Yes, after almost a year in Africa without taking anti-malarial medication I have actually got Malaria. The weeks started with the Israeli girls leaving Cape Maclear to go on safari in Liwonde National Park. I stayed in Malambe with Gemma, a girl I originally met in Lilongwe who was driving to South Africa for charity, two Jordanian guys who are here in Africa learning about Adventure tourism so that they can develop the industry back home and one other Israeli girl. We visited Otter point in Kayaks and spent a few days chilling out on the lake side. Then on Thursday the Israeli girls returned to Cape Maclear, luckily or unluckily, depending on how you look at it, as I was just starting to show signs of Malaria.
On Thursday evening I had a bad fever, I had been looking out for a fever all the time I have been travelling down through Africa and had been worried once or twice, but this fever was something all together different. I had goosebumps and all my hair was stood on end, I shivered and had to get out my sleeping bag which is comfortable to -10 degrees C, even though the temperature is around 25-30 degrees. I wasn’t really all that worried at the time, but everyone around me was starting to get very worried. The next day I walked to the local clinic in Cape Maclear to see about getting a Malaria test, they told me that before I could get tested I needed to pay 50 pounds. This is a charge that only tourists have to pay, mainly because it is a private clinic and they assume that everyone has medical insurance and will be able to claim the money back, the only problem is I don’t have any medical insurance. The only other option was to wait for the local transport to Monkey Bay, which is a truck with lots of people crammed in the back, these vehicles don’t leave regularly and take maybe an hour to get to Monkey Bay. By this point I was pretty sure I had Malaria so I decided to just take the pills that I have been carrying around for just such an occasion.
The treatment consists of 2 pills a day for three days, these pills have 3 active ingredients. The first one is active in your system for 4 hours, the second one for 8 hours and the third for 150 hours. Over the three days I noticed that 8 hours after taking the pills I would have a huge drop in condition, lots of dizziness, headaches and fever. The first day of taking pills my symptoms had already gotten worse than the previous day, I was having pains in my joints and constant headaches and fever, even though I was taking Paracetamol and Ibuprofen quite regularly.
When I was in West Africa earlier this year, I met a girl called Ida, she told me that when you take the Malaria medication, the first day you feel bad, the second day you feel worse and the third day you feel better. I think this third day needs a few more words, it should be ‘you feel better than the previous two days’. I certainly didn’t feel better and still don’t now. However she was right about the second day being worse, especially the 8 hour drop which left me curled in a ball feeling sick while having joint pain, headache and fever, my head felt like it was going to explode. Then on Sunday I took the last of the pills and felt better than I had for a few days, the only problem now was that I hadn’t eaten much for a few days and my body was ready to eat. The third night I was trying to sleep when my stomach started to hurt with a hunger I had never felt before, mixed with nausea. Unfortunately it was night time and all I had to hand was dry bread and water. I would eat some bread, fall asleep for maybe an hour before my stomach was screaming out for more, then I would wake up because of the pains again.
Since stopping the medication I am feeling a little better each day, but still nowhere near normal health. The third active ingredient will remain in my system for 150 hours (from Sunday morning), I’m not sure what good it is supposed to be doing me but it leaves me with headaches and a slight fever which improves each day. After the night of stomach pains I am now gradually training my stomach to deal with food again, but today that feels much better. I had Malaria 6 years ago when I lived in Zanzibar but it was not anything like this time. I think this was because I was taking Larium (an anti-malarial drug) which didn’t stop me getting the Malaria but at least seems to have made it less serious.
I am very grateful to Dawn and all the staff at Malambe who have been so worried and caring while I have been ill, but extra special thanks need to go to Nofar, (one of the Israeli girls) who looked after me the whole time I was sick, only to leave this morning when I am able to be up and walking around.
It will be my 29th Birthday this coming Thursday and everyone here is talking about celebrating, but I am more cautious, I guess we’ll see how I feel closer to the time.