2006.07.10: July 10, 2006: Headlines: COS - Zambia: Blog - Zambia: Malaria: Personal Web Site: Zambia Peace Corps Volunteer writes: Malaria

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Zambia: Peace Corps Zambia : The Peace Corps in Zambia: 2006.07.10: July 10, 2006: Headlines: COS - Zambia: Blog - Zambia: Malaria: Personal Web Site: Zambia Peace Corps Volunteer writes: Malaria

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Zambia Peace Corps Volunteer writes: Malaria

Zambia Peace Corps Volunteer writes:  Malaria

"I had ecoli, giardia, every bacteria or parasite digestive problem known to man, but none of these ailments could even come clsoe to describing the Malaria Diarrhea! The malaria parasite attacks the white blood cells, and the body can literaly feel the medicine trying to fight off the parasite, and once the treatment starts working the parasite is forced to leave the body, and there are only two ways and you don't get your choice!!!"

Zambia Peace Corps Volunteer writes: Malaria

Monday, July 10, 2006

An Email from my Deathbed

It all started with a headache, one of those pounding headaches where everything gets dizzy and makes you want to scream for bloody murder when you move your head the slightest inch. But just a headache I kept telling myself, it will go away soon. I swallowed a couple of aspirin and continued my day... one day turned into several days where I found myself waking up in incredible pain and falling asleep at night in pain. I realized there was something seriously wrong when I performed my usual morning routine, neck cracking--a little head turning to the left..pop pop pop.. followed by the other side..pop pop pop... When there was no pop pop pop, and extremely stiff pain, I began to think.... Have I maybe pop pop popped too much?!?!

I had gone out dancing the night before with a couple of friends, drank a glass of wine and was having a good time... until I got home, put on my pajamas, and realized that my teeth were chattering nonstop. I put on 3 layers of clothes and socks, got in my sleeping bag, under my blanket and although the weather is winter here, it has never been to this extreme. I tried to go to sleep but after forcibly shivering, I noticed something was wrong. (Okay, Okay, Yes.. I admit.. my reaction time in realizing I was sick was a little bit slow, but this was NOT due to my wine intake!) I called my friends, and neighbors, woke everyone up at 2 a.m., and people came rushing over to help me. The consensus... MALARIA, The number 1 killer in Africa. A nonbiased killer, it kills the rich, the poor, the young, the old, the white, the black, inflicted by a single mosquito bite carrying the malaria parasite. While people's symptoms differ by individual, mine had started with the headaches, followed by all of my joints becomming stiff, and then came the COLD/HOT spells.

Only about 20 minutes after I started shivering, I started unlayering myself and realized I was sweating profusely. My fever had broke and had I not been sick, I would have felt like a Greek Goddess being fanned as I employed all of my friends to fan cold air on me. You go from one extreme to the next.. At this point, I was ready to write my will, not that I have much to leave behind because I live in Africa, and have no assets, the thought still crossed my mind. I thought I was on my deathbed, and while I am a pro at being sick, I have never felt like this. The hot/cold spells persisted all night (I didn't sleep not even for a minute). My neighbors wanted to bring me to the hospital, but I adamantely refused because I didn't want to be admitted for several days and preferred to wait it out till a morning clinic oppened and I could start self medicating.

My persistence payed off, and even though my friends feared the worse, we waited until the morning and I was able to start treatment. Now, there are several treatments for malaria, but problems occur when people don't have access to these treatments, or for God-forsaken reasons, can't take them. Then what happens?! Cerebrial Malaria sets in and one can die within days. My drug of choice was Coartem, which is a three day course involving taking pills at one time every 8 hours. After my first dosage, I was in bliss, I felt like nothing had even plagued me, I was eating, I was much better, but it was at 3 p.m., , 1 hour before my next scheduled dosage when the symptoms kicked in again with full force.

The second day was a different story. Now, for those who may not remember, during my Peace Corps training I was known throughout my group as the Diarrhea Queen. I had ecoli, giardia, every bacteria or parasite digestive problem known to man, but none of these ailments could even come clsoe to describing the Malaria Diarrhea! The malaria parasite attacks the white blood cells, and the body can literaly feel the medicine trying to fight off the parasite, and once the treatment starts working the parasite is forced to leave the body, and there are only two ways and you don't get your choice!!! I'll spare everyone the details, but let's just say I spent the second day within two feet of a toilet at all times. Not to mention incredible stomach pain with all of these incredible bowel movements!

And then I thought it was over.. but NOOOOOOOOOOO.... That same night I was, again, up all night with hot/cold spells, joint pain, and another extreme headache. I was sleeping at a good friends house, who happens to be a nurse as well, and when I had to wake up her in the morning that third day from pain again she decided that we were going to the clinic in the morning because I should not have still had symptoms.

That following morning at the clinic we did a malaria blood test, which came out negative but was put on about 4 different medications, my tempature translated to 103 F, which frightened me quite a bit but is now normal now.

Well, I am alive.. I have survived malaria, and now wouldn't we all agree--I have an exciting story to tell!!! I can't imagine if I had been living in the village with malaria and am grateful I live in town this time aroound with access to EVERYTHING!

Imagine.. you are a baby, or an elderly person suffering from these exact symptoms and are unable to tell anyone what is happening to your body. What happens then.. well, to be blunt.. you die. Malaria can be prevented by sleeping under a mosquito net, but it is still very easy to get. Yes, it is easily treatable, but what if you don't have it. You are living in a remote village with no clinic nearby. My mom recently sent me a magazine article from I believe Sports Illustrated where a man was trying to convince Americans to donate money to buy mosquito nets for Africans. Come on Americans.. it will cost you maybe the equivalent of $3 dollars and you could be saving a family's life! A big KUDOS to my mom who donated money in my honor to this worthy cause and I couldn't stress enough to all of you to think about how much I suffered during this past week, and how thousands, hundreds of thousands of innocent children die just from being bitten from a single mosquito. Okay, i'll stop preaching now, but i'm only asking all of you to stop and THINK for a moment!

Thanks everyone for all of your love and support, and FYI- I am looking to come home standby in a couple of weeks! I hope to hear from you all soon.



When this story was posted in July 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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