Friday, 14 September 2012

Malaria...

About two and a half weeks ago, I woke up in the middle of the night shivering uncontrollably. Now, I live in the tropics and even in the winter the nighttime temperatures are still about 15 C (59F)... I should not have been cold, much less shivering! i put on fleece pants and pulled out my fleece blanket, trying to get warm. Only a short time later, I'm taking off the layers and can feel my body temperature rising... I'm sure I have a fever.
I had had a late lunch that day and hadn't really eaten dinner; I thought perhaps is was due to those factors, so I got up and ate an orange. I felt so weak. Much weaker than I normally would after skipping dinner. I headed back to bed, to a restless night of sleep, but woke up in the morning feeling alright. I went to work, but after less than 2 hours went home, called Sam and told him I wasn't feeling well. He suggested I see a doctor, and I made an appointment for later that morning. After explaining to the doctor that I had been in Liberia 6 months ago, she recommended I get a blood test, so I went down to the Pathology centre, and got tested.
Monday morning I went back to the doctor to find out what the results of my test was - they came back negative for malaria but showed that my white blood cell count was abnormal, indicating that my body was trying to fight some sort of virus, but the doctor couldn't say what it was.

  Nearly every night for a week I endured the same symptoms - chills, fever, headache, joint/muscle pain especially in my neck, fatigue. I was getting so frustrated. What was wrong with me?! I contemplated going to Emergency at the hospital, but when Sam called to see how much it would cost and found out that it would be $280 just to get into the ER, and then it would cost to be admitted, for blood work, treatment and medication, I opted to stay home and wait it out. The next day I went back to the doctor to see if there was anything else they could do, etc. I was told it usually take several blood tests to rule out malaria completely, so it might be best to have more blood work done.
It had now been 8 days, 3 doctors appointments, and two blood tests. I ended up going home from work early that day, and was in bed by 3p experiencing it all over again. That night my fever felt the hottest it had been, my head hurt the worst it had hurt, and all I wanted to do was talk to my mum. I sent her a text message seeing if she was still awake (knowing it was around 2am, but that sometimes my mum stayed up that late). A few minutes later I decided to call to see if her phone was on, and ended up leaving a message after no answer. Another couple minutes and I got a text back from her saying she was awake now and that I could call her. We chatted for about half hour or so, and then she prayed with me. She prayed not only for my healing, but that the doctors would be able to figure out what was wrong (before my appoinment witha specialist at the Centre for infectious Disease, schedule another week out), that if I did need to go to the hospital I wouldn't be detered by how much it cost, etc. I was so thankful to be able to talk to her, and knowing I could txt her even at 2 in the morning.
About an hour and a half later, I got a call from "private number"... by this time I had been in bed for 5 hours. I answered, and it was another doctor (whom I hadn't met) that was calling to inform me that my blood results had come back from that morning, and were positive for Malaria. The results weren't entirely conclusive, but it was certain that malaria had come back positive and I needed to go to the hospital for treatment.
  Sam and I grabbed some books and a blanket, knowing it might be a long night in the hospital. We only had to wait in Emergency for about half hour before a nurse called my name and I was led into another part of the hospital where they check my blood pressure and temperature. I ended up being put on a bed in Emergency, had a fluid drip put in my arm, and was given morphine for my pain. We discussed with the attending doctor my options of getting pills and going home, staying the night in the hospital and waiting to see someone from Infectious Disease in the morning, etc. I told her that I didn't have private health insurance and as an American wasn't able to have Medicare (Australian public health care), so wanted to do things as inexpensively as possible. She made sure a note was put in my file not to admit me to the hospital (because that would greatly increase the fees), and allowed me to go off the drip (because it was so uncomfortable and painful, that that was one of the reasons i wanted to go home) if i would make sure to drink lots of fluid and stay the night in Emergency. I decided it was probably to stay and see someone from Infectious Disease in the morning, rather than try to come back in the morning (which might cost me again), so Sam and I stayed all night in Emergency. Because I wasn't on the drip or needing to be connected to any machines, my bed was put in the corridor of the emergency ward, and Sam was allowed to crawl in with me to try to get some sleep. I slept a little... they had to check on me (temp, pulse, blood pressure) every few hours, and in the morning a new set of medical staff arrived, one of whom was dating our new housemate! It was great to have a familiar face to come check up on me every now and again, and Ondrej was so wonderful to me - even writing a certificate of leave for Sam's work since he stayed in the hospital with me overnight.

Malaria has been eradicated from Australia for about 20 years, and is not very often treated in Darwin, except by return travellers, but many doctors and medical researchers want to study it, so I was rather a celebrity while in the hospital! It was kind of humorous, because at one point there were about 6 people hovering around me, asking me qusetions about my symptoms, where I contracted it, etc. Turns out the strain of malaria that I got (there are 4 different types) is somewhat rare, but thankfully one of the more milder forms as well. Because malaria had been eradicated from Australia, I was actually a public health concern, because if I were to get bit by a mosquito and it contracted malaria, it could pass it on to others! Thankfully, for this reason I was also prescribed medication free of charge! Such a blessing! I ended up leaving the hospital (with 2 sets of medication) before noon (spending a total of about 15 hours in emergency), and made an appointment to go back after the weekend for follow up blood tests.

It's now been a week since I was in the hospital, I've finished the first set of pills (which clears malaria from my blood) and have about a week left of the second set of pills (which clears malaria from my liver so that it doesn't reoccur in the future). I will go back to the hospital in a few weeks for another follow-up blood test, just to make sure everything is well and functioning properly. I'm so thankful i didn't have to pay for the blood work or medication that was done in Emergency (though i have some bills that will be sent to me from the pathologist for the first two blood tests that were done before i went to the hospital). And thanks to all my friends and family who prayed for me, made me meals, sent me encouraging words, etc. Big thanks to my amazing man, Sam, for taking care of me day and night through it all - even brushing my hair after a shower when I was too exhausted, massaging my neck with tiger balm when it was so tight, cooking for me, and applying cold, damp cloths when my fever spiked!

1 comment:

Zim said...

I didn't know that this illness is real in Australia. I thought that it is only in Africa and South America. I wish You fast going back to health. Greetings from Poland.