March 19, 2013

And then I had Malaria...

Saturday was my friend Joanna's birthday and Sunday was St. Patrick's Day, so clearly us Manica folk had some celebrating to do this past weekend. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes had it out for me.

Saturday afternoon, after attending my catechist group at church, I headed to Chimoio for the night. I arrived around 5 o'clock and made my way to my friend Anna's house, where the festivities would be held. After 2 very weak drinks of vodka mixed with a fake Sprite-like soft drink, I was positively, unequivocally drunk. I thought this was a little peculiar/pathetic, and chalked it up to the fact that I hadn't eaten anything since 11:30 that morning. A fun hour and a half later we ate dinner, and I started sobering up.

Approximately 10 minutes after finishing dinner, my stomach hurt. And not just a little bit. Also, my head started pounding. I also got ridiculously tired. I couldn't keep my eyes open. Everyone asked me if I was okay, and I just told them I was tired. I fought to stay awake for a few more hours because I wanted to talk to my friends that were at another Peace Corps gathering up in Zambezia province. Of course, they called right as I was laying down to go to sleep, but I talked to them briefly and it was awesome.

When I laid down to go to sleep, I covered up with a small fleece blanket that I figured would be plenty warm enough considering it's still summer here in Mozambique. When I started shivering uncontrollably, I knew something was wrong. I knew that only happened when I had a fever. Then I started putting the pieces together...headache, stomach ache, fever are all symptoms of what common and terrifying illness in Sub-Saharan Africa? Yeah, Malaria.

I waited until the morning to text Peace Corps Medical Staff because I didn't want to freak myself out too much, but I have to be honest, it was a miserable night. I slept a total of maybe 2 hours between everyone else still enjoying the party and having chills/sweats all night. I was convincing myself that it couldn't be malaria. I took my prophylaxis. I sleep under a mosquito net. I take the precautions I was told to take.

On Sunday morning, Peace Corps told me to take my rapid malaria test. We were told to always have it with us when we travel, and me being the rule follower that I am, actually had it with me in Chimoio. Pretty proud of myself for that one. Another PCV that had previously taken the test helped me with it because it was very confusing and the directions were not exactly clear. About 20 minutes later, I had the results: negative. I reported the results to the doctor and was told that I should start the Coartem (malaria medicine) regardless of what the rapid test said (I've heard from other PCV's that the rapid test is less than reliable). The only problem with that: I was in Chimoio. The coartem was in Messica.

So at around 11:30 am on Sunday I got on the chapa from hell. Seriously guys, it was bad. I had malaria. With it, a pounding headache, stomach ache, and to top it off, I was in an oven in the form of a mini-bus filled with 20 other Mozambicans. All of the windows were shut because God forbid Mozambicans have wind in their faces. It was miserable. I was in the row sitting backwards, so I was also feeling a little car sick. Icing on the cake, right? Longest hour of my life.

By the time I got home, I legitimately collapsed. The sun wore me out on my 7 minute walk home from the paragem (chapa stop). I took my first dose of Coartem, and spent the remainder of the day in misery, crazy chills, then when taking medicine to break the fever, crazy sweats. I slept for a few hours, watched a couple of movies, and then slept 12 hours that night. I woke up every 4 hours ridiculously cold, popped a couple more Tylenol  and within 20 minutes started sweating again. Monday morning I woke up feeling much better, but still pretty lethargic and sweating profusely.

The sucky part about being a teacher: when you're sick there's still work to do. When I realized I wouldn't be able to go to class on Monday, I had to plan something for my students to do with no teacher. Some Mozambican teachers just miss class and don't leave any work for their students to do, but I couldn't justify not having anything to give my students for one of their two math classes this week. I wrote out a note and assignment for all 3 of my classes, and also for my one class today (Tuesday).

I also texted the school director and told him that I wouldn't be able to give my lessons because I had malaria. He was pretty great about it and has been to our house twice to check on me (both times I had been in my room so Sarah told him I was sleeping). One of our other Mozambican friends, Otilia, was supposed to make us dinner last night, so I texted her to let her know that I wouldn't be able to come over because I was sick. She and her husband proceeded to come visit me last night and made sure to tell me all the things I should be doing to recover fully from malaria. They were also very mad at me for not going to the hospital. Whoops. My neighbors also came over to check on me multiple times, and some students came by to make sure I was okay. I'm being cared for quite well here in Messica.

Today, I have one more round of medicine to take, but I'm almost back to normal. I opted to stay home to rest today. One more day of peace before my crazy life starts again. Classes and grading Wednesday and Thursday, and back to Chimoio this weekend for the JUNTOS Training. Next week is review week for school, and then it's provincial tests and the end of the trimester.

Thanks for all your prayers over the last couple of days, but I assure you all, I am fine! Malaria sounds so scary and it IS so scary, especially for Mozambicans that don't have access to the prevention and medication that I am privileged enough to have as a Peace Corps Volunteer. But prevention is not 100% effective, and of course I would be the one to get it regardless of my precautionary measures. Just one more African adventure to add to the books. Life as a Peace Corps Volunteer. There's really nothing like it.


  1. Ah, Malaria. I'm glad you're better now... that chapa ride sounds horrible. Traveling here is an adventure when you're healthy.. it's horrible when you're sick. :-/