As authorities attempt to find answers on American deaths in the Dominican Republic, dozens of U.S. tourists have come out to share their stories about becoming ill while visiting the Carribean nation.
Among those was Natalie Stanley who said she and her husband had to cut their trip short due to Stanley falling ill two days after arriving at their resort on June 9.
“When I started to get the appetizers I felt just sick,” Stanley told Fox 2. “Like my chest was starting to feel real heavy and I was like I can’t breathe.”
According to the news broadcaster, Stanley had a mixed drink at dinner, while her husband had a beer.
“I told him that there was something seriously wrong with me because I was shaking uncontrollably,” Stanley said.
“My jaw started clinching and then my pupils were really dilated. Like every 30 minutes I had to run to the bathroom. My husband was like are you really shaking that bad, I’m like yes,” she added.
Similarly, in April, several members of a Michigan family who traveled to the Dominican Republic for Spring break became violently ill after returning from the country.
“I’m just losing all my fluids,” Scott Muschong told Action News. “I can’t keep anything down.”
Muschong’s 17-year-old son, Evan, also became sick while on the trip.
“I kind of thought I was invincible,” Evan told the news station. “My parents warned me about it like, ‘listen, don’t drink the water, don’t do anything like that.’ But I continued to drink the water.”
Muschong said he was diagnosed with E Coli, meanwhile, his son never received an official diagnosis.
In another case, a Florida man became severely ill while in the country.
Jerry Martin, who went to the Dominican Republic with his wife to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary, started experiencing some excruciating symptoms several days after arriving at Punta Cana.
“Fire in the bottom of my stomach. Pain, excruciating pain,” Martin told Fox 13. “We were down at the pool when it hit, and I had to go up and just lay down and hold my stomach. It was on fire.”
The symptoms not only ruined the rest of his trip, they never went away after returning to the United States. He went to the emergency room after landing back home and has since been back five times in the last few weeks.
“I am scared, honestly. It’s my health,” he told the news broadcaster.
Martin was not able to tell whether his illness is linked with the other cases that have emerged in the media in the past two weeks but his experience has caused him to become more cautious about going to the country and traveling outside the United States.
These experiences come after at least 12 Americans have died in the Dominican Republic over the last 12 months in suspicious circumstances. The deaths have sparked attention worldwide as investigators in both the Dominican Republic and the United States search for the cause behind the tragedies.
Autopsies for some of the victims have indicated heart attacks and pulmonary edema, or fluid build-up in the lungs. Several victims have been found dead in their hotel rooms while others were with a loved one after drinking from the minibar in their rooms before collapsing.
The suspicious deaths started in June 2018 and have continued into June 2019.
The U.S. Embassy said there are no established connections between the deaths, but three possible causes have emerged. These possible causes are bootleg liquor or another form of counterfeit alcohol, contaminated food or water, and poisoning.
Reynold Panettieri Jr., a physician at Rutgers who specializes in toxicology, told People magazine, that he finds the deaths “very strange.”
“Healthy people don’t just die. And the couple dying at the same time certainly tips us off that something is very wrong,” he said.
According to the State Department travel advisory from April this year, those traveling to the Dominican Republic should “exercise increased caution” due to crime.
NTD reporter Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.