Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Looking after a new colleague who got Malaria

A new recruit joined my house recently. Something I had been looking forward to for a while as I had been living on my own since I came to Makeni. So I went to Freetown (a less adventurous journey - see previous blog) to catch up on the rest of my In Country Training and meet my new housemate.
We had a pretty good time in Freetown as I joined with the June group - although I arrived at the end of April - I belong to this cohort.
As a group we toured around Freetown, went to many beaches, ate and drank in several bars and met lots of new people before heading back up north east - or up country as it is described here to Makeni.
My new housemate and I arrived at our house on Tuesday - she had a cough as did some of the other new recruits. She was too unwell to come to work on the Wednesday with me and did not appear to be getting better.
The thoughts of flying, air conditioning, meeting new people and all the bugs that are around it would be reasonable to think that within the first week this was a nasty flu or cold.
We got news that one of the recruits contracted Typhoid and was hospitalised. My new housemate had similar signs and symptoms so we went to a local charitable hospital and got her tested for typhoid and malaria. Both came back negative. But the cocktail of drugs was something I had never experienced before; antibiotics - 1 gram doses, vitamins as the haemoglobin was 11 and would only go down over here due to the lack of red meat. Folic acid!!! all wrapped in little plastic bags with no name or what the drugs contained let alone a sheet to read up on with side effects.
My new housemate spent the night in my bed - just as well as I was beginning to feel concerned. She took the antibiotics as she had a nasty productive cough. Her temperature was high - 38.8C axilla - and not at all well. I returned home at lunch time (I had been doing this sice she arrived) and was not convinced that this was just a touch of flu.
We requested a second opinion at another charitable hospital and the diagnosis of malaria was made. Her haemaglobin remarkably rose to 12.5 overnight!!!! I felt relieved as I felt at least we knew what was going on. The antimalarial treatment was given (it is a 3 day course of tablets) and off we went home.
The antimalarial treatment is sometimes said to be worse than the malaria. My housemate was quite unwell but with some periods when she felt much better. Things were improving. After the last dose of antimalarials and 3 days of very strong antibiotics my housemate was looking better and beginning to eat and drink much more.
My housemate was feeling so much better that she started her volunteering work this Monday.
We since heard that another of the June cohort contracted typhoid too, but was not hospitalised unlike the the first colleague.
It is quite challenging looking after someone you do not know who is clearly very unwell without a diagnosis in a country with generally poor health facilities. We were fortunate that the charitable hospital where the diagnosis was made ran along european lines - so the care and management did not seem quite as alien as it might have been. It is one thing to visit hospitals in a professional capacity but quite another to have to use the services.
My housemate is now fully recovered, fit and well and has started her volunteering placement.


  1. At least she had you to care for her Al. Once a mum . . .

  2. Hello, I just read an article about the maternal mortality rate in SL and found your blog thru that (via twitter). I have enjoyed reading your posts and pray that your endeavors are fruitful. Your commitment and sacrifice to these women is humbling to me and one day I hope to work at a place such as the clinic you describe in the article. You are personally in my prayers.

  3. Hi Alice, Tim noticed that your blog has been picked up by Jane Elliott, Health reporter for BBC News, on the BBC website yesterday (10 July). Quite a long piece, with pics - don't know if you knew this.