Life and Death with Malaria

It Begins with Cold Symptoms    I was running around on my usual business, reading, and beginning to see the need of a secondary project when suddenly it hit me.  I wasn't feeling too well.  Not at all!   Thank goodness for my househelp.  He fixed supper and after eating, I went right to bed.  Sore throat, headache, and fever.  I sweated up a storm that night.  The bed was drenched.  I immediately looked up all the symptoms of malaria.  I didn't think I had it, but I spent the day in bed again.  I wished I could say I slept but I didn't.

Each day seemed to improve little by little but every night was awful.  It was a miserable long night starting at 1:00 A.M.   I didn't sleep at all after that.  I used up the last of my Tylenol and aspirin.  I switched from Sudafed to Chlortrimeton.  It seemed to help.

After a few days, I felt good enough to go to Monrovia for a meeting.  The day went well but I had a horrible night!  I woke up freezing even though I was fully clothed and wearing a lined jacket.  I moved to an unairconditioned room.  I moaned, tossed, groaned, and sweated all night.   It was awful.  I threw up once and then diarrhea began.  I awoke from a strange dream and saw one of my friends.  She said I looked awful and put me back in bed.

The Symptoms      The Peace Corps nurse was contacted.  Needles, blood tests, and questions.  I had every symptom imaginable!  Gas, cramps, diarrhea, nausea, sore throat, congestion, headache, chills, 104 temperature, sweating spells, overall body ache, and exhaustion from lack of sleep.  I couldn't open my eyes because they hurt so bad.  It hurt when my eyes were shut.  I took aspirin and Tylenol.  It didn't help at all.  I asked for something stronger and the Peace Corps doctor kept forgetting.  I was at the point of refusing further treatment until something was done for my headache.

Well, I tested positive for malaria and shigella.  Shigella is food contamination.  I ate what people are always telling others to eat if they are mad at them.  In addition, I had become badly dehydrated because I couldn't take in fluids.  The Peace Corps nurse decided to take me to the hospital when it was feared my kidneys had shut down.  I was on an IV for 36 hours or more.  All I could do in the hospital was rest my poor, tired body.  My eyes still hurt so badly that I couldn't read.

No Respect      My kidneys definitely did not shut down.  The nurse was pleased with the "present" I had for him when he came to visit.   Then, he flushed all that hard work down the toilet.

A few days later I was able to have visitors.  I spent two hours with with a friend.  She was told  I looked just awful.  I'd say I was looking thinner.  Who wouldn't after losing forty pounds?

I stayed in the hospital a week.  When I was finally released I had a ton of things to do in Monrovia.  By the time it was all done, I was drenched in sweat.  Both shirt and hair were soaked.  I looked so bad that a policeman stopped me on the street and hailed a taxi.

Up, Around, and On the Road Again      Later, I went to see the Peace Corps nurse for my final OK to leave for home. She said my blood pressure was still too low -- meaning I need more rest.  I was grounded in Monrovia for three weeks before they okayed me to leave.  On my way back to Zwedru, I went to a party upcountry.  Most of my friends were there.  We went to a waterfall.  Guess who was the first to climb to the top?  Guess who was the first casualty?  The only one!  I slipped, slid, smashed into a boulder, sprained my thumb, and lost my glasses.  I hated to write to Monrovia about this.  I only mentioned that my glasses were "lost" on the trip back home.  No details were given on how they were lost.

Copyright 2000, revised 2012 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.