Woman contracts mysterious illness after Peruvian travels


GREENVILLE — All of her life, Brooke Sturgell dreamed of going to Machu Picchu and seeing the Incan ruins. Her dreams became a reality when she took the trip with her boyfriend last Fall.

“I had the trip of a lifetime, and had no complaints while I was there,” she said. “When I returned, my world was turned upside down by an illness that has left me bedridden with no answers. I am still ill and trying to figure it out four to five months later.”

The 24-year-old went to South America on an independent trip.

“We wanted to hike, sightsee, and explore the culture while we were there,” she said.

Before the illness, she lived on her own in Phoenix, Arizona, and she is currently back in Greenville, living with her parents, Deborah and Jerry Sturgell.

“The illness just started out as travelers’ GI issues,” said Sturgell, who has three older sisters. “I thought nothing of it. Everyone’s stomach gets mad at them with jet lag and traveling. But the symptoms changed into tailbone pain. I figured I’d go to the chiropractor and that’d be it, but I was very wrong. That started a cascade of ailments that I now deal with. It feels as though my body is falling apart, literally. I have seen 15-plus physicians trying to gain help.”

Yes, she is currently at home, but she is hoping to change that sooner rather than later.

“It’d be a miracle to be mobile and active again, or at least be able to get to my new 100 percent,” she said. “I was cleared by infectious disease. This is not contagious.”

She went on, “Funny part of this is that I take no medication. It seems as though I have developed multiple sensitivities since becoming sick and most medication makes me worse rather than better. Currently trying to find natural alternatives to help alleviate pain, i.e. oils, supplements, good food. I hope somehow I figure out a way to find my health. When you are young, you think you’re invincible. I certainly did.”

“I’m here to remind everyone that the entire world is outside your backdoor. No amount of traveling or culture will ever be worth your health or the people you love around you. When you’re sick, the news, pop culture, and anything that isn’t right in front of you falls to the wayside. I have been frozen in time for four months. Take time to really love and be present in this moment,” she said.

In an earlier self blog, she detailed ER visits, tests and painful muscle and weight loss as her symptoms.

Sturgell said the trip to Peru with boyfriend Ari Everett was made at the end of September/early October 2016.

“Been sick ever since, but my symptoms have changed and progressed,” she said. “Ari and I shared every meal and did all of the same activities. He is healthy and still in Arizona. Which leads me to believe, I had a predisposition to be ill, I think. I am a high-stress person and I think that was huge contribution to this illness taking over me. The mind is powerful. I don’t know what made me sick to be honest. I touched animals, ate classic Peruvian dishes, but I didn’t swim or drink the water. I’ll maybe never know. My focus is to figure out the puzzle pieces and get back to my life, if possible.”

Sturgell said when she lived out in Arizona, she was a freelance graphic designer.

“I lived in Arizona for an entire year,” she said. “I wanted to be warm for the rest of my life, so Arizona was instantly home. …one of the most uniquely beautiful places I’ve ever been.”

Little did Brooke Sturgell know when she was spending time in Peru recently with boyfriend Ari Everett that she would get extremely sick afterwards.
https://www.dailyadvocate.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/web1_sturgelltrip1PRINT.jpgLittle did Brooke Sturgell know when she was spending time in Peru recently with boyfriend Ari Everett that she would get extremely sick afterwards.

By Linda Moody

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