It was Christmas Day of 2012 when I realized I needed to go to the hospital. I had been taking antibiotics for weeks, for what I was sure was a Urinary Tract Infection. But my pain was only getting worse and I feared it was turning into a kidney infection. However, there was a slight issue – the nurses were on strike. So, I decided to drive the car I had bought to Eldoret, a town about 2 hours away from Bungoma. I knew there was a hospital there with American doctors and figured they wouldn’t be on strike. When I arrived at the hospital I was told that all the American doctors were at their homes and was directed to a hospital across the road that was still operating. The nurse I was sent to was having a difficult time taking my blood pressure so I showed her how to do so. They gave me an ultrasound and told me everything looked fine so the next morning I drove back to Bungoma
I was back in Bungoma but was still not feeling well. I got to a point where I could barely move from my bed, let alone walk. We found a hospital that was open about 30 minutes away from the house. I was admitted for a kidney infection and placed in a private room, on the top floor of the hospital. People were constantly in and out of my room because they heard there was a white woman in the hospital and wanted to come see for themselves. To this day, I still can’t tell you which of the several men who came to treat me was my doctor. I had a sweet nurse, named Sarah. She would come to my room every morning to give me tea and then just sit and talk to me. She mostly wanted to know about life in America. Her dream was to someday work as a nurse in the states. Sarah would bring in my IV antibiotics and hook them up to my IV. She tried to push them once, but I screamed. She was pushing it too fast and it felt like my vein was going to pop. I asked her if I could push my antibiotics myself and she agreed. Every day I was getting stronger and even got to a point where I walked down a floor to take a shower. I had to have help bathing but was proud of myself for at least getting to the shower on my own. I thought I was going to be released soon and was excited about finally being in my own bed.
But then, on January 2nd, it hit. It was the middle of the day and I suddenly started throwing up. It felt like my someone was trying to close my airway and sit on my chest. I could barely breathe or move. Everything gets a little hazy here, but I remember a team of people rushing into my room and speaking in Swahili. I don’t know medical terms in Swahili, but I did understand the word Malaria and believe me when I tell you that word was being thrown out a lot. One doctor came in with an injection, another nurse rolled me over and pulled down my pants and someone shot the injection into my ass cheek. I was rolled back over and within minutes felt like I could breathe again. I was so weak that I quickly fell asleep and woke up in the morning.
The next day was my 23rd birthday. A team of people came into my room to explain to me that I had Malaria. They realized there was a hole in my mosquito net around my hospital bed and figured I had been bitten in the night. I was going to continue to get injections for several days and was going to have to stay in the hospital for even longer. People around town started to come into my room to see me, a well-known Pastor, the village chief, some of the older kids, a few friends I had made while living in Bungoma and of course, my nurse, Sarah. She even came in on her days off to come in and chat with me so that I wasn’t alone.
Several days later I was released from the hospital and a couple of weeks later I decided to fly back to the States. I still can’t tell you what they used to treat me or what kind of Malaria I have (some types stay with you for your entire life). I will say that I have had no flare-ups and my doctor back in the States is aware of the Malaria diagnosis from back in 2012/2013. I learned some valuable lessons from those weeks in the Kenyan hospital: (1) always check your mosquito net and (2) take your preventative medication - Doxycycline! Trust me when I say my Doxy will be the first thing I pack on this next trip to Kenya.