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African Journal #12: Malaria Malady

Posted Feb 19 2009 6:31pm

May 3, 2008

My First African Hospital Visit

As I laid down to bed on the eve of April 30, I dreamed about my upcoming trip to home sweet home: Birnin-Kebbi. All of a sudden, five minutes after I dozed off, my heartbeat started pounding rather fast and I could not close my eyes. Mosquitoes were biting me in a frenzy, and with the sweat rolling off my skin I could feel each and every one of the mossies. My sense of touch had been heightened, and my body started shaking and the fan’s cool air turned into icy cold and I had to get up and put my favorite Seabeck Deaf Blind Retreat sweater on. My sweat started to emit a sour smell, it wasn’t so sweet anymore. I started noticing the symptoms of malaria: the chills, fever rising, sore muscles, sweating, and feeling flu-like. It had been raining in Abuja, and that meant the mossies were breeding and creating havoc, biting everyone in sight. That meant the carriers of malaria were fluttering around the humid, soggy city looking for a victim to swap blood and suck even more.
In the morning, wearing my sweater and wrapped in sheets, my flat mate Monica woke me up and said my driver was here to take me home to Birnin Kebbi. I bemoaned and said I was sick, possibly with malaria. She called VSO Program Office and they asked my driver, Matthew, to take me to the hospital for some bloodwork to find out whether I had malaria.
For those who think malaria is deadly on all counts: fear not. It has different forms, mostly not deadly and can be treated immediately; one form is recurring and can come back so often once you have it; the other form is rare but it travels to the brain and develops a lethal fever. The interpreter, Timothy’s Deaf brother, died of that lethal malaria several years ago. I have been taking Melaquoine, an antimalarial tablet once a week on Tuesdays ever since I arrived in Nigeria. It’s not 100 percent effective, more like 95%. There are no shots for malaria, only yellow fever and hepatitis. Treatment is available if I were to be diagnosed with malaria and VSO’s medical insurance would cover the costs of medical treatment.

Matthew drove me to the Abuja Clinic, a fancy hospital with five floors and a gated wall around it. There were botanical gardens around the buildings and fancy Lexus and BMW cars. It sure was in stark contrast to the run-down clinic I had seen in Birnin Kebbi, with motorcycles lined up down the street!
As I got in, we went to the front desk and I showed my VSO ID and they logged me on in the computer file-sharing system and sent the doctor a notification I was here. I filled out a small paper with my name, my address, my employer and their phone number, my email address and my birth date. Simple. They gave me a small booklet with a grid where appointment dates/times were to be filled out, and a short summary of the services at the clinic. We sat down in the waiting room, and as soon as a patient walked out, I walked in Examination Room 1. That was fast! I didn’t have to wait 2-3 hours, unlike the waiting times back home in America! I met the doctor, wrote down my symptoms, my medical history, my anti malarial intake, and how I was feeling right now. He typed in the information on the file-sharing system and sent it over to the lab and asked me to go down to the basement to the lab to get some bloodwork. Off I went. And when I got to the lab, I was immediately seated and one vial of blood was taken and the lab technician typed information in the file sharing and said the results would be ready in 45 minutes. So off I went to the hospital coffee shop and ordered an omelette with toast – it was so delicious! I sat there in amazement, looking back at my experiences in American and Canadian hospitals and remembering it wasn’t pleasant. The food was horrid, the waiting times unbearably long, pain prolonged, insurance claim papers by the stackful, and the smell was toxic. At the clinic, there wasn’t that typical hospital smell, just the aroma of coffee and eggs wafting in the air. As sick as I felt, my stomach felt good to have some solid food being digested – and some good old tea remedy. Matthew and I conversed through pen and paper, I told him of the high costs for health care in America and the free health care system in Canada but it was backlogged and chaotic and of course, very expensive. One ambulance ride can cover my salary for six months here in Nigeria!
After an hour, I went in to see my doctor and he wrote down in bold: the results came back, you don’t have malaria. You have viraemia, a flu-like symptom which with rest you should get better in two days.
That’s it? I let out a sigh of relief and went to the clinic’s pharmacy and filled up on some painkillers for my muscle soreness, 2 sleeping tablets to help drift off to dreamland and vitamin E supplements.
I was out the door after 1 ½ hour. I could not believe how fast, easy and hassle-free that was??? I’m not sure if the same system is applied to the hospital in Birnin Kebbi, but the citizens of Abuja really have it easy.
I went to the popular expatriate store – Park ‘N Shop – and got some tea, water bottles and of course, cappuccino ice cream. I was sick and wanted the same comforts I would have – at home back in North America. Too bad there isn’t any Haagen Dazs Coffee ice cream here, I’m mad for that stuff!

Granted, my first visit to the hospital in Africa wasn’t because I hurt myself due to my blindness, but it was a common flu. I’m thankful I didn’t get malaria, and pray that I do not contract any during my two year stay here in Nigeria. I plan on visiting the hospital in Birnin Kebbi – don’t plan to injure myself – but in any case that happens, I want to meet the doctors and the staff and explain about my vision and how they can be prepared in case I was brought in by strangers, who they would contact. It helps to be prepared, especially in a developing country.

Gesundheit (German for ‘in good health’) to everyone, especially with the winter season ending back home in North America and the pollen flying everywhere in the air.

Tactile love, Coco

May 3, 2008

My First African Hospital Visit

As I laid down to bed on the eve of April 30, I dreamed about my upcoming trip to home sweet home: Birnin-Kebbi. All of a sudden, five minutes after I dozed off, my heartbeat started pounding rather fast and I could not close my eyes. Mosquitoes were biting me in a frenzy, and with the sweat rolling off my skin I could feel each and every one of the mossies. My sense of touch had been heightened, and my body started shaking and the fan’s cool air turned into icy cold and I had to get up and put my favorite Seabeck Deaf Blind Retreat sweater on. My sweat started to emit a sour smell, it wasn’t so sweet anymore. I started noticing the symptoms of malaria: the chills, fever rising, sore muscles, sweating, and feeling flu-like. It had been raining in Abuja, and that meant the mossies were breeding and creating havoc, biting everyone in sight. That meant the carriers of malaria were fluttering around the humid, soggy city looking for a victim to swap blood and suck even more.
In the morning, wearing my sweater and wrapped in sheets, my flat mate Monica woke me up and said my driver was here to take me home to Birnin Kebbi. I bemoaned and said I was sick, possibly with malaria. She called VSO Program Office and they asked my driver, Matthew, to take me to the hospital for some bloodwork to find out whether I had malaria.
For those who think malaria is deadly on all counts: fear not. It has different forms, mostly not deadly and can be treated immediately; one form is recurring and can come back so often once you have it; the other form is rare but it travels to the brain and develops a lethal fever. The interpreter, Timothy’s Deaf brother, died of that lethal malaria several years ago. I have been taking Melaquoine, an antimalarial tablet once a week on Tuesdays ever since I arrived in Nigeria. It’s not 100 percent effective, more like 95%. There are no shots for malaria, only yellow fever and hepatitis. Treatment is available if I were to be diagnosed with malaria and VSO’s medical insurance would cover the costs of medical treatment.

Matthew drove me to the Abuja Clinic, a fancy hospital with five floors and a gated wall around it. There were botanical gardens around the buildings and fancy Lexus and BMW cars. It sure was in stark contrast to the run-down clinic I had seen in Birnin Kebbi, with motorcycles lined up down the street!
As I got in, we went to the front desk and I showed my VSO ID and they logged me on in the computer file-sharing system and sent the doctor a notification I was here. I filled out a small paper with my name, my address, my employer and their phone number, my email address and my birth date. Simple. They gave me a small booklet with a grid where appointment dates/times were to be filled out, and a short summary of the services at the clinic. We sat down in the waiting room, and as soon as a patient walked out, I walked in Examination Room 1. That was fast! I didn’t have to wait 2-3 hours, unlike the waiting times back home in America! I met the doctor, wrote down my symptoms, my medical history, my anti malarial intake, and how I was feeling right now. He typed in the information on the file-sharing system and sent it over to the lab and asked me to go down to the basement to the lab to get some bloodwork. Off I went. And when I got to the lab, I was immediately seated and one vial of blood was taken and the lab technician typed information in the file sharing and said the results would be ready in 45 minutes. So off I went to the hospital coffee shop and ordered an omelette with toast – it was so delicious! I sat there in amazement, looking back at my experiences in American and Canadian hospitals and remembering it wasn’t pleasant. The food was horrid, the waiting times unbearably long, pain prolonged, insurance claim papers by the stackful, and the smell was toxic. At the clinic, there wasn’t that typical hospital smell, just the aroma of coffee and eggs wafting in the air. As sick as I felt, my stomach felt good to have some solid food being digested – and some good old tea remedy. Matthew and I conversed through pen and paper, I told him of the high costs for health care in America and the free health care system in Canada but it was backlogged and chaotic and of course, very expensive. One ambulance ride can cover my salary for six months here in Nigeria!
After an hour, I went in to see my doctor and he wrote down in bold: the results came back, you don’t have malaria. You have viraemia, a flu-like symptom which with rest you should get better in two days.
That’s it? I let out a sigh of relief and went to the clinic’s pharmacy and filled up on some painkillers for my muscle soreness, 2 sleeping tablets to help drift off to dreamland and vitamin E supplements.
I was out the door after 1 ½ hour. I could not believe how fast, easy and hassle-free that was??? I’m not sure if the same system is applied to the hospital in Birnin Kebbi, but the citizens of Abuja really have it easy.
I went to the popular expatriate store – Park ‘N Shop – and got some tea, water bottles and of course, cappuccino ice cream. I was sick and wanted the same comforts I would have – at home back in North America. Too bad there isn’t any Haagen Dazs Coffee ice cream here, I’m mad for that stuff!

Granted, my first visit to the hospital in Africa wasn’t because I hurt myself due to my blindness, but it was a common flu. I’m thankful I didn’t get malaria, and pray that I do not contract any during my two year stay here in Nigeria. I plan on visiting the hospital in Birnin Kebbi – don’t plan to injure myself – but in any case that happens, I want to meet the doctors and the staff and explain about my vision and how they can be prepared in case I was brought in by strangers, who they would contact. It helps to be prepared, especially in a developing country.

Gesundheit (German for ‘in good health’) to everyone, especially with the winter season ending back home in North America and the pollen flying everywhere in the air.

Tactile love, Coco

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