Saturday, 8 January 2011

Malaria Me Too

19-27 December 2010
When I read several blogs some of the VSO volunteers working in Africa, almost all of them had mentioned of Malaria. In our In Country (Orientation) Training, the talk of malaria was too much. I got bored of hearing it. After starting my volunteer life here, I have been hearing many volunteers and lots of natives complaining about getting malaria and remaining sick for days. If you say to somebody, “hey where have you been? I did not see for many days,” the most frequently heard response would be “Oh, I had got malaria!”. After spending some months I had got used to see somebody who always looked lively would suddenly start seem to be all exhausted and I would hear that person complaining that he might get malaria. Then that person would not be seen for some days in the office.
I had decided before starting for Ghana, that I would not get this disease at any cost. I was confident that I would not catch the disease, having prior experience of malaria in India, coming from a tropical and developing country, having plenty of experience of living in rural parts of India. I tried to keep mosquitoes away. I applied mosquito repellent regularly. The famous Indian mosquito repellent Odomos is very commonly available here. I brought with me large packs of them by unnecessarily adding weight to my luggage. I tried to use protective nets while sleeping. I tried to remain healthy by eating well and exercising. I was taking anti malarial tablets regularly. I did not get the disease for 5 and half months.
It was working well when it was wet season and mosquitoes were common. When dry season started temperatures dropped down, mosquitoes stopped being seen in the air and I became relaxed. In the last month I stopped taking anti-malarial drugs after hearing their side effects especially on liver. I had already stopped using net and mosquito repellent. I did a long and tiring journey of south. I started to feel exhausted. I stopped my exercise. I had started to feel low. It caught me at the right stage when I was not physically and mentally able to fight it.
It was Christmas time and offices were not in the mood of working. I had not decided what I would do at that time. I was not feeling to travel anywhere when every other fellow volunteer friends were travelling to distant places. I had decided to travel to south just because there was nothing I could think of doing in that period. They had decided on big gathering of volunteers and party. It was going to be new experience all together, the Christmas celebrated by Western volunteers and to watch the street parties and Christmas parades by the local people in the city of Koforidua. I was having a gut feeling somehow that I would not be able to make it.
I started to get fever with headaches every night for two consecutive days. It became obvious that even though I did not wish to get it, It became obvious the malaria had got me. Third day I went to the clinic in Bolgatanga by collecting all of the energy which I was retaining. As my case paper book was being searched in the records room, I had to spend some time seating in the waiting room after which I got the entry to the doctor's room. The young lady doctor, after hearing about my symptoms, suggested me to get the test done. Fortunately it was available in the next room, and within half an hour the result was out. It was the moment of truth, the assistant in the laboratory came out with his natural smile (not vicious one) and declared that I had got malarial parasites in my blood.
Again I had to see the doctor, who gave prescriptions of drugs and some long list of advises which included plenty of rest (when you are having fever, you can't sleep), eating properly (I did not have any appetite for food) and taking medicines regularly (the anti-malarial drugs are known to make you dizzy throughout the day). It was going to be difficult. I collected the medicines from the counter. The ever smiling cashier lady helped me by facilitating the processes which is generally very lengthy for the locals. (the white man privilege). When I departed from the clinic, she smiled and said, “so next time”. I said to her, “but not with malaria for sure.” She laughed and I started walking towards the road.
Since I had came to Bolgatanga by organizing all of the energy left in the body I decided to do some other work. I went to bank, checked emails and cancelled my journey ticket. When I returned to Bongo, on my way to the house I met Madam Christy who works in my neighbouring office. She greeted me and said, “your T shirt looks nice on you but you don't. Why?” Having now confirmed at the clinic, I eagerly answered, “after you, it is my turn. I have got malaria.” She smiled and gave her elderly advice, “Eat plenty. Take rest. Remember God. You'll be fine in two days.”
By the time I returned to house, I was completely exhausted. The evening progressed and I knew it was going to be nightmare. I cooked some food and realized that my grocery stock had finished. No vegetables, no rice, no bread. I had forgotten to do shopping for the necessary food stuff when I was out. I lay on bed. After a while, the temperature of the body shot up and I started to shiver. I kept on shivering for almost three hours. I thought I would then die of shivering. It stopped somewhere in the night and I slept. In the morning when I woke up, I found myself relieved that I was still alive.
I did not have much energy to do anything. I called, Joshua, my colleague in the office and requested him to bring some food and grocery items from the market. He helped me with it and wished me fast recovery. My boss, came to visit me after hearing about Malaria and wished me the same. I tried to eat as much as I could as per the advises given to me. There was not much of fever that day. All around the town, every where they were playing gospel songs loudly and I remained in the bed hearing them.
On the fifth day of Malaria, I had to get up and start the chores because my clothes needed a wash. There was no water running from the tap today. I managed to wash the clothes using my stored water and spent rest of the day taking rest. There was no fever and headache and I was on my way of recovery.
There was little water left in the store in the next day and I found that somebody had locked my main water connection valve, due to which water could not flow through the taps in the house. It was quite frustrating to learn all that when I was not still able and willing to move outside the house. My neighbour helped me by contacting the person, who unlocked it in the evening but by that time the main water supply was turned off and I had to wait till the morning to flush my toilet and had to use the water sparingly for my bath and washing dishes.
How was your Christmas?” asked me everybody when I started going out from the house. I answered them, “Well, I did not experience Ghanaian Christmas but, I did experience Ghanaian Malaria”
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