Saturday, January 20, 2018

Now it's personal, Malaria.

Yesterday I was HOPPING mad!!   Last week I received a call from the man that cooks for Peter, Mr. J, letting me know he was going to be late because his grandson was taken to the hospital with seizures.  I started going after the possibilities in my head.  did he fall down, hit his head and start seizing?  Or does he have an underlying seizure disorder, start seizing and then fall down?  As it turns out, it was a febrile seizure.  I saw these a LOT when I was working in the hospital because malaria will make the kids’ temperatures go up so high that they started seizing. I breathed a sigh of relief because at least it was something that is treatable here, as opposed to some of the other options.

The kiddo was diagnosed with malaria and stayed in the hospital for a couple days.  Two days ago Mr. J came to the house and reported that his grandson was still having fevers and just wasn’t doing well.  I told him to bring me the medicine that they were giving him so I could make sure it was the correct one.  Instead, yesterday he brought the kiddo to the house.  The medicines he received from the “hospital” were a liquid vitamin and Tylenol.  NEITHER kill malaria parasites.  I keep a bunch of malaria tests in my house so I tested him and it immediately turned VERY positive for malaria.. When I told Mr. J. that his grandson had malaria but that the medicines he had wouldn’t treat it, we were both mad!! Mr. J told me that the problem is that if the "hospital" doesn't have the medicine, they’ll just sell you the ones that they have so they can still make a profit.  

Peter stopped at the pharmacy, got him the RIGHT medicine and we set him up on the couch to watch movies with Ben.  As I watched him, listlessly laying there with a vomit bucket by the couch because he didn’t feel good, I wondered if I needed to take him to the hospital to get his hemoglobin checked.  He'd been sick for a while and I've seen these things go badly. I decided to watch him for the day and ask Mr. J. how he was doing the next day.

That afternoon, I left Mr. J and his grandson at the house and went out to Grace Village. We have some visitors here right now and I took one of them out to do some activities with the kids while I saw any that were sick.  One of the teachers came to me and told me that he’d gone to the hospital a couple days before, after being sick for a week or so.  He was diagnosed with malaria and typhoid and given a drip of medication.  But he was still not feeling well. I asked him to show me the meds they’d given him and they were…..tylenol and amoxicillin.  NEITHER of which treat malaria OR typhoid.  I. Was. Hopping. Mad. Twice in one day I'd encountered either incompetence masquerading as competence in an effort to make a buck, or gross negligence.  Both at the expense of people's actual lives.

I was particularly upset about Mr. J's grandson because he's a child.  I was so mad that I thought about marching myself down there to give them a piece of my mind.  In the end I decided that I can't trust my big mouth enough not to say things I'd eventually regret, so I stayed home.  But I was still fuming every time I thought about it. 

Today my attitude changed a bit.  Early this morning Ben came into our room complaining of a “big owie” on his head and his foot.  When I picked him up, he was really hot.  I took his temp and it was 104.  He’d had a cold about a week ago but those symptoms were pretty much gone.  I’ve been treating him for a boil on his leg, but it was much better as well.  Two of our colleagues here had malaria last week so that, combined with his symptoms (headache and joint pain?) made me immediately start thinking malaria.

I took him out to the living room and pulled the malaria test kits out from under our coffee table where we keep them for easy access.  Since I basically test everyone in our family any time they get a fever, as soon as I pulled it out Ben started crying and saying “no owie!!” “no owie!!”  Peter came and held him while I poked and it didn’t take very long for the positive line to show up.  In fact, two positives showed up which means that he is infected with multiple strains of malaria.  The darker of the line was the Falciparum strain, which is the more dangerous one.

As I went and got his treatment and Tylenol ready, I started to choke back tears.  I’ve treated malaria hundreds of times.  I’ve had it myself multiple times.  I know that it is usually a very simple disease to treat, especially if it’s caught early.  But this is my own kiddo.  As much as I know the good things in my head, I also know the statistics of 1 in 4 children dying here before the age of five.  Ben's only 2.  I had the images of some of the kids around Ben’s age that I attempted to treat at the hospital…..but wasn’t successful.  I pictured the rooms they were in when they died. Some in the operating room which was the only room that had an oxygen tank. Some of them in the ward as I poked them over and over and over trying to get an IV.  Some of them didn’t even make it past the waiting room while they took their last breaths in their parents’ arms just moments after arriving.  The same parasite that killed those kids is now running through my son’s blood as well. 

I coaxed him into drinking his medicines and he settled down on the couch with Daddy while I cooked breakfast for our guests.  An hour later Mr. J came with his grandson.  His grandson who looked like a completely different kid from yesterday!  As the fever reducers kicked in, Ben perked up as well and immediately wanted to play with his friend.  You would never have known he was sick.  A few hours later the meds wore off and he was back to feeling puny, but this is how it goes with malaria.  We thank God SO much for Tylenol and Ibuprofen!!!

While Ben was taking a nap, I thought about the events of this morning and was just overwhelmed with gratefulness.  Because of the education I received (not even nursing education but just high school!) I can read directions, look on the internet and know how to easily treat my kiddo for this disease.  Because I don’t worry about where my next meal is going to come from, I can keep a $4 malaria treatment in my house and don’t have to debate about whether I should choose medicine or food that day. 

This morning as I was thinking about the possibilities, I briefly allowed my mind to go to the worst- case scenario.  I didn’t dwell there, as it was unbearable.  But as the thought crossed my mind of living without him here, it was quickly chased by a thought that quietly whispered, “this isn’t the end.  I AM with you. Even in that.” 
Mr. J's grandson left and as his fever started to creep up Ben just wanted Mommy.  

Malaria makes me mad.  Injustice makes me mad.  Greed makes me mad.  But as I go to sleep tonight with my son tucked into our bed, after treating another 104 temperature, I am also filled with gratefulness.  An overwhelming thankfulness for the innumerable blessings I’ve been given.  A renewed compassion to go out and be the hands and feet of Jesus to the countless hurting people He brings into our lives.  And an urgency for people to know that this world isn’t the end.  This brokenness is infuriating and painful and at times utterly debilitating.  But it’s not the end.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic post. Following your blog for the past 2 years from America. I am a Muslim. Am inspired always by your words.