Thursday, June 3, 2010

Uh-Oh


So I woke at 2am to pain in my stomach, like heartburn. I tossed and turned, and became more and more nauseous. I finally made a trip to the bathroom (ugh) felt a bit better, and went to sleep. The morning was much the same, though I forced down a mango and come crackers – we had a trip to the field planned, and with having only see two of the 42 sites we are working on, I wasn’t going to miss out. I told Alex, “I’ll be fine. And if I am not, we’ll come back.”

The drive started out ok, but 1.5 hours and terrible pot-holed roads eventually caught up to me, and I was fighting by the time we got to the first well. “So, what do you think?” Alex asked me. “I’d be a lot more enthusiastic if I didn’t feel like this…hold on!” I said as I made my way towards the bush. When I got back to the car, Alex said we were heading back to the office. That sounded just fine to me, all I wanted to do was sleep. I lay down across the seats in the back of the jeep as we drove back, eyes closed, thinking about anything I could but the way I was feeling – or food (this turned out to be somewhat of a bad idea, because it made me a lot more homesick, but at least kept me from being current-sick).

After what seemed like a million jolts and tosses, nearly falling off the seat, we pulled over. I squinted as I opened my eyes, trying to grasp where we were – a health clinic. I said, “Is this for me? Cause I just want to go home.” Alex explained that it was his responsibility, and if he didn’t bring us (he had had a headache for the past few days and joint pains) here, everyone would say, “Well, why didn’t you go to the clinic?” if anything happened. So we walked in, and I got called to the consultation room. I didn’t really know what to say to the lady – “Why did you come in today?” “Because my co-worker brought me here.” As far as I was concerned, I had some GI problem. The day before, I decided to start chlorinating my tap water with WaterGuard I bought in the market. So to me, I probably didn’t put enough chlorine or something, and I just caught whatever bug was in the water.

As she asked me questions – joint pain? no. fever? no. – she took my blood pressure. 88/50-something. That’s pretty low, I’m usually around 100/60-something. She told me that the lower limit for white people is 90/50-something, and the lower limit for Ugandans is 80/50-something (if anyone can explain to me why, that would be interesting to know). I wasn’t really paying attention; I was too exhausted to try to sort through her accent, but I heard something about an IV, something about drinking water, and she scooted me away, “Go there for malaria test.”

They pricked my finger, smeared the blood on the slide (by wiping the slide on my finger) and put the slide inside a lamp to dry (normally a technician will use a Bunsen burner or flame to dry the fluid). He said, we’re done, and sent me back to the waiting area. I wanted to lay down (I was so tired, and laying down felt a lot better than sitting or standing) so the nurse put me in a cot by the waiting area. A few minutes later, she came in – “You have malaria.” I do? I thought, remembering a few minutes earlier me saying to myself, “I don’t have malaria, this is silly. I drank some bad water, E. coli or something.”

Not even five minutes when by when the nurse came to Alex – “You have malaria.” What are the chances we both had it, completely different symptoms, and at the same time? He is normally based in Kampala and is just up here for a few days to show me around, so he couldn’t have gotten it while he was in Gulu. I have only been in Uganda 12 days, so either I got it the one night I slept in Nairobi, or I got it the first night I was in Kampala.

So we dug through our pockets to pay the 44,000 Uganda Shillings each (about $22 USD; I actually paid with a $20 and then another 4,000 UGX – how can a villager afford 44,000 shillings? It seems so expensive!) and went home to rest. I forced down some rice at 7:00 last night, and felt terrible. I took my malaria meds and went to bed – slept until 8:30 this morning. I am feeling much better today – hopefully the medicine works it’s magic over the next three days and I bounce back to my upbeat self. Fortunately for me, today is a holiday (Martyr’s Day), so no work, no signing forms, no scheduling. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the day.

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