Malaria is a terrible disease. There are more than 225 million cases each year, and over 780,000 people die of malaria each year,mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. It is the leading cause of death of children under 5 in the world. The symptoms of malaria can be almost anything, but most notable is probably on and off fever and chills. Malaria has also developed resistance to many previously useful drugs making it difficult to combat.
A couple weeks after returning from my Christmas trip, I got a really sore neck. It felt like a headache, or maybe a ‘stiff neck’ from sleeping funny. It was sore from the back of my head down into my shoulders. I brushed it off as just sleeping funny, though it continued for several days. Thursday and Friday the headache became very painful.
On Friday night, I was at the Johnson’s for dinner when I began shivering uncontrollably for short, irregular periods, and my body hurt all over. This, combined with the fever, was the tell-tale sign of a possible bout with malaria. Since I was there for a year, I did not take any anti-malarial drugs, and instead took the risk of dealing with malaria if it came. This was pretty normal among the missionaries living there. During my travel, probably in Ifaty, I had contracted the disease.
I don’t remember exactly how I felt realizing I had malaria. To me, it was still a distant disease that only occasionally comes up in history books, or WWII stories from the fighting in the Pacific. I knew the dangers and at some point feared the possibilities.
Unfortunately for me, no doctors would be open on the weekend, so I would have to wait until Monday morning to see the doctor. The next three nights were probably the longest of my life. The symptoms that I can remember were headache, body aches, fever, chills, profuse sweating, nausea, a slight cough, sore throat, and a sore spleen (I didn’t know this at the time, I only new that I had a pain in my stomach, but apparently malaria can cause the spleen to swell).
Those nights I sweat through my bed sheets several times. I would lay in bed, wake up shaking with fever in soaked sheets, then take the sheets off the bed and lay them out to dry while I sat in the shower. After awhile I would go back to my room, remake the bed and lay down, starting the whole process again. One night I think I did this eight times.
On Monday morning I went to the doctor. My temperature was 102, my blood pressure 91/62, and my pulse 100. She prescribed me some medicine that I took and over the next three days and slowly felt better. By Thursday I felt mostly backed to normal. The medicine worked really well and quickly. I ended up with bronchitis afterwards, and I had one flashback of malaria a couple weeks later, but other than that I felt fine.
My bout with malaria was short, and I was fortunate enough to take a cure early, but during that week I felt probably the most miserable I have ever felt. It gave me a glimpse into the terrible disease that affects so many lives around the world. I hope that continued efforts to curb the disease are successful.