I alternated which side of the double bed I laid on -- I would drench one side and then roll over and have the chills on the dry side until I sweated through the sheets, and rolled back over to the mostly dried out side. At sun up I called my translator and told him that I thought I had Malaria and needed his help. When he finally arrived about 3 hours later (he could have walked over in ten minutes) he was entirely unconcerned. He went out and bought me drinking water, and when I asked if he had ever had Malaria he said "I don't know." Apparently whenever he's had symptoms he "goes into the bush to collect the herb to fix it." I remember begging him to go get this herb for me, because it was Sunday, the power had been out for at least three days, and no pharmacies were open nearby.
He came back hours later with a pack of three day Malaria treatment from a pharmacy. He had ridden his motorcycle the hour drive to Togo, and the hour back, just to find an open pharmacy for me. Giving me bush herbs would be an automatic firing from his best paying job. I spent that day trying to drink water, trying not to puke, and repeatedly barely making it to the water-less bathroom to have diarrhea. The manager of the guest house I was in was very creepy -- but he was kind enough to fetch water from the well in the yard and leave it outside the bathroom so I could fill the back of the toilet and flush. I had also stopped closing the door to my bedroom all the way so it locked -- I was afraid I would lock my soon-to-be-immobile body inside the room.
|How I got back to the capital -- by tro tro (a large van)|
I tried to go to the University and start writing my paper, but by the afternoon my fever was clearly back and I was white as a sheet. Again, I was put in a taxi with all the available cash my friends had (of course to be repaid, after I was well enough to walk a mile to the ATM) and they called the director for me. This time our "Africa Father" Papa Attah met me at the hospital. We sat on the same church pews, slowly sliding down as people went back to be seen by the doctor. I wrapped myself in a long piece of fabric since I had the chills, and we waited for over six hours this time. Severe Typhoid Fever was the blood test's verdict. Cipro, an antibiotic that kills viruses that don't need oxygen, was the easy fix. It was also about twenty times more expensive than the Malaria treatment was. Again, I went back to the hostel, and back to my little bed, for the next few days. I sent goodbye texts home (of the "I'm dying" variety) and had hallucinations of my friends coming and going from the room, talking to me, when they were really miles away. The morning that I was scheduled to take a taxi to the International Hospital I woke up without a migraine or fever. While I still couldn't eat more than a handful of rice, I was able to drink water. I honestly felt like it was a miracle, because I had been laying on my death bed.
|there are often no water and definitely no sewer lines |
in the all too common overcrowded neighborhoods
How could this have been prevented? Two words: running water. Or, more specifically, flushing toilets. When popping a squat over an open street sewer is acceptable behavior because there are no real toilets, people will spread diseases. When it rains and these sewers overflow, who knows what deadly epidemics spread, and how far they spread. In the heart of the capital city Cholera was breaking out with the start of the rainy season. I was so lucky to be able to leave, and return to the states. So lucky to go home to running water, flushing toilets, and showers. To a place where I felt I could safely receive IV fluids if I needed them. My three weeks post-Cipro blood test had to be sent to Atlanta to be tested at the CDC, since it's so rare that it comes to the US. I very well could have been contagious on my 5 movies long plane ride home, but I am 100% confident that I didn't give Typhoid to anyone-- because I washed my hands regularly, and was able to flush my poop away into sanitizing chemicals.
There will never be an Ebola outbreak in a developed country where our water runs 99% of the time. However, Ebola can easily spread across the underdeveloped region, and perhaps by innocently plane to other underdeveloped regions of the world. Africa, Latin America, and Southern Asia should be afraid. Europe, Canada, and the US should not be. As for the volunteers transported to Emory last week with Ebola, shame on anyone who said they should not have come home to IV's and safe water -- they couldn't create an epidemic here if they wanted to.