The thoughts, sights, and sounds of my summer as an EWB Junior Fellow

Today is malaria appreciation day.

Malaria. Transmitted by the Plasmodium parasites that are spread to people through the bites of infected mosquitos, it claims the life of an estimated 885,000 people each year. Half of the world’s population live in areas where malaria is present, which each year leads to an estimated 216 million malaria cases. (WHO)

In my senior year of high school, I was the “leader” of a group called “Take Action” which carried out campaigns to promote social and environmental sustainability. One of our most notable undertakings was raising of $2000 CAD for Rick Mercer’s Spread the Net campaign, which for every $10 CAD raised a mosquito net would be supplied to an at-risk child in Sub-Saharan Africa. The grand prize for the highest fundraising school would be a visit from Rick Mercer (a Canadian TV personality) himself. We did not win, but in our efforts, I could be seen putting up posters quoting facts such as above, trying to stress the importance of anti-malaria bed nets in saving lives. Back then I was aware that I really hadn’t taken the time to understand exactly what malaria was or how it acts and is spread.

Yesterday I tested positive for malaria at a clinic in Wa. For the entire week leading up I had been suffering from nasal congestion, a runny nose, and almost lost my voice. Yesterday morning I felt nauseous, and I could not even think about eating lunch. Around 1:45 pm, I checked my temperature and it read 38.2º C, significantly higher than my regular 36.7º C. I was quite sure at that point that I had malaria. I have since learned from a colleague at work that this is all part of a common cycle called “Kuttun”.

The reason I say that it is malaria appreciation day is that I have made the choice to appreciate not only the seriousness of malaria, but everything that my having malaria at this time can contribute to my development as a person and my placement. It would be easy to think about how I am not able to be working hard in the office, traveling to the farm, or learning Azunto dance this evening, but that is not constructive. The following are ten positive things about me having malaria right now:

1. I am in Wa, where the clinic to get tested for malaria is literally just down the street.

2. I already had the treatment handy because I bought it as a precautionary measure when I in Tamale.

3. I am currently living with the family of the agric-inputs dealer in the house which is on-site, so if I feel like I have energy I can walk 20 steps to the office and do work for my placement.

4. My family feeds me fatty food (fried eggs and bread, fatty meat soup with TZ) which is exactly what you are supposed to eat right before taking a course of the malaria treatment.

5. I can drink the Wa municipal water after adding aquatabs so I don’t have to rely on bottled water or satchets.

6. There is a ceiling fan in my room which I can adjust the speed to keep me cool when the fever gets high (up to 38.9º C).

7. Imodium,Pepto Bismol, my regular malaria prophylaxis medication (Doxycycline), and the malaria treatment (Lumartem) have no drug interactions (I checked) so I can take them all at the same time.

8. It turns out Sunday is the only day that almost no one comes to work at the agric inputs dealership, so I am not missing out much on the action anyway.

9. It gives me time to take a step back in my mind about my placement, and think about how I want to spend my last week working with the inputs dealer before heading back to the village. I was feeling a bit scattered because there are so many questions and things to investigate that I was finding it difficult to focus.

10. It provides a wake-up call for me that I am in fact not invincible and that there are consequences for actions (ie. not wearing much mosquito repellent in the evenings, not sleeping under my mosquito net 100% of the time), even though I have taken my malaria prophylaxis (Doxycycline) religiously and have not missed a single dose. * Also, hopefully if other JFs have gotten careless about applying mosquito repellant in the evenings or sleeping under their bed net, it can be a wake up call for them too.

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5 responses

  1. Hey Alanna,

    Thanks for the post. Malaria is not easy and not fun at all! Hope you get well soon – and please take the time to rest and recover! I know time goes quickly but it is always worth the investment in your health.

    Cheers,

    Ben

    June 10, 2012 at 3:36 pm

  2. Hey Alanna, its amazing you are looking at the positives at this moment! Thats awesome 🙂 I hope you get well very soon and be on track to have those super positive impacts!!

    June 10, 2012 at 5:02 pm

  3. Bryce

    I hope your recovery is going well Alanna. It’s a relief to hear you were so well prepared for this!

    June 12, 2012 at 12:19 pm

  4. Arlene

    Hi Alanna
    I hope you are taking it easy and recovering. We are thinking of you. Take good care of yourself !

    Arlene

    July 2, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    • alannahowell

      Hi Arlene,
      I am sorry for declaring myself infected with malaria and then failing to blog again for a month due to lack of access to electricity and internet! In reality, I was fully recovered within three days after taking the readily available malaria treatment, and have been quite healthy since then. Thank you for following my blog. I hope everything is going well for you and everyone in the Howell-Pick family.

      July 6, 2012 at 5:05 am

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