was happy to see this post from you today. I have been so worried for all of you and am thankful that you’re all better now. This post was beautiful MeRa. The tears are rolling down my face. I too was worried that you would hate this place where you found so much peace last year. I’m glad that peace has been restored. I am amazed at where we get “help” when we need it: You from comforting words from another Mother and Pascaline from her singing Gibbons. So beautiful. speaking of beautiful.. that picture of you and Pascaline is stunning. Enjoy your trip home and be safe.

    Thank you again for sharing this with us.

  32. Daphne says:

    Hi MeRa. I am so happy to hear that you are all doing better. As soon as I got word of your condition I shared it with Barth. As only a doctor can, he explained the severity of this fever…how scary that must have been for you and your family. You have all been in my prayers this past week and am so thankful that God was watching over the entire family. Praying that you all continue to recover and regain all your strength….I love this picture of you and pascaline!

  33. […] Thanks for all your comments regarding Pascaline’s story with the Gibbons singing.  It was such an amazing moment, and I had to share it with all of you.  Thank you for treasuring […]

  34. What’s so amazing is not just the fact that the monkeys showed their love and caring by singing, but that God allowed Pascaline to hear them, considering the amount of pain she was suffering, it’s hard to notice anything but that pain at times like that.

  35. Laura says:

    Me Ra – I have missed all that your family has been through recently. Thank goodness you are all OK and recovering. Safe travels home!

  36. Cindy Hickly says:

    Me Ra~ Just read your post about the monkeys singing to your daughter. Your words washed over me like a refreshing water, a reminder of God’ love and how He uses his creation to to soothe and heal us. Powerful. A beautiful story of love and redemption. So happy to hear that your family is healing ~ what an amazing time.

  37. Marla-Dee says:

    Tears of joy as you are both recovered and healthy again! Wow, that is such a powerful story that it brought chills. I am so glad you will be returning to the states and wish you all well as you travel home. ?

  38. Kay Beaton says:

    Wow… mera… I have tears also… but so happy that you are all OK and so amazed at your courage and willingness to share all of this with us! bless you!

  39. Lana says:

    What an amazing story.

    There was a lady not far from us that had a couple of gibbons. She told us that they sing in a perfect E. She also told us that the mother has to teach her young to sing, they aren’t born knowing this. I will never forget their song, it was beautiful.

  40. Jessica says:

    I hope you’re both recovering well. If you are staying in one area, you might want to consider a mosquito trap, like one of those Mosquito Magnets, which can cover up to a one acre area. But this might not be feasible if you’re moving continuously. Are you using DEET? I would go with 100% in a jungle environment.

  41. […] we came home from Thailand, we were almost five weeks behind in homeschool.  The Denuge Fever had changed our whole trip, and it was looking like Pascaline would be doing homeschool through the […]

  42. […] was throwing up yesterday, she said that this was the first time she’s thrown up since we had Dengue Fever in Thailand.  Dengue Fever, ugh.  There’s no question, 2010 has given us extreme highs and extreme […]

  43. […] beings was last year.  Pascaline was reaching her climax of pain and high temperatures with the Dengue Fever.  The Dengue is often called the “bone breaker” because you feel like your bones are […]