1) It is most definitely possible to get malaria while you are on prophylaxis. We already knew this, but we now have experiential knowledge. Prophylaxis is not the same thing as a vaccine, and unfortunately, there is no vaccine for malaria yet. What prophylaxis does is puts a small amount of treatment medicine into your body, so that if you are bitten by a mosquito which is carrying malaria, your body will be better able to fight it. Prophylaxis will also prevent you from getting cerebral malaria, which if untreated, can kill a person within an hour of his or her first symptoms. If your immune system is strong and it is one of the less severe forms of the parasite, the prophylaxis may keep you from having symptoms. However, it will not keep you from getting the malaria parasite.
We have been very conscientious about
sleeping under a mosquito net and taking our prophylaxis, but we are now going
to redouble our efforts to wear repellant every night, not just when we see
mosquitoes about, and regularly spray our rooms. Even then, there are no
guarantees, especially when traveling and staying in guest houses. For example,
Eric is pretty sure a mosquito bit him a few weeks ago as he was getting out of
the shower. That’s why it is also equally important to have access to treatment
and to treat at the first sign of symptoms. Now that I know what malaria feels
like in my body—each person is different—I will be better able to treat it at
the first sign of malaria.
Tanzanians in our community genuinely care about us and will go out of their
way to show it. As soon as Eric told Rev. Nzelu, his school’s principal,
that I was sick, the Tanzanian community has truly supported us. Rev. Nzelu was
out-of-town at the time, so he sent Gasper, the school’s driver, and Mr.
Shango, the school’s accountant, to take us to Shinyanga for me to be tested
for malaria. They spent their Sunday morning with us traveling around trying to
find a clinic that was open, where I could be tested.
When I was diagnosed, the restaurant began
packaging meals for Eric so that he could just pick them up and be with me. The
daytime manager of the guest house also made sure we were able to change the
sheets more regularly.
Philemon, one of Eric’s coworkers, has
called or visited daily since learning of my sickness, and spent one evening
helping Eric find juice and other vitamin rich foods for me. When I was
admitted to the hospital, Philemon and Mr. Shango stayed and waited with Eric
the entire morning and visited again in the afternoon.
Rev. Nzelu has been a vigilant watchman of
my care. He has visited at least once a day and called many more times. We were
invited to spend Christmas with him and his family, but since we couldn’t make
it, he himself brought us two meals on Christmas day.
Several other members of the church and
school board have also visited, including the bishop-elect for the Shinyanga
Diocese, Rev. Makala. He came to the hospital with a “Get-Well Soon” card and
prayed over me. He has studied in the U.S. before and knows what it is like to
be away from family, so his prayer not only included prayers for bodily
healing, but strength in times of homesickness.
If anything, this illness has rooted us
more deeply into the community. We can truly say we have Tanzanian friends and look
forward to being able to support them in similar ways.
other Wazungu (white people) living in Mwadui. We always suspected we weren’t
the only ex-patriots living here, but we hadn’t met any until the day before I
fell ill. We just happened to run into Amanda and Andre at a store as we were
shopping for supplies for Christmas cookies—which have not yet been made, for obvious
reasons. Andre works as an accountant for the Williamson Diamond Mine, and he
and his wife are both Afrikaans from South Africa. The Sunday I was diagnosed
with malaria, they texted us to tell us that they were making a trip into
Mwanza. They wanted to know if they could pick anything up for us. Eric told
them about my malaria and asked them to pick up some chicken broth.
The next thing we knew, there was a knock
on the door from another Afrikaans woman, named Tilla. Apparently Amanda had
told her about our situation, and she was very concerned, because she had almost
lost her husband to malaria once before. She and her husband have lived here in
Mwadui for 7 years. With grandmotherly affection, she gifted me with soda,
chicken soup, medicine to keep the fever down, and more bug repellant. She
urged us to call her if things got worse, because she knows the doctor at the
hospital, and she’s been through this before.
Amanda and Andre themselves visited Sunday
evening, bringing with them many groceries for us. They returned again on
Christmas with some festive foods, telling us to let them know if there was
anything else they could do to help.
When it became apparent that I would need
to spend some time in the hospital on IV antibiotics and fluids, Eric let Tilla
know via text message. When we arrived at the hospital and discovered that it was
divided into men’s and women’s wards, i.e. Eric was only allowed in the ward with
me at certain times of the day, I could not hold back the tears. Thus, when two
familiar female faces showed up in the ward-- Amanda and Tilla’s—I was
incredibly grateful. It meant a lot to have someone holding my hand when the
nurses had to stick me for the 5th time, trying to find a vein that
was big enough for an IV. When I was released from the hospital, Tilla arranged
for us to stay at the guest house on the mining compound for a few nights, so
we would be close and she could look after us. It turns out that all of the
South African wazungu live in a couple of mining compounds. In the past few
days, we have seen another whole side of town.
We are now realizing that we are in a
unique position in Mwadui, because we are working for and with the Tanzanian
community, but now also have friends who work for the South African mining
company itself. We are not yet sure how, but we are getting the sense that this
may be part of God’s plan for strengthening partnerships between the company
and the Tanzanians that live and work in Mwadui.
my mother’s allergy to Codeine. This discovery came about completely by
accident. When my fever was rising, Tilla offered us an anti-inflammatory that
was a combination of acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and codeine. Thankfully, I
remembered my mother’s medical history, so when my face started to feel numb and
swollen and I broke out in hives, we quickly recognized that I must have the
same allergy. With haste and prayer, we made our way back to the hospital.
After a shot and an oral antihistamine, I was back to normal. Overall, we are
very thankful that we found this out through a small dose of codeine. Now I can
add this to my medical charts, and be careful to avoid drugs with codeine for
the rest of my life.
supported by a loving, praying community world-wide. During difficult times
like this last week, we especially value the support of our international
community, our “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). During my lowest point—when
I thought I had been improving on Christmas Day only to discover it was a cruel malaria
trick, when I had gotten only one hour of sleep the whole night, when I could
not physically drink enough to replace what I was losing, when I was waiting to
hear back about whether the doctor was at the hospital yet—in that moment, Eric
read aloud the comments posted on Facebook and names of people we knew were
praying. I think we have prayed more this Christmas than any previous
Christmas, and knowing that our prayers were joined by people all over the
world—the very thought of it still brings me to tears. All we can say is “Thank
bring good out of evil. In some sense, malaria robbed us of our first
Christmas in Tanzania. We will have to wait another whole year to experience
how Tanzanians celebrate the birth of our Savior. And yet, this list is
evidence of the fact that God can and does bring good out of evil. We will
never say that we are glad I got malaria, because we wouldn’t wish this on our
worst enemy, but we can now look back and see how God has carried us through
this time and enriched our lives through it. Bwana Yesu asifiwe (The Lord Jesus