A few days ago I started to feel weak and tired. By nightfall I had a fever. I haven’t had a fever in years. I can’t remember having one since I was maybe five. When you are sick it is easy to let your imagination run wild, especially when you live alone in a foreign country. I had visions of dying of fever in my bed all alone and no one finding me for weeks because they are all too afraid of the white girl.
So, I took matters into my own hands and knocked on Annett (my neighbors) door at 9 pm. She was very surprised to see me. I took her hand and put it on my forehead and asked her if she thought I was hot. Annett moved her hand away and pulled up my shirt. She placed her hand on my stomach and told me in Uganda that’s how they check for fever. Then very solemnly she sighed and said, “You have a little malaria. Go to bed and get treatment in the morning.” I assured her I didn’t have malaria. After all, I take prophylaxis and sleep under a treated bug net. Still, just incase I was going to die that night, I left my door unlocked and gave Annett permission to come into my house and check on me if I was not up by 9 am.
I took my temperature repeatedly and watched it get higher and higher: 101.1, 102.6, 103.4. Once it reached 103.4 I took it 4 times to confirm. This is a lot of times when you are using disposable thermometers. I have an old fashion thermometer but it reads in Celsius only and when you are delirious with fever who can read that kind of thermometer much less convert Celsius into Fahrenheit!?
I’d been taking some homeopathy remedies and took some more and went to bed. I sweated for several more hours fading in and out of sleep. During those conscious moments I convinced myself I really did have malaria. I knew that in the morning I would get up and prick my finger and make a blood slide with the slides Peace Corps gave us for such a time. I would slowly walk down to the health center with what little strength I would have and ask Maureen, the lab technician, to read my slide and confirm my malaria. Then I would call PC and have them take me to the hospital in Kampala for treatment.
The only problem with this plan was that my fever broke around 2 am and I slept the rest of the night. It was only a flu bug. Those few hours of fever and sweating made it all the more clear to me; I never want to get malaria. So, I will continue to faithfully take my anti-malaria meds, sleep under a treated net, not leave standing water anywhere near my house and not spend time outside from 1 am to 4 am. Good luck malaria mosquitoes!