Sick and a long way from home…
This past week has been quite the adventure! Even though I told myself I was not going to get sick in Africa I got very, very ill. Right after I had uploaded my last blog and I was still in Accra with Nick (who is all better now!) I began to violently throw up. Not a good thing at all. However being my stubborn self (and not liking to go to the doctor even when at home in Canada) I decided that I did not want to go to the hospital even though Nick insisted I go. However, right after I refused to go I received a phone call from Anita (the teacher who lives across the hall from me who has become like a sister) and she told me I was not allowed to leave Accra without seeing the Doctor. So whether I liked it or not I was off to the hospital. We went to the same hospital we had taken Nick to only a few short days before. It is a good thing we went because by the time we made it there I felt absolutely dreadful! After paying some money and waiting around for a while I got in to see a Doctor. It is very intimidating to be in a foreign country at a hospital in with a Doctor all by yourself… or at least I found it intimidating! The doctor and I both had a hard time understanding each other (the whole accent thing) and apparently I talk to fast, and he mumbled his words… it was an interesting experience. Long story short from the symptoms I was having he thought it may be Malaria so he sent me to do 2 blood tests and some other tests. I was intimidated enough just seeing a doctor… but now I had to go down a strange little hall way and wait to be stuck with needles (something I am very scared of even in Canada!). Nick is a great guy and I am glad he was around, but he does not get the whole moral support, "do you want me to go with you" thing. So I went of to have my tests done alone.
The area where the tests were done was behind a folding screen in the hallway. I must have looked absolutely terrified while sitting there because a very kind older doctor came by and comforted me assuring me everything will turn out fine. When it came to be my turn to have my blood taken the kind older doctor came back and did the test for me. I did not look at the needle and made it through the tests fine. However after having my blood taken my arm would not stop bleeding… it was a little disconcerting to say the least! No matter what they did for a while it just kept bleeding ( not sure why, I have never had that problem before!) Anyways, the tests came back negative for Malaria in the blood stream, however apparently it can hide in your liver and not show up on the tests. The doctor started me on anti malaria medication as a precaution. Man those drugs are strong!! They totally wipe you out! I thought I was feeling weak before because of the sickness, but every time after taking to drugs I felt like collapsing! You have to take them three times a day, every time I thought I was gaining some strength it was wiped out again!
Tuesday I was feeling even worse then I was on Monday. Nick insisted that I go with him to the clinic he had gone to when he first got Malaria because it had been such a good experience for him. Unfortunately I did not have as much success in my visit. The Doctor was great, he was very kind and knew exactly what questions to ask. He ordered me to have more tests done and to have a few injections. That was great, more needles! =S They could not find a room to put me in for the longest time, and eventually I wound up in the labour and delivery room. I have to say I am very grateful I do not have to have a baby in Africa! The clinic has no electricity or running water! They are all wired for power and they just need to be hooked up to the grid, however the government or the power company or someone will not hook them up to the grid. I have no idea why, but it is very frustrating for them!
The nurse who was giving me my injections was very nice, however she did not have a very steady hand. Part way though one of the injections I think she skewered the vein in my hand… my hand began to fill up with the liquid and became twice the size it should be! It was very painful! It felt like a car had just run over my hand! Eventually she stopped that injection and tried two other veins in that hand. She ended up missing both of those as well. In the end my right hand ended up looking like Frankenstein’s hand! Nick finally went to get the Doctor who came right away and successfully found a vein on my other hand. I did not know what I was going to do if they did not find a vein soon. I was seriously considering just trying to leave. I could not take it anymore! I just rested for about an hour while waiting for the saline solution to run into my body to re-hydrate me. It felt very strange to be in the labour and delivery room like that! Bright (one of the teachers from the school) also came down to the clinic to make sure that I was ok. I am so glad he did because he is able to speak Twi fluently which proved to be very helpful! After my crazy injection experience I was given even more medication to take. I looked like a serious drug addict for a while! I had to take more then 5 pills 3 times a day! That is a lot of pills!
I also had to go to Nsawam (the larger town near my village) to get some more tests done. Which, just my luck meant yet another blood test (another needle!). However I have to say I was learning to deal with needles like a champ and they were no longer fazing me… just making me a little nervous (it sounds bad, but a needle in Africa, even though I saw them take them out of the sterile packages, still made me a little nervous.)
Wednesday I thought I was finally getting a little better. I had been banned from working that week and told that I just needed to go and rest and get my strength back. I had slept all morning, and was finally feeling a little stronger. However in order to take my pills I had to eat food… and food here has been a bit of struggle for me. Everything I eat seems to make me want to throw it up again. I was able to get some rice and chicken stew into my system, but right after I finished the last bite I ended up throwing it all up again! Right when I thought I was getting better I ended up getting even sicker! It was very unfortunate! However I did rest the rest of the week and was able to regain my strength and recover my health.
I stayed in Obodan this weekend (mainly because Anita would not let me leave), but it turned out to be a very good idea because it allowed me to become more acclimatized to the weather and the food in the village. It is not that far from Accra, however the weather is different here, and the change I think is what took a toll on my system. It was a very scary experience to be so sick and be so far from home and those you love. However it definitely made me very humble and forced me to rely fully on those around me. I think it helped me to become closer to those I am living and working with. They are beginning to feel like a second family to me. Anita is the biggest sweetheart and I enjoy hanging out with her so much! She is already talking about how much she is going to miss me when I go home! I am here for another 2 1/2 months, but already she is thinking about how much she will miss me. It is nice to have a friend so close by all of the time. We are quickly becoming more like sisters then just friends, and I thank God that he blessed me so much by putting her in my life here!
It was not a pleasant experience being sick in Africa, and it is not something I want to repeat while I am here, but it opened me up to be more vulnerable and to rely fully on those around me. This experience pushed me from my comfort zone, and stretched me in new ways. And though it was unpleasant I feel that there must have been a reason behind it, some hidden lesson I learned. I do not know how yet, but I am sure this experience has shaped me to be a better person somehow =)