Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Frozen Blood and Shattered Bones

"Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, which is transmitted via the bites of infected mosquitoes. In the human body, the parasites multiply in the liver, and then infect red blood cells.

Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache, and vomiting, and usually appear between 10 and 15 days after the mosquito bite. If not treated, malaria can quickly become life-threatening by disrupting the blood supply to vital organs. In many parts of the world, the parasites have developed resistance to a number of malaria medicines.

Key interventions to control malaria include: prompt and effective treatment with artemisinin-based combination therapies; use of insecticidal nets by people at risk; and indoor residual spraying with insecticide to control the vector mosquitoes."


Mosquito death. African Flu. Malaria, malaria.

A mere eleven days spent in Africa and I had contracted this illness.

Even bundled underneath blankets and sheets, underneath a mosquito net glimmering in the feint moonlight, and inside a MEC sleeping bag I still felt cold. Not cold in the conventional sense, but cold in that my veins felt as if they ran with ice water. Harsh dry coughing echoed through the bedroom, my head ached - pulsing, wave after wave of intense pain. There was no escape because nausea prevented me from finding a way out of the net. My savior became a trap - a noose. Despite feeling the need to vomit and no matter how much I thrashed I couldn't find a way out of my net. I lay for hours hoping to recover, eventually fatigue overwhelmed me.

By morning some sense of balance returned and I struggled to get to work - I wasn't aware I had malaria, I just felt terrible. Even sitting under the Zambian sun at noon - after it had soared to its highest point illuminating the clear blue sky and cooking all that lay below - even as I sat under the sun in a jacket I felt cold. Frozen from the inside out. A new symptom arose as I rode in a toyota cab - my skin felt electrified and it was as if a sledge hammer had violently struck my arms shattering my bones. Every bump on the road was agony. In the Cuban doctor's office I could barely hold my head up.

I say these things not for sympathy, but to describe Malaria as I experienced it. In North America we hear about Malaria and the toll it is taking on many developing countries but how often do we try to understand how agonizing the symptoms truly are? In Zambia Malaria is no joke, my coworkers encouraged me to go the doctor as soon as they saw the way I was walking, sitting, and coughing. For a disease that is so common in Zambia they know and they take it very seriously. Most coworkers I have spoken with have had Malaria as many times as you or I have had the flu. Many people I know keep treatment medicines on stock and know the first signs and self medicate. The trick to Malaria is catching it when the cough and fever arise - if you start treatment early the disease is easily manageable and doesn't reach the terrible stages.

The aftermath? Well I had taken malarone for preventative measures so I was spared from the brunt of the symptoms, I can only imagine what the disease is like without. Apparently I can no longer donate blood in Canada. I was left feeling exhausted and ill for days and days but I am now on the road to recovery!

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow, Patrick! I hope you're recovering well. Keep us updated.

    Adam's latest blog post was about Malaria, too... but he hadn't contacted it yet, so I'll be crossing my fingers.