Entry #016: Monday, June 3, 2013 (Arusha, Tanzania)

So, um, remember how I was saying that I didn't really enjoy writing the last entry? Well, I can probably chalk that up - in part, at least - to the fact that I was physically not in the best of states. In fact, when I posted it, I was running a pretty healthy fever. The first sign of anything going wrong was after my exercise for that day (Thursday), after which I became more tired and winded and headache-y than I felt I should have been. So, I figured my fever was a continuation of my body telling me that I've pushed it too far.

Nope. Malaria.

Of course, I didn't know that at the time. I had slight inklings (after all, you should always be wary of such things), but I figured I could wait it out and see what happened. So, that night, I continued things as normal. I ate my dinner, which was not a fun experience, as it gave me an upset stomach, but I attributed this to maybe something about the food that night not being prepared all that well. I then read to the kids, which was a bit more difficult than normal because of my lightheaded condition, and then lay down. I went to bed at 10pm (which, regardless of where I am on Earth, is super early for me), thinking that bedrest was the best thing I could do for myself, and hopefully, by the morning, the fever would be gone.

That night was kind of rough. My head was hot, my extremities were cold, and I occasionally went through intense shivers. But Friday morning, I woke up and I seemed fresh as a daisy. No fever, no nothing. Ah, so it was just me pushing myself too hard. I decided to just take it easy for the remainder of the day, and all should be well. So, on the whole, I did very little that day (spoiler: I did very little most of the days since the last entry). I did meet up with the couple from the UK. They seemed very nice, and it turns out that they've climbed Kilimanjaro themselves, just three years ago. If an older couple can do it, I shouldn't have too many issues, especially if my training continues (in, perhaps, a more controlled manner). I joked about how I thought I had malaria, but it turned out to be nothing, and all that.

In fact, it wasn't until later that evening that I began to suspect anything. The kids came home from class as normal, and I was starting to help them on their homework, and do some light reading, when it turned out to be time for them to go to their Friday worship session in the chapel. So, I went to my room, and was waiting for them to be finished. That's when I noticed that I was starting to feel a bit lightheaded again. Not only that, but when I felt my forehead, it was warm. Not nearly as hot as the night before, but warmer than it had any right to be. After doing a bit of research online, I found out that there are multiple strains of malaria, and each of them manifest themselves differently. A couple of them, though, will produce a high fever at first, and then drop to a low or no fever on the second day, before rising again. This seemed to match my predicament exactly.

Having said that, I didn't want to fall into some sort of hypochondriac spiral, so I told myself to calm down, and wait for a real doctor to tell me what the issue was. I found Josephat that night, and told him I wanted to see a doctor on Saturday (it was 8:30pm by now, too late to go to most clinics, probably). I later went to bed. No shivers or extreme temperatures this time, and I woke up feeling as normal as ever.

Well, not quite as normal as ever. I don't think there's ever been a more appropriate time for me to use the term malaise as in this context. I couldn't tell why, but something was just off. I had a tad bit less energy than I felt I should have, my muscles seemed a tad weak, and I was a tad lightheaded. Everything was so slight that I knew there was something, I just didn't know what it was.

Joesephat's secretary, Eliza, knocked on my door and called for me. To be blunt, I was a tad bothered by this, because all I wanted to do at this point was sleep, but she had my best intentions in mind, so what are you gonna do. She offered to take me to a nearby Baptist medical clinic, which was relatively nearby and inexpensive. At first, she said we'd have to take some daladalas, but then the Bishop came out from his room and offered to drive us in his rental car. Obviously, this was an offer I couldn't refuse, so we all drove down to the clinic. It's a damn good thing that I didn't insist on going by myself - the clinic was in a side-neighborhood, through a twisting labyrinth of paths that nobody would have any hope of navigating if they'd never done so before.

The clinic itself was a surprisingly nice establishment for being out in the middle of nowhere (well, "nowhere" compared to being in the thick of town), which made sense when I found out that it was only built within the last five years. It was also fairly efficient; although there were a few dozen people waiting outside, it turned out they had already been served and were just waiting for results. I was able to be seen by a doctor within two minutes of arriving. They still hadn't perfected the "building flow" yet; after being seen by a nurse, I went to the doctor down the hall, then had to go to a laboratory in the second building, then to the first building bathroom (for the ever-popular urine test), then back to the laboratory for the blood test, then to the waiting area. And there, I waited for 45 minutes, before hearing my name called. Eliza and I walked into the doctor's office.

"We checked for typhoid, and the results came back negative." Well, I guess that's good, I thought to myself. "But you have malaria."


So, yeah, I have malaria. This, after being in a malarial zone for less than one month, and having notably few mosquito bites (well, fewer than I was expecting), and having taken Lariam to help prevent such a thing. Not I said "help prevent." Unfortunately, as pretty much every piece of literature will tell you, there is no silver-bullet prevention for malaria. It can only decrease your chances of it. And then there's the question of when I was infected. The plasmodium organism that causes malaria apparently spends between 8-30 days in the human body before symptoms start to develop. Quite literally, this means that it could have occurred at pretty much any point since I left Italy, up until essentially a couple days after arriving at the orphanage. So I don't know if I got it in Kenya or Tanzania or whatnot. My mother offhandedly suggested that perhaps it happened during my first, supremely unpleasant night in Nairobi. It's as hypothetical a guess as any, but you know what? Let's go with it. I don't mind putting another notch in the not-a-Nairobi-fan belt.

Anyway, when I heard the news, only one thing came to mind. "I'm supposed to climb Mount Kilimanjaro on  June 15th. Is this going to be an issue?" "Oh, no problem." Okay, that was a relief. Apparently, with these different type of malaria, they are classified as either severe or uncomplicated. It's the severe type which is the kind that you're supposed to be worried about, the kind that can kill you. Luckily, all signs point to mine being of the uncomplicated variety, meaning that - with proper treatment - it shouldn't be worse than your standard flu. And because it was treated, it should be okay moving forward. Now, I'm knocking on a fairly large amount of wood, because with some strains of malaria, especially if you don't treat it properly, you will never be rid of it, and for decades after first infection, you will get relapses that are just as bad as the first.

So let's hope it's not that, eh?

So, we got some medication (which was incredibly cheap, even without insurance coming into play; funny, that), and then drove back to the orphanage (after a quick stop at a local grocery store where I bought a couple of supplies, most notably a 10-liter bottle of water that everyone seemed to be obsessed with carrying for me, even though I was the only one who could carry it without issue. And, since pretty much then until now, I've been sitting in my room, feeling like an absolute layabout and glutton. Everyone tells me to eat, eat, eat, and I know I'm supposed to get bedrest, so I've just been pretty much lying down all day, except when there's food, at which point I'm called to eat...and then lie down again.

It's definitely not the most fun of situations, and I really want to be more active, but I feel it's probably best if I'm not...at least, not as much as I have been. After all, I still think this was triggered by my pushing myself. When my body was in a tired state, it probably allowed for the symptoms, lying in wait, to flare up. So I've just been, existing, for lack of a better word.

Most of my interactions with people have been when they came in to bring me food. The thing is, most of these times I would have preferred for them to just leave the food and go. Not because I want to be antisocial or anything, but because I'm resting. So, I'll be lying down, and I hear a knock on the door. Knowing the front door is unlocked, I just let them come in, and do their thing. Then I hear, "Andrew...Andrew...Andrew..." I figure they just want to tell me that lunch has arrived, so I decide to just make it seem like I'm asleep, and maybe they'll let sleeping dogs lie. But no, no dogs lie here. Soon, there would be knocks at my room door. So, I'd have to get up, put a shirt on, and answer. "Here's lunch." And that's pretty much it. I want to tell them of my sleeping dogs concept, but then, they're bringing me food, so I don't want to be a jerk to them.

Oh, and I found out that the Bishop is an Anglican. I've had a few more conversations with him, most of them going back to his admiration of America and Americans, and the fact that he wants to go on a vacation to America (specifically, a vacation without his family). I occasionally try to ask theological questions of him, just to see what he says. I asked him if he ever has had to debate something, such as the existence of God (after which I explained my own mathematical counterpoint to the "if God is all-powerful and all benevolent, why is there suffering" paradox, which I think he got a kick out of), but it seems like he never really did. He said most of his debates have been with Muslims, who have asked things like, "Why is Jesus considered the Son of God?" and "Why don't you take your shoes off when entering a church?" I asked him what his thoughts were on those questions. He said that his main answer was, paraphrased: "It's in the Bible." To be perfectly honest, I thought this was a pretty unsatisfying response, but I suppose I never signed up to have deep theological conversations.

Also, had an odd sleep last night. The power went out at, maybe, 7:45, and there wasn't much to do, so I just lay down and decided to get whatever sleep I could have. I should have just read, because this messed with my overall sleep cycle about as well as you would expect going to bed five hours early (when you've hardly expended any energy all day anyway) would do. I think it was about 11pm when the lights came back on, so I quickly got up and shut them off. Unfortunately, now I was too rested to just go back to sleep, so I was tossing and turning. It didn't help that outside I could hear people singing. It was quite beautiful singing, backed up by the howling of dogs, but it wasn't doing anything for my sleep. And I swear, I could swear, I heard the buzzing of a mosquito. It was so faint, and when I shone my light around, I couldn't see anything, so I just figured it was maybe an electric hum, perhaps from my power adapter. I then kept trying to fall asleep. I got about halfway into a sleep when I had a fairly unpleasant dream. I don't know if it was extreme enough to call a nightmare, but it was bad enough where you wake up and don't want to open your eyes, just in case it came true. (No, I don't remember the contents of the dream.) However, I decided to open my eyes, because I knew I could hear the mosquito buzzing. I turned on my light again, and saw him, merrily floating outside my netting, between the wall and me. Looking to take revenge on any member of this worthless species, I made a quick slap towards the wall, and all that remained was a smashed little bug. I listened carefully - no more buzzing. I went back to sleep and had a fairly pleasant dream. (Still don't remember the contents.) I am almost convinced that buzzing actively poisoned my sleeping mind.

And I only have seen the UK couple again today, when I went outside briefly. It's a shame that they're not going to be around for my birthday, but they seemed to understand why I wasn't around during the majority of their stay.

So, yeah. Not much to go on about. Having to rest to keep up your strength will do that to you. Well, all things considered, if I had to get malaria, it seems like this was a fairly okay version to get. I'm definitely counting those blessings.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear you're doing better! Hopefully, you'll have smoother travels ahead. At least the doctor didn't greet you with "Well hello, my friend" or tried to sell you something other than medicine.


    P.S. Thanks for the note about the bishop being Anglican.

    P.S.S. Can't blame you for dispatching that mosquito - someone had to tell him to 'buzz' off.