Sunday, September 11, 2011

The full Ugandan experience

It is the PMI (President's Malaria Initiative)'s goal to try and reduce malaria in sub-saharan Africa by 50% in 5 years. No, really, we are hoping to actually accomplish that. Even though, when my health center did a survey about malaria in the community of 86 women, only 18 knew that it was contracted through malaria carrying mosquitoes. Anyway, I have to admit to being my own worst enemy in this quest. I found out after 3 days and nights of debilitating sickness that I had been infected with Malaria.

I had never had the disease before, obviously, and therefore had never developed the antibodies and relative immunity to the disease that Ugandan's have from a lifetime of exposure. That said, I have to admit that it was probably the worst I've ever felt from an illness. For me there was no throwing up or diarrhea, only headache and fever. But the headache was literally blinding, and the fever recorded at times reaching 104. I remember walking to the parish to say hello, and wondering which foot I was moving, while staring down at them. I lost the ability completely to look outside myself and see how people might be looking at me; I walked out of my house with no shirt, and boxers on after a year of never stepping outside without long pants and ( 90% of the time) a long sleeve button down. I was pretty out of it. At night I'd pile on blankets, wearing jeans, jackets, and a toboggan on my head, and I'd still be shivering.

My poor parish, they were so worried about me that I wished I could pull a Willy Wonka, do a tumble roll and put my hands up in the air and exclaim hooray for them. I actually tried, once Orelia (the cutest 3 year old girl you'll ever know) started crying because she heard that "her" opolot (she calls me "opolotka", meaning literally "My opolot") was sick. Instead, I stayed in bed, grumbled to and back the parish house to supervise the hammocks being made. I even skipped meals. Skipping meals is a cardinal sin in Uganda, and you can guarantee it will cause you some attention. By attention, I mean that everyone AND their mother will come and bang on your door until you drag yourself out of bed and thank THEM for greeting you.

Alright. I certainly never intended to contract the highest killing illness in Uganda (and Sub-Saharan Africa on the whole). I didn't want it, and I never did anything intentionally to get it. That being said, I have to admit that I am pretty happy about experiencing it. These Ugandans deal with malaria to a point of absurdity. I've had it once, and it's enough, but it is good to know what others go through 4 or 5 times a month.

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