September 13, 2012

‘Tis the Season


Tis the season in Burkina Faso… for malaria.

And I got it.
Please don’t freak out, I said got. Past tense. All better now.

Um, aren’t you supposed to be on some kind of medicine to prevent that?
Errr…. yes. I am. I have to be. For me it’s a prophylaxis called doxycycline; a pill I take once a day. This miracle pill doesn’t stop me getting bitten by mosquitos (or everyone would want them!), or getting the parasite that causes malaria, but somehow it helps keep my liver happy and full blown malaria from happening. The magic of medicine.

So, then, how come you got it?
To be fair, the medicine isn’t 100 percent. You also have it take it the same time of day with food and without vitamin pills and not before you lie down. A lot of specifics for village life. So, you know, everybody forgets once in a while…. and,wellll… I kind of forgot a few pills.

How did you know you had it?
Well, to be blunt, I started feeling like absolute shit. And I teach people about the darn thing, so I know the signs and symptoms pretty well. The fever that didn’t go away with drugs was a big clue. Also, when my friends saw how bad I was feeling they said “A tara weoogo” (She has malaria), and they should know. I finally had my ricelady’s husband take me to the medical center to get what they call a “rapid test”. They just take some blood put it on a little plastic thing and add some droplets… within 15 minutes they can know with 99 percent accuracy if you have malaria or not (cool huh?...  medical research does do good stuff sometimes).  

How was it?
This is a tough answer…  and I think it depends on your preconceived notions. Let’s just say, it’s better than the tropical-death-plague Americans think of; worse than the oh-it’s-just-palu-get-over-it approach of Burkinabe. There are different strains of the virus, and the longer it’s in your body, the more severe it can become. This girl was far from chronic. I had a moderate case consisting of sore body, fevers, chills, and vomiting… mostly though the fever and chills. The hardest thing was not being able to sleep because of the fever/chills and not having anyone there to help (living alone sucks sometimes).

How did you get better?
After I tested positive for malaria in my village, I went to Ouaga and saw the Peace Corps doctor. He did another test to be sure and then gave me pills, four every eight hours with food until they were gone. I stayed at a very nice room the Peace Corps Burkina Faso provides for sick people (with some company: yay other sick people!) and by the third day I felt better. (Yay medicine!)

And did you learn your lesson?
Yes. Lesson learned. *hangs head*

Really?
OK, it has been a useful experience. I am now far more understanding of and compassionate toward people in my village with malaria. Not that I ever thought it wasn’t bad, but now I really get it. I guess I’ve been initiated. I plan on going straight back to teach more women about making a local mosquito repellant and getting quick treatment.
 But I promise not to forget any more pills… I have a feeling some people in America would kill me if I did (hi grandma!) :)  

--  JK
P.S. Check out this other awesome post I did on malaria in Burkina Faso