Okay, so here is the story about how I got malaria. Well, not precisely how I got malaria because there really isn’t any way to tell how I got it. I obviously got a mosquito bite that was a malarial bite and it made me sick. Regardless, I will explain the details about the aftereffects of the whole thing.
I went to Kilwa for the weekend with some friends and on the Sunday night at about midnight I started to feel really funny. I woke up with a bad hot sweat, sore arms, and a funny stomach. I got some air, made a quick phone call, and went back to bed.
The next morning we headed back to Dar and I had a fever on and off and couldn’t get enough water into my system. We stopped in a town along the way and did a malaria test, it was negative. We figured I must have a flu bug and needed some sleep.
When I got back the fever continued and I have never been so cold in Dar. I slept under a big heavy blanket and shivered for a few hours in a sweater and wool socks on! (Yah for bringing them!)
I then kept tracking my fever for the next week. At this point it would go from 100 to 103 and back down. I was downing as much water as my body could take with hydration salts to keep me afloat.
I slept through the night and on the Tuesday I was feeling well enough to know I needed to go to the clinic. I knew Premier clinic had a good reputation and so I headed there with a bajaj driver I trust.
Along the way I made a phone call to my travel insurance and they were great about everything. Also along the way I had quite the time holding consciousness and had to ask the bajaj to pull over for a few minutes to catch myself.
I made it to the clinic and they were fine, taking height, weight, etc. off the bat.
The Doctor at Premier was very nice and had warm hands. He did blood tests which caused me to throw up (sorry for the over-share) and the result was that the Doctor said I had a viral infection. I will note now that he did not test for malaria at this point… baffling I know! He explained that the infection would go away if I rested a few days and he gave me some painkillers to help and told me to sleep.
I went back to the university and from here on I was a deteriorating mess.
I got back and basically stayed in bed from Tuesday onwards. My fever would come on and off every few hours, spike to 105 and then go back down. Luckily I got lots of sleep during this time but my body started to hurt all over. Like, to move my arm was too much work.
I got lots of sleep and on Wednesday morning I felt okay. I ate and watched some stuff on my laptop, still not 100% but feeling good except for some arm pain.
The unfortunate thing is that the fevers came back and from then on the next two days I don’t really remember at all. I know I was there for them, but the specifics are super blurry.
I know from Wednesday night onwards I started throwing up everything I ate, that my right arm was in so much pain I cried over and over. Thursday was a day full of tears and not much else. Tears, fevers, and sleeping. But Friday was the killer.
Friday I was in bed all day and couldn’t keep water down. I could also barely speak. I found out later that I had been whispering and mumbling most of the time. And when I spoke to my Dad, who I have no recollection of calling, he said he couldn’t tell it was me for the entire conversation.
So, Friday, at about 6pm I decide I have to go to the hospital. The thing about this is that the hospital felt so desperately far away. I hadn’t walked farther than from the bathroom to my room in days so the thought of going down a bajilion stairs and then getting in a car to go to the hospital was completely overwhelming.
I was lucky in that a friend with a vehicle, H, had texted me to hang out that night and my immediate response was Can you drive me to the emergency room please?
What then unfolded was his immediate rush (which means over an hour later in Dar traffic) to the university to get me and my roommate and her sister who said they would come with me.
I will tell you that the walk down the stairs was one of the most difficult things I may have ever done. I shook the entire time and walked like a slug, so so slowly. Everyone I passed said Pole, over and over.
We made it to the bottom of the stairs and made the trek to the waiting area beside the Warden’s office.
Unfortunately though, when we got to waiting there, I was leaning on one of the girls and I completely blacked out and had a small seizure. Thank god I was leaning on them though, because if I hadn’t been the concrete would definitely have caused some much bigger issues.
H arrived not long after and I was ushered into the back seat as he sped to Aga Khan emergency. I must say I remember very little about the ride other than that I wished it would be over as fast as possible.
When we arrived at Aga Khan I got a wheelchair and they took me to the emerge and instantly made things happen.
The girls were on the phone with my travel insurance and parents and H, D and K were there with me for hours as I was poked and prodded and they figured out what was wrong with me. As it was very clear that this probably wasn’t a viral infection any more.
So, the test results came back that I had severe and complicated malaria. Fun times.
What happened next is one of the scariest things I will ever experience; the decision came as how I was paying for my medical visit. I was given two options. I could stay at the hospital for a while and see or they would give me medicine and I could go home.
The hospital said they would need a 3 000 000 TSH deposit to keep me there.
I called my travel insurance and figured out, thank goodness, with the insurance that they would directly pay for everything for my stay at the hospital.
This was the most relieving moment for me. I could stay and not have to worry about how it was being paid for.
I have no idea how someone without insurance here in Tanzania would handle this in a medical emergency.
I literally, before getting the okay from my insurance, considered the possibility that I might take the medicine and head back home to the university.
At the end of the night, I was tucked into one of those silly gowns that don’t go up at the back and I was checked into the ICU by around 11:30 pm. H, K and D all said goodbyes and headed out and I passed out for the night, only to be woken up every few hours for pills and to have blood drawn.
Thankfully, they had a good night and hung out relaxing at the beach a bit as everyone had been really stressed out post-seizure.
My time in the hospital was actually really interesting. The ICU was really fantastic and I had some really great doctors and nurses.
I have never personally been all done up in the hospital with all the cords hanging everywhere and being able to watch my heartbeat on the screen, and IV drip and having my pressure constantly taken, etc. It was all really interesting for me.
By 6:30pm on the Saturday they moved me from the ICU to a private room because there was another patient that needed my spot in the ICU and I was well enough to move. In exciting news at that point I had walked to the toilet twice by myself! Score!
In my private room, it was very quiet. I had a tv that had two functioning channels, a private bathroom (with no towels, soap or toilet paper until Monday when the supervisors for the cleaning staff actually check that stuff) and unfortunately we were told that my air conditioning didn’t work…
So luckily for me, I had a few visitors that first day so I wasn’t lonely. And when I wasn’t with people I was asleep but already I was feeling so, so much better than Friday night.
I found out from the doctors that one big issue was of course the malaria, but it was extra bad because it had affected my blood. The one big thing being my platelet count. It was at 12 when it needed to be at 140 and this seemed to really freak all the doctors out because for the next three days it barely went up, until it finally went up enough I got to go home.
The very scary possibility of getting a platelet transfusion had been thrown on the table, but everyone hoped that it wouldn’t come to that and instead my platelets would naturally come up.
So H snuck in for a while Saturday night to keep me company before trading duty with J who stayed for the next two days and nights as my personal nursing assistant. Poor guy. What this basically entailed was sleeping on a chair and helping me carry my IV to the bathroom when I had to go and reading to me because my eyes were to fuzzy. The reason he had to carry it was because it didn’t roll… funny I know right.
I will tell one very annoying story about my stay in the hospital.
A nurse came into the room and said it was too stuffy and we should open the door to the room to let air in because my air conditioning wasn’t working. So J opened the door, but in the process it let in a million mosquitos because it was 03:00 am. We then closed the door after a few minutes because I was freaking out at reinfection and they were biting so bad. But then having an IV is not always so much fun, and so when I got up to go to the bathroom I twisted wrong and blood started going into the IV, so I called a nurse who fixed it but in the process there was blood spilt on the floor and she got very angry and asked why there were mosquitos, to which our answer was that the nurse said to open the door and her response was, why not turn on the a/c? So she left the blood and slammed open the door to flick the switch on the balcony to turn the a/c on…
It had worked the whole time, no one wanted to turn it on for us! J then wiped up the blood on the floor and I wrote quite an answer in response to this in my hospital review.
Anyways, I was very well taken care of with the nurses came back constantly taking my blood, bringing food, J, D, and K visiting and hanging out.
Slowly but surely I got better and better to the point where I didn’t need an IV anymore, and they took that out on the Monday night. The only night I stayed alone in the hospital.
Upon seeing that I was alone the nurses (who had changed shift so the angry one was gone), they came in and hung out with me giving me hugs, flipping threw my magazines, playing with my hair and the male nurse asking for dating advice.
Luckily I had my ipod for when they left, so I watched movies on it before going to sleep.
The next morning I was chomping at the bit to get out of the hospital, it had been 4 days and I wanted my computer and internet access and chuo bed and to shower!
So luckily they did one last check and my platelets were high enough so I was released; my iv thing in my hand was taken out, I got to take off my weird blue dress and I got to eat non-hospital food!
D and K and I went to get yummy sandwiches, I got to check my email and that’s that.
I had a number of medications to take for the week and I went back for a checkup on Saturday and all was well, but the Doctor was very intense about making me feel stupid. Because he had not been on my case from the beginning I had to explain after he guilted me that I was not just being stupid waiting until it got really bad thinking I would be okay… I constantly had to tell doctors that I had initially been misdiagnosed and that I got so bad because of this… not being I didn’t know something was wrong with me! Regardless, the Doctor was very intense about making me realize just how sick I was in retrospect and bashing it into my head that another day or two and I would likely have been in a coma.
This is not really something I thought about until he said it, but I was told that in hindsight I could have died, and could have been very close in a day or two. But I am okay. That’s the point. I am grateful the Doctor was so honest about my condition because he was the only one who said it to me, it is good to know how bad it was. But I am okay now.
Some of the lasting weird body stuff is that I have random numbness in my arms and sometimes pins and needles in my fingers and I am pretty stiff. But overall I am doing much better and I am past the “mend”.
It’s a pretty good excuse for not posting in a while, eh?
Thank you to everyone who helped me out during this tie, bringing me juice and snacks and hanging out with me and laughing about how terrible I looked in my dress. I really appreciate it and I feel so lucky to know you all and have you in my life. I am so incredibly grateful.