Feet First

“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Friday, June 27, 2003
    Malawi Update

    A sobering post from Chuen-Yen. She finally fell victim to malaria:

    Maswera! It's been a surreal week. Here's your memoir:

    �You must have malaria.�

    -- Every Malawan, on my condition

    I now know malaria first-hand. Fevers, headaches, fatigue, sweats, myalgias, nausea�these are the classic symptoms. I had them all.

    Initially I dismissed my illness as a viral syndrome, mayhap flu. After all, malaria season is ending. Forget that I had ceased sleeping under a mosquito net two weeks ago; that I spent last weekend being attacked by vectors at the lake; or that I have been careless about my Larium prophylaxis. Malaria shouldn�t happen to me.

    But it did.

    My few days of constitutional symptoms, punctuated by hallucinations, were extraordinary. As I lay semi-lucid in bed, the book on my nightstand was dreadfully far away. I couldn�t reach it, let alone ponder the words. Transferring from one room to another was an insurmountable task. When impulses toward productivity transiently flitted through my cortex, I would move a millimeter and then resume listlessly contemplating blemished curtains qua friendly apparitions, barking dogs trying to control my mind and the nauseating glass of water that persistently stared me down. The neighbor�s barbering was my mother grinding coffee in the morning. Gift�s clatterings were the footsteps of a beloved lizard. The phone rang, but I couldn�t answer it. It rang and rang.

    Sometime during the second nightfall of my infirmity, a shotgun wielding sentry awoke me. Dr. Kalanda had sent Arinate. Unquestioningly I swallowed two tablets and drifted back to sleep. By morning I felt much better. Twenty-four hours later, I had recovered. So the locals were probably correct. Once again, experience is the best teacher.

    Stay well.




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