Before I even arrived in Uganda, I was warned about the overwhelming cases of Malaria. Of course, the shady government and media want to depict Africa as this disease ridden and war torn state. Again, so far from the undeniable truth. I, however, decided to come to Uganda without taking any formal Malaria preventative medication. Silly me? Maybe not! Read on.
It all started…
On Monday evening, I noticed a weird feeling: I had a headache. It wasn’t just any headache, though. I had obvious pressure. This is significant for me because I don’t get headaches, thank God. I first noticed its onset during Zumba class. I didn’t want to move, jump or even participate for that matter. I felt completely lethargic to the point where I went outside of the studio for about 15 minutes to take a rest. One of the ladies, who worked at the gym, came to me and asked, “Is everything alright?” I responded and told her I had this bad headache and didn’t feel well. My body felt off. She began to advertise the gym’s massage packages. I didn’t even know they offered massages! And…to top it all off, they are reasonably priced, considering that I do have a membership that the school pays for!
So, I declined the massage and promised that I would return soon. Believe me, I will. Who would pass up a head, neck and shoulder massage? I did but just for that day. I just wasn’t up to it. Anyways, I went back into the Zumba class and had a new burst of energy…or maybe it was me pushing myself too hard….again. So, I finished the class and at this point, all I wanted to do was go home. I caught a Boda, Boda (motorbike) to the local gas station in my neighborhood to pick up a few items before stopping at one of the clothes shops along the way. Bad idea. Why didn’t I take my butt straight home instead? Doing too much. I got caught up trying on clothes and chatting with the store owner. I eventually left with two things and a promise to return the next day to pick up the rest of the items. I eventually made it home…1.5 hours later. SMH. I did my typical evening routine after a gym day: showered, relaxed and got on social media. Did I really rest???? NO! I didn’t fall asleep until after midnight only to awaken at around 3 a.m. with that infamous lingering headache again. Oh no! Hmmmm. What is this all about… I thought. The pain was so annoying to the point that I couldn’t fall asleep. Maybe it was all the things I had on my mind: lesson planning, grading, blog writing, deadlines to meet, books to finish, calls to make, dinner to prepare, social media upkeep, students to consider, a parent at the school to run from, first grade tattle tales rolling through my head, a son to miss, my mom to catch up with, dishes to wash, etc, etc, etc.
I finally broke down and took some pain medication before work. I figured since it wasn’t going away, just get rid of it the fastest way I knew how at this point, no time for the typical therapeutic stuff or shall I say the necessities like rest, relaxation, warm tea, etc. Aleve came to the rescue…temporarily, that is. I made sure to bring some with me from the States, although they do have Panadol here which worked wonders by the way when I lived in the UAE.
Let me back up just a bit. Since I was getting fearful by the day of catching Malaria since these mosquitoes never fail me, I took this medication called Mephaquin on Saturday. It is an anti-Malaria pill, intended to help prevent malaria for visitors to certain regions. I hate medicine…but if it would prevent me from catching some disease, then so be it. One of the side effects, however, is headaches! Ahhh, the culprit! Maybe…
I went into work still feeling the headache. After two hours of talking, moving, walking and everything else, the headache popped back up and reared its ugly head. This time…it was worse. Not only was I feeling the headache tension, I was also lethargic, and I just had this unexplainable and overwhelming dizzy feeling. My energy was immediately zapped and I just wasn’t myself. I could barely stand up! The stress of the headache made it difficult to really want to do anything productive. So, I told the powers that be that I need to see a doctor…fast! Of course, this Malaria thing had been a scary notion in the back of my head since I arrived.
A visit to the surgery…
I went to the Surgery. No, I didn’t go into surgery. The doctor’s office or the outpatient care center, as we would call it in the States, is called the Surgery. The facilities were very clean and professional. The staff was courteous, patient, and caring. I was seen immediately. I really hope it didn’t have ANYTHING to do with the fact that I wrote American on my registration profile sheet next to nationality because there were several people waiting before me who may have had illnesses more extreme than my case. Mysteriously, I was called in to see the doctor 5 minutes after sitting there…hmmmm. I digress.
I went to room #3 per the receptionist’s request. The doctor, a local young Ugandan man, was very welcoming and kind of cute, by the way. 🙂 He began by asking me a few questions. I informed him of my symptoms and concerns. He proceeded to take my vitals and gave me a lab form and receipt so that I can get a blood test and a urine sample completed. This would rule out whether the Malaria was in my system or possibly identify another potential concern. The process was very quick and efficient. I paid the cashier, got my blood drawn and gave them a sample of my urine. I know. Sorry for the gory details.
Anyways, about 1.5 hours later, after sitting in the lobby area drinking my delicious (ginger, apple and pineapple) cocktail from Endiro (a cute café in the lobby ) and taking an off and on nap, the doctor approached me and said…”Kristen, come with me. Let’s talk.”
Oh gosh! What it is, I thought. However, his body language appeared calm and his tone at ease.
Doctor: OH, NO! You DON’T have Malaria. “Your blood and urine results showed nothing significant.
I couldn’t stop but smiling. What a relief! Thank God! Whew! I could at least block that out of my mind, right?
Me: “Then, doctor, why do I have this lingering headache?”
Doctor: “Well, it could be a number of things. One, it could be that your just fatigued. Why don’t you go home, take a pain pill and get some rest. If it persists, come back and we will consult from there.”
Me: “What about these mosquitoes? The possibility for me catching Malaria is quite high, right? I mean they are everywhere!!!”
I admitted to him that I had been bit a few times by those disgusting creatures since arriving. Of course, this heightened my paranoia of the infamous Malaria epidemic.
Doctor: “What area do you live in?”
Doctor: “Well, if there are a lot of people around, in a slum type environment, a Malaria ridden mosquito could be lurking around. But, that is highly unlikely, especially since the life of mosquito isn’t that long so I wouldn’t worry too much. Keep taking the preventative measures as you mentioned previously.”
Me: “Yes, I will continue to take them. I literally spray myself with the insect repellant religiously every night and wear long sleeve shirts whenever appropriate.”
Doctor: “Great! Then you should be fine. If you catch Malaria, we will treat it when that time comes.”
In my thoughts (…if.I.catch.Malaria….oh gosh! How reassuring is that!!!)….
Me: “OOKKKK…so…I should stop taking this medicine?”
Doctor: “Yes, this medicine is for TEMPORARY visitors only.”
Me: “Oh, so you’re saying this is not what I need?”
Doctor: “Right. If you take this, it is only active for as long as it’s taken. Therefore, you would need to take it for the rest of the time your here. How long will you be here?”
Me: “At least a year.”
Doctor:”So, do you really want to take this medication for that long?”
Me: “No, not at all! Ok, thank you doctor. I’ll be in touch if the headache persists.”
Doctor: “Please do.”
So there you have it. First off, I’m thankful that don’t have Malaria although according to the doctor, all things are possible at this point. All I can do is trust that I’ll be fine. I consulted with some of the other teachers here who are either from the States, the UK or other parts of the world and they haven’t had any problems with Malaria. However, if you plan on traveling to this region temporarily, I would strongly recommend taking something before arriving.
Love your self, rest often…
The resounding message is simple. I personally think it is just fatigue. While I’m busy trying to prevent Malaria and stay connected to the other million and one areas of my life, my body was trying to get my attention. I didn’t listen so my body had to take matters into its own hands. I’m tired. People, if you aren’t allowing your body to get rest, it will have a funny way of letting you know. Body aches, pains and lethargic feelings aren’t normal. Don’t be afraid to see a doctor. Don’t feel crazy for skipping out on a social outing to rest. Love on yourself first. Give yourself the necessary attention. I know I’m trying to maintain my busy lifestyle while I’m away from my son. It helps to ease the loneliness and the separation anxiety. There is a thing called within reason and I guess I was way out of that zone. For now on, I will continuously love on myself, take heed to my body’s symptoms and get the necessary rest that my body, mind, soul and spirit need to be at my shining best!I advise the same for you! You are golden and deserve nothing but the best! God is good and I give him all the glory for his FAVOR!
Rest up! Until next time, stay healthy and live freely!