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A hot and feverish adventure


I climbed out of the pool suffering in complete agony. I was red as a beetroot all over my body; you can never be too careful in the hot equatorial sun and I had just found out the hard way.  Throughout the evening the sunburn had worsened and I was incredibly hot and feverish all over. Having to attend an evening party was the last thing on my mind, but nevertheless I reluctantly went along. Maybe I had made the right decision, for as suddenly as my sunburns and chills had come they had soon disappeared and I was ready feeling 100% for the next day’s overnight camping expedition…or was I?

We arrived the next day in the deep, African wilderness with a sense of adventure. We were camping under a sacred rock known by the locals as Kit-Mikayi and as night fell, I felt completely at ease. However as the sun began to appear, so did the headaches and stomach cramps. My body was aching, my temperature had soared and my stomach was churning in acute spasms. What had brought on my sudden bout of sickness? I put it down to what we call back home as a hangover. After all I admit that I wasn’t just drinking soft drinks the night before. My head was spinning around in a whirlpool of delirium. I wanted my bed, I wanted my bathroom, and I wanted to get out of the African bush!

Return to civilisation

My fever was raging and my shirt soaked in a salty sweat as I was driven the 30km back to the city of Kisumu. I was weak and could not even turn my head to wave goodbye to my fellow team members that I had left behind. The sun pierced my eyes and my stomach churned at my every move. We passed familiar sights; the rustic railroad crossing, the blue waters of Lake Victoria and the yellow, sleepy warehouses that had once been bustling in the days of the port. Yet my mind was not focused on the surroundings.

Medical help

I entered the doctor’s surgery alone with a sense of trepidation. The receptionist smiled and spoke perfect English. I told her my condition and sat down. The room was empty apart from a few antique medical books on the table. A man in a white suit who I presumed was the doctor called me over. He listened carefully to my symptoms then led me into a room. He told me that he was going to have to perform a malaria test on me. The very thought of the word ‘malaria’ sent a shiver down my spine. I knew I was in a malaria infected area, yet the idea that I myself might possibly have the deadly disease never crossed my mind. My head started rolling with thoughts; what would happen to me? Would I be hospitalised? Or even more worryingly would I be sent on the next plane back to England?

I sunk back in the chair, the room that once was empty was now crowded with patients. I looked at them; a girl was lying on her side. Her face was covered in sweat and she looked exhausted. Her symptoms seemed very similar to mine. Did she have malaria too? The time kept passing, the room was beginning to get very humid, and I wanted to collapse there and then.

The time seemed like forever. In fact it was probably more like two hours that I waited in that small room. The doctor sat me down and told me the news that I had led myself to expect. I was indeed ‘malaria positive’. I was shocked, yet realised it was something I had to handle. I stuffed my endless supply of medicine into a bag and left.

The casual Africans

My African friends didn’t seem bothered at all. ‘You’ll be better in a few days’, they casually said. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I probably felt that they would have at least been a little concerned. Here I was with a life threatening disease and my friends were just taking it all in their stride. Ultimately, their behaviour taught me that malaria, if treated immediately, is not as serious as it is made out to be. Indeed in Kenya, the locals treat it as commonly as the cold. Sadly though, the treatment is very costly and therefore lives are at stake. People, simply cannot afford the medicine.

An unusual disease

I was ill with malaria for a total of five days. I rested in a local hotel and drank plenty of bottled water, keeping out of the heat as much as possible. Malaria is a funny illness in that the symptoms come and go in wave patterns. One minute you feel absolutely fine and then the next you minute, you sweat uncontrollably, want to vomit and just want to collapse in a heap on your bed.

During my illness, I decided to read up on malaria to find out exactly what had infected my body so suddenly. What I found was not encouraging. Malaria is a parasite that is injected into the body in the saliva of the mosquito. Once in the body, the parasites head for the liver, which is a suitable spot to incubate. Even more alarmingly, the parasites sometimes remain in the liver forever. This means that one can have malaria for life.

Glenn Standish has visited Kenya several times with the educational charity ‘The Rendezvous Society’ (www.global-footsteps.com). After many tests in the UK, Glenn was referred to The Hospital of Tropical Diseases in London for specialist advice. Luckily, Glenn was infected with a non-recurring strand of the disease. So his malaria will not return!

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