Ethan Sky

A three year old boy is bitten by mosquitos and contracts papalomoyo. An untrained Western father tries to treat it using native Costa Rican natural medicine.

Transcript : Parasites and Ice Cream

So as he says, I did all go to Costa Rica during the winter times. I’ve lived in Missoula about nine years, but I’ve only spent about five winters here. Four of those winters I flew down to the Caribbean with my two-year-old son. And  we weren’t  just tourists, okay. We weren’t  like traveling through the country. We had to pick a spot and settle down, and stay there for about six months at a time. So we picked this small Rastafarian village on the coast of Costa Rica called Puerto Viejo. [cheers]

You guys are familiar with Puerto Viejo?

And we set up shop there. And my son went to preschool there for four years. He played on the soccer team that traveled to different villages and played other, other schools. I got a job at a restaurant, an Argentinian restaurant for some reason, in Costa Rica! And I learned how to do empanadas and Milanese sauce, and I paid rent. And we were fully engulfed. We we started wearing Rasta colors. It just happens. Red green and gold.

Now, that sounds dreamy, right? We got to go to the beach all the time. Productive day down there is three hours on the beach doing nothing. So we did that a lot. But, that, it sounds dreamy to get out of the Missoula winters, but there are some hardships about living in the Caribbean. This was the poorest region of the country as well. And we were introduced to the poverty. And we never had hot water. A lot of people couldn’t afford hot water and I thought was good for us to live the same way like that. And so my two year old son had to take cold showers. Which was rough. Sometimes he wanted a little hot water so I’d boil it on the stove mixture of cold and just put it in this plastic, plastic bin, right? That was rough. That was rough.

The moistness of the jungle down there makes everything grow just like mushrooms everywhere, on your clothes, on your toes. This is gnarly. Gnarly. It smells…. So that was rough.

But the hardest thing were the mosquitoes. Yeah. Yeah. So, in Montana, we got  mosquitoes they’re pretty big. They’re pretty gnarly.

But they’re not tropical mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes down there are huge. And they carry diseases, you know? Like dengue fever, malaria, other things.


But, we’ve all gotten bitten by a mosquito and it hurts. And it itches and it’s annoying, and it’s it’s horrible.


It’s a tourist town so you could see all the tourists coming in. The pale North Americans and Europeans, they come in white and they leave red, with the sunburns and mosquito bites. It was just, that was part of the deal.

The first year I was down there my son got destroyed by mosquitoes. And locals were like, “Do you have a mosquito net?”

I was like, “No, Dude, I’m a local now! I’m a native! I’m like you guys!”

And they were like, “We have mosquito nets!”


I was like, “Oh!” So I got a mosquito net.

Year two we went down, and I have less money, so I could afford the beachfront property for $200 a month, so I moved into the jungle for hundred and fifty dollars a month. Deep in the jungle. And as we already heard with the centipedes and the scorpions and the snakes and bigger mosquitoes that’s where we chill.

Now, my son got bit by a special mosquito, when he was three years old. He got bit on his wrist, twice, and he got bit on his face. Now just like any other three-year-old or 50-year-old, [unintelligible] everyone — it’s hard not to scratch mosquito bites! Am I wrong?

And this three year old just wouldn’t stop touching. His marks…his his bites and I became became neurotic about it you know, like, “Dude! Stop touching your thing! Get your hands away from there!”

And they just kept on growing. You know? They wouldn’t heal. They wouldn’t heal. And it just kept on growing bigger and bigger. All three spots.

So I went to my neighbor, and I was like, “Uh, what is going on?”

And my neighbor’s looked at my son and he was like, “Oh, he’s got  papalomoyo.”

Which is slang for Leishmaniasis. Which I later found out was a parasite that you get from mosquitoes.

So I was like, “Oh, Shit!” I’m like so out of my realm, I don’t know what to do. I’ve lived here for a year. This is my second year. I feel like I’m involved. I’m part of the community. You know, we’re doing all the things. We’re living the life down here. But I’m so far out of my league as far as health care down there. I don’t know what to do.

So my neighbor says, “Don’t go to the doctor!”

Hashtag “bad advice”.


“This is all you need to do. Go into the jungle. Find this white flower. Take the green leaves off the flower. Mash up the green leaves into a paste and put it on the wounds.

And I was like, “No problem! I’m you guys! I can do this!”

So I go into the jungle, and he comes with me, he’s like, “There is right there.”

So I find the flower, and I take the leaves and I take him home and I’m super psyched, like, “Eff Western medicine! I can do this! I can do this!”

Mashing it up. Cutting it up. And then I apply it to my son. He had said, “You just gotta put it on a paste, stick it on there, and maybe put a piece of tape on there, right? So it stays. And the juices from these flower leaves will kill this parasite.”

Because the parasite cannot be killed by antibiotics it’s just a strong….  Papalomoyo is the real deal down there.

So I mash it up. Make this little paste. I put it on his face. I put it on his wrist . And then I’m like, “Okay. Now  what?”

And he says, “Just wait.”

So he spends a couple days with this on his face I go down. We’re hanging out.

My neighbor sees us out in town, and he calls me over and he’s like, “Ethan, what are you doing, Man. What’s with your kid?”

I’m like, “I’m doing what you told me to do!” I uhh…

He’s like, “No.”

It looked like I just like stuck leaves on his face. Right?

And he’s like, “You gotta mash it up into a paste!

So he’s running around with his leaves taped all over him. I’m trying to be like a native. It’s not working.

So then I’m like, “You know what, I need to make, I should probably make sure that this is the right diagnosis, right? From my neighbor.”

So I go to a clinic. And the way we get down there, get around on there is on bicycles. And the more, the bicycles, you can fit up to five people on a bicycle down there. Those are called minivans. Gets her whole family on there? Anyway, it’s dangerous idea so we got one of those, where you have a seat on the frame, and we rode to the jungle about 3 miles up to Home Creek where there was a little clinic there. And this is like straight out of MASH, like 1970s. Old equipment. Not sure what’s going on.

I told him what the deal was I said, “I think he’s got papalomoyo.”

He’s like, “Okay let’s take a test.”

And so the test, so the whole idea, as I said before, everything is wet there. All the mushrooms growing. There’s just fungus everywhere. So the wounds of mosquito bites —  it takes forever to heal,  because they need to dry out. And so I’d watch him at night, trying to see if his wounds are drying out, and they get a little bit drier, so I think, right?

I took him to this test. And the way that they test to see if it’s a parasite, they take a razor blade, scrape open the wound to get inside and to see what the to get the parasite and put it on a microscope. So I’m watching this as he takes out the razor blade and he’s scraping my child’s face. He’s screaming.

I’m like, “What the hell is going on?!”  I’m about to freak out. And it gets over. There’s blood. There’s… I’m like, “Dude I’ve been spending weeks try to get this dry! Thank you! For opening it up again!”

And they said, “We’ll contact you with the results.”

I bike down back to my house in the jungle, and we get the results, and sure enough, it was papalomoyo.  The doctor says you need to take this heavy-duty shot if you want to get rid of papalomoyo.

All the locals, the natives, the homeopathics: “Don’t do the shot! You don’t know what’s in the shot! Chemicals!”

And I  was like, “Yeah that sounds horrible.”

So my other neighbor said, “You know what you should do?

[internal laughter and an aside] Bad Advice number two.

“You know what you should do? You go…go into the jungle, again, farther down, and there’s a woman there that does energy healing.”

I don’t know what I was thinking. I know. I could be arrested for neglect. Honestly.

So I was like, “That’s what i’m going to do. Instead of get the shot. Because the shot sounds horrible!”

So we go into the jungle farther and we find this little bamboo hut. And we walk in there. It is very very very nice. It’s calm. There is water running. There is a massage table, yoga mats. I’m like, “Yes. This is what I’m talking about. This is gonna cure my kid!”

So, he’s three. He is oblivious. He’s got these festering wounds. He’s playing with toys, and this woman is telling me to connect with him by putting my hand on his head, and thinking about him, and good thoughts. And once we get that energy connection we’ll be able to transform the healing powers that I can give onto him and get rid of this parasite. All in Spanish.


I’m like, “I think I understand.”

This isn’t working!

This is three weeks now, and these these these these wounds are getting huge. And it’s it’s it’s horrible! I can’t sleep at night. I wake up in the middle of the night with flashlights, just checking him to see if they are getting smaller, to see if they’re drying out. If the mosquito nets are tucked in. But he’s got more bites. Just neurotic! Obsessed! On the health of my child.

Ultimately, I can’t take it anymore. I can’t take anymore. I go back to the clinic with them and I was like, “Sign me up for the shots.

So they bring it was like, “Okay.”

And they get it ready. And they bring out this huge ass needle! My my kid is this big, okay? And this needle is gigantic! Because it’s got to be an inter-muscular injection right? It’s not just a little thing. You got to go right in the top your rear right here and deep so it can penetrate and get in. And it’s supposed to kill everything.

So I don’t know how to explain this to my three-year-old son. Like, “Listen, we’re going to do this.”

He doesn’t know what’s going on. I’m scared as hell. I just wanted, I just want to heal these wounds, you know? So it’s me, this Costa Rica nurse, this MASH clinic, and we put my son on the table and the needle comes out.

And he’s like, “Waiiiit a second!” But not so calmly. He’s like freaking out.

It takes me and the nurse about two minutes to pin this kid down on his stomach while she gives him this interscope…intramuscular injection in his butt. And that was, that was intense. That was intense. And still think about that today.

And then she goes to me, and she goes, “Okay, you just have to come back for nine more of those.”


“10 days of this will get you free.”

And I was like, “Nine more shots like that? I don’t know if I can handle this!”

[timestamp 12:47:973 — transcription to be completed next week. Editing the podcast, including transcription, to this point, has taken me 5.5 hours & I need a break. I am disappeared for a few days & this is being scheduled for publication. — Marc Moss]