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|Malaria Christmas (or, As I Lay Dying)|
Dec. 26th, 2008 at 12:06 am
Personal journal entry, late December 2001.
When the malaria blood test came back positive on Christmas Eve day, I was actually kind of excited and even started laughing. After all the time we had spent in different countries in Africa, I would finally be among the ranks of the true Africanists. â€œGoing nativeâ€ in a disease sense. Besides, how bad could it be, really? Everyone always said your joints ache and you have a fever and chills, which just didn’t sound that bad to me. Take some pills, rest for a few days, no big deal.
Twenty-four hours later I wasn’t laughing anymore. My body was tormented by a scorching fever and alternatively shaking with chills. Every joint throbbed and trembled in excruciating pain, crying out for mercy from the merciless, relentless agony.
Later Christmas afternoon I had a temporary pain reprieve, so I tried eating Christmas dinner. Bad idea. The pain soon returned, and on top of everything else, I started vomiting. After several rounds of projectile hurling, having nothing left, I just started dry heaving.
Finally the pain was too much. I went back to the local clinic, and they decided that an intravenous drip would be more effective than pills. The doctor and nurse kept sticking a needle in my arm, unable to find a vein. After multiple unsuccessful jabs, they scored a hit, but then began arguing heatedly about whether the IV was actually dripping or not. In the meantime I lay on the bed, certain I was dying, desperately trying to think of some way to take my mind off the pain. Beatles’ lyrics wandered deliriously through my tortured mind but provided little relief. The medicine they gave was extremely potent, and on top of the malaria symptoms I began suffering from the medicine’s side effects, most intolerable of which was an incessant high-pitched ringing in my ears, not to mention bizarre, psychedelic dreams. If someone would have asked, I would have immediately confessed my love for â€œBig Brother.â€
After a few days, the pain finally subsided and I soon recovered. But I owe an apology to Americans and white people generally. Thereâ€™s a medical clinic in Uganda who now must think (quite reasonably) that muzungu [foreigners, esp. white people] are serious wimps when it comes to dealing with malaria.