I have yet to make a trip to Uganda without dashing off to the medical center with a child suffering malaria. Yesterday it was Ryan. His fever was 105! When we arrived at the clinic it measured 103.8 so they gave him an ice cold sponge bath while he shivered with chills. There never was such a long face. As usual I was the only mzungu in line with all the others waiting to see the doctor. Appointments are not made here, we just show up sit down and wait our turn. Unfortunately for Ryan his case of malaria was extreme. Each time I come I learn more and more about this disease. The point of a pen makes a dot on paper. In that point under microscope they count the number of parasites. If there is more than three it is a high case. Ryan had 60-65 parasites in that small point. Horror!
My eyes grew wide, concern pumped in my veins, as I asked, “is it fatal?” The docctor’s voice was so soft I had to lean in close to hear him and understand his accent mingled with medical jargon. “Yes it is, but the parasite doesn’t kill, it is the side effects as the body fights that will take a life. The vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration or hypoglycemia will cause death.” Ryan was completely normal except for the fever, so he would be ok.
He sent us to the nurses area for treatment. Ryan is a cheeky little guy who finds himself in trouble often. The truth is that he’s extremely intelligent and needs to be learning in a constructive way constantly. He doesn’t have the confidence to speak openly to adults yet. He remained silent but I could see his mind ticking at a high rate as he watched the nurse take out a tray of medicines, vials and needles. He didn’t miss a move as she mixed up four separate medicines into one vial. Then she inserted a port into his hand to administer the meds and taped it down. He didn’t receive this well and was chastised by all the nurses for fighting. He resisted. I have had to hold down my children with two other people while taking shots, so these nurses don’t know fighting. I don’t like the port in his hand and wondered why they don’t just give him shots and then I watched her insert three full syringes of medicines into his vein. He needs to get that every twelve hours in 24 hours then after the three doses he is tested again to make sure the parasite has been killed.
When the children in our home visit the doctor with Uncle Robert they are treated to a bottle of juice. Ryan didn’t forget his was due. When the other children see the bottle they come to complain they need to go to the doctor as well. Ryan will be ok. Poor Robert had to return to the clinic with him at 2:30 in the morning. Christopher will have to go on a boda with him this afternoon at 2:30 because we have appointments.
Rhonah had to go through this treatment when she joined our home. If we could catch the malaria before the count is so high the treatment would be simpler, just a few pills. Yes we use mosquito nets but this is high season for malaria because it is the rainy season and puddles breed mosquitoes. One single mosquito bites an infected person and takes it to the next person to share. If one person in our house has malaria it only takes one mosquito to give it to everyone!
The doctor’s visit for the exam, blood test, and three treatments cost $45.00 I’m fairly sure if we had a visit like that in America you could at least add a zero, and maybe double the number. However, here the cost of $45.00 could be far more than someone makes in a month for the whole family. In this scenario going to the doctor is a luxury while the symptoms of the parasite take precious lives. For our family, thanks to generous sponsors and supporters, our children are rushed to the doctor so often the staff at the clinic knows Robert as a friend and they can inquire about all of our children. Medical care is a privilege here. This hurts my heart when I know so many suffer.
When we travel we take malaria medicines. I asked a missionary doctor one time why I would spend hundreds of dollars on prevention when I could get treated for $45.00. I’m glad I asked him because he reminded me that my body has never had the chance to learn how to resist the parasite and if it goes to my brain it could be more complicated to treat than what people here must go through and the local doctors may not know this difference. Ahhh… we’ll keep taking the expensive malarone and spreading stinky sticky mosquito spray on our skin at night.