So, just when I thought was on the way to find my son, there I was, in the middle of the night, in Mbale, feeling like death – what could I do? For the moment I took some pain killers and dozed off and on until morning. There were mosquitoes coming through holes in the net. Did I have malaria? Not from those mosquitoes of course, but maybe from Kampala?
When day broke I went to the toilet along the corridor then got back into bed and began to assess the situation. It seemed that I had all the symptoms of swine flu except the breathing difficulties; swine flu is known to be infectious. I had touched everyone in the house, at least by shaking hands with all 13 of them. I had spent the evening in their company, children often coming to me; one of them had hugged me. What if they all got swine flu? But then there had only been one case in Kampala by then. The reader should remember that at that time we were warned to expect a pandemic (which never happened, as it turned out).
I was on the way to find my son, now how can anything work out? – I asked myself. My timings were tight, how could I still go to Karamoja, to Gulu, to Juba? Mary came and talked to me from the door. After telling her everything, she told me that all the children had health insurance paid for by their parents, so if anything happened at least they could get treatment with a halfway decent doctor paid for by the insurance. But for me, how would I find a reliable doctor, especially on a Sunday. I rang the doctor’s surgery which I previously used in Kampala and asked to speak to a doctor. I was put onto a female who sounded Dutch and advised me to come back to Kampala as swine flu is infectious and if I had it I would need proper treatment. She pointed out that it could not be malaria as I had been back in the country for less time than the incubation period. But I could not catch the bus back if I was infectious. What a mess! Eventually I decided the best I could do would be to take a “Special Hire” taxicab, sit in the back seat with the window open and hope I did not infect the driver. I dragged myself out of bed and got ready to go out. I walked down the road and got a boda-boda motorcycle taxi to the Special Hire stage where I negotiated a price of USH.150,000/=, about GBP £50, probably a fair fare.
I was driven back to Mary’s house where I collected my luggage and said good-bye –without touching anyone. The child who had hugged me came to the gate with his grand-mother to see me off. The three or four hour journey to Kampala was uneventful, with me talking to the driver as little as possible. I had him drop me at said surgery where I then realised that the person who had spoken on the phone was a nurse. When I eventually saw the doctor she listened, looked at my throat, and said I had a (probably viral) throat infection, highly unlikely to be swine flu, and other symptoms were said to be related to the throat. I wondered if I had made the right decision to come back to Kampala. She gave me some painkillers to be taking over the next few days.
I called my friend’s housekeeper and told him I was unwell and on the way back to stay for some days while I got better. I had called him on his mobile. I later found out that my call had panicked him as he had gone to his home village for the weekend and was not even sure that there would be anyone at the house. Fortunately, when I arrived the cook (having been informed by mobile phone) greeted me with equanimity and was keen to be sure that I would be comfortable and get well.
It took six days of feeling at times quite ill, with various pains including headaches, acute at times, and sometimes feeling as if I had high fever. I took notes of my symptoms in case of collapse. There were times I thought I would never get to Moroto to find the father of my grandson. On the Tuesday, feeling better, I travelled with a friend on the minibus taxi to the local market and to the internet café. On coming back home my condition deteriorated again. During Wednesday I felt so ill that the feeling of death was on me and I wrote notes to help people find my will, saying what I wanted changed, how I wanted to be buried, and a short letter to my daughter. But by Thursday afternoon I felt much better, and went to the internet café again in the afternoon. There I saw a guy with a red tee-shirt on which was written in Welsh nid yw cymru ar werth, “Wales is not for sale”. I called the driver to come the next day.
By this time, after internal struggles, I knew I would have to cut out something from my itinerary and sadly, I realised I could not make it to Juba. I called Andrew, Mary’s older son, for advice about buses from Kampala to Moroto on the Saturday and he assured me that the bus left at 7am in the morning, though he seemed a bit vague about which bus park – I thought there were only two possible locations so it would not be a problem.
On Friday, late morning, Fred took me to the Chinese doctor where I sometimes used to go in the past – over the course of a few months he had helped rid me get of a sore throat which recurred for years, always coming back after taking penicillin or anti-biotics. He used a mix of traditional and modern medicines which did the trick. I was free of it for several years. This time, after I told him everything that had happened, he said, well you might have malaria, sometimes it can take a shorter incubation period. He took a blood sample and told me I had low levels of malaria parasites and recommended I took beta artemethur, which is derived from traditional Chinese malaria remedies, but in recent years used widely across the world as a treatment for malaria, since chloroquine became ineffective because the parasites became resistant to it. I was not entirely convinced but, as I never had any side-effects from taking this drug, I decided to be obedient. In any case it was nice to see again this very friendly man who always used to refer to my family as the “united nations”.
© Nicholas Robert Jewitt and nickjewitt.wordpress.com, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas Robert Jewitt and nickjewitt.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.