Saturday, 10 September 2011

It's all about Malaria

What do you think if there's a funny taste in your mouth?  Maybe that you need to brush your teeth?
When you wake up, and something aches/hurts, what's the first thing you think?  Probably that you slept wrong, or that the mattress is bad. 
What about when you have a fever?  You probably think it's the flu (or something similar)
Diarrhea/Vomiting?  First thought might be food poisoning.

Where am I going with this?  Well, I'm realizing that where you grow up or where you live affects the way you look at things.  And I'm not just talking culturally, I'm talking about illnesses.  Here in West Africa, everyone attributes things to malaria.
Funny taste in your mouth?  Malaria
Feel too cold or too hot(feverish)?  Malaria
Weak?  Malaria
Diarrhea/Vomiting?  Malaria
Headache?  Malaria
Belly pain?  Malaria
Body aches? Malaria

For the last 6 weeks (can't believe I've been on the ship 6 weeks!!!), I've been dealing with responses like these from patients.  Sometimes it feels like several times in a shift, I'll have someone wave me over and tell me they have malaria, naming off any number of random things that they attribute to malaria.  And it's quite likely they're aware of the symptoms their own body gets when they have malaria.  We don't ask them if they've ever had malaria but rather when the last time they had it was and what they did about it.  Not being from an area where malaria is common, it's hard sometimes to know if I should take them seriously or calm their fears.  One man, having recently woken up from surgery, told me that his mouth felt funny and he felt cold and that that meant he had malaria.  I've been a surgical nurse long enough to know that is precisely how most patients feel when they first wake up... so that time I knew it wasn't malaria.  But it's definitely not something to take lightly.  People can end up in ICU here with malaria. 

For the past few days, I've been achy and had a slight fever... generally feeling really blah and without energy.  I pushed through one night of work, but decided it was better to call in sick for the rest.  But before I called in sick, I was telling some nurse friends here how I was feeling, and they insisted I go get a malaria test done.  When in doubt, guess malaria.  So I took myself down to the ward and sheepishly asked for a malaria test on myself, telling them how silly I felt asking for it.  No one thought I was silly though.  Luckily, it was negative.  And yes, I am taking my anti-malarials... most days... especially this week.

Where does that leave me?   Well, my dear cousin Kevin(studying to be a doctor) suggested I should consider dengue fever.  But considering my lack of rash or high fevers, plus the fact that it's rarely ever reported in this area, I'm guessing that's not it.  Basically, I just feel crappy, and am a little off my food for the moment.  Prayers would be appreciated.  And not just for me, but for the staff in general as there always seems to be something going around.  And for the patients.  We have a couple of people in isolation rooms with completely different perfect storms of infections that we're doing our best to keep on top of.

1 comment:

Jody said...

Hi! I'm Kristin's mom, Jody, and I found your blog on their KT Adventures blog. I love reading your entries. Your adventure on a Mercy Ship is unlike any other I have heard about. It is such important work and I am humbled by the level of service you and the others are offering to the Lord as you minister to the people there. God bless you all.