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Malariaed

Last week I finally got malaria. I did pretty well avoiding it, spending over a year in total in East Africa and not catching it. The people I live with here are convinced that is was a long walk that I took from a nearby village of Poktop to Duk Payuel that did me in. The walk was pretty gruelling. I was told it would take three hours, it took us four and a half. About four hours was through knee deep water with slippery sticky mud underneath it. So when we finally arrived at the clinic to a joyous welcome I was ready for a nice cup of tea and some rest. The next day I was ok, we had a visitor from Juba come for about an hour and I worked with him to get some financial things in order at the clinic. My back and legs hurt from the walking and carrying my bag, but other than that I didn’t feel too bad. That night I woke up at about 3 AM shivering, always a bad sign in the South Sudanese heat.


The next day I didn’t feel so great but had a shower and did some work, I had planned to do some things, get tested for malaria, and then take it easy for the day. After some tea in my office, as I was walking outside, I had an all too familiar feeling of the world slowly turning itself on its head. I knew that if I lay down the dizzy spell may subside, so I put my cup down and laid under a tree in the shade. I woke up with one of our cooks, Akuol, looking over me saying, “are you ok!?” My thought process went like this, “what the hell, who the hell is this, where am I, why am I being carried, this feels nice, oh…….the clinic, South Sudan, deep breath, smile.” The worried faces around me were eased as I began to laugh at how funny I must have looked taking a small nap under the tree. A line was put in my hand, blood was taken, glucose was given, and the blood was tested. People looked in and many wondered why I had “collapsed,” even though I kept insisting I had lain down. They were even more confused when they were told I only had malaria. I was moved to a tent and the doctors and nurses worked to keep my fever down. Malaria was positive so I was given quinine through the line in my hand. This involves three four hour treatments, every eight hours. The quinine takes away your appetite while at the same time reducing your glucose levels, meaning you need to eat. It also produces a wonderful ringing in your ears that makes you not want to talk or listen to anyone. As I lay in someone else’s tent, everyone came by to see how I was and tell me I would be ok. While this was extremely nice, for me, someone that likes to suffer in silence and no fuss to be made, it was not my ideal situation.


Not able to move from your bed for twelve hours out of twenty four also gives one time to think. I thought about how lucky I was to have the things that I was being provided. I was given someone else’s tent for the day because the sun sits on mine until the evening. I was given a soda, a very rare commodity in Duk Payuel at this time of year, to help bring my glucose level up and hydrate me. I had three nurses and two clinical officers looking after me and constantly checking my patient card, and making sure they could do everything to make me comfortable. I had people bring food to me in my tent and tell me to eat when I felt like doing anything else. I couldn’t help but think about the patients that come with no one. Most of our patients here come with a caregiver, but not all. For many different reasons some come alone. Some come with no food. We try and feed the ones we can but cannot feed everyone. How would I have felt to be by myself, feeling terrible, and hungry? I also got many well wishes from Canada as well as chastised for not taking an anti-malarial drug. I am now fully recovered and feeling great, although my own sickness has given me a new perspective of what the patients here go through, and a new empathy of the struggles they face.


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