A new "wrinkle" occurred in my African adventure last week. I suddenly felt I was getting a bad chest cold last Saturday, and was miserable with a headache, high fever, and a barky cough. At the recommendation of a couple of friends, I went to my first African hospital last Sunday for a blood test for malaria (we've had a major outbreak in this area lately due to unseasonable rains and extra cool temperatures).
Much to my dismay, my count was Level 8, a rather high count, and began my first of 5 daily shots. With my continuing high fever, the doctor added a strong regimen of Amoxycillin, pain pills, and a prescription for Pectylin-C, an expectorant. It would probably have been a far more interesting experience if I hadn't been so ill!!
The clinic was a very small place, several miles from my homebase. Each part, i.e. Laboratory, business office, pharmacy, surgery, Xray, etc. was in a separate building. NO medical history was taken, and they didn't even know my name until the doctor asked me to write it on a paper. I was then sent to the billing office (by the way, the same person that accepts bill payments also leaves that building to go to a different one to "change hats" and becomes the pharmacist! I then went to the lab (yes, another building) for a test. The lady in the lab was very nice and gentle, but I was somewhat surprised to see a large bandage on her hand, no surgical gloves, and of course, just a needle to draw blood -- hmm!
"Drug Stores" Don't Really Exist Here
Last week, I was only able to leave my little room to get another shot daily, and was kept home from work for the entire week. In addition to the fevers, cough, and headaches, I was also very nauseous (a lovely side effect from the malaria!) Primo, our head chef, kept bringing me flasks (thermoses) of very hot, spicy herbal tea made with honey, limes (from our trees), grated raw ginger (to break up the congestion), and other ingredients I'm afraid to even ask about! You don't realize how spoiled we are in America, until you live in an area like this. In Illinois, my home state, it's incredibly easy to walk into a drugstore and buy anything from hair color and candy to "OTC" medications.
In Africa, where I'm living, I only know of one tiny "drugstore" that MAY carry "plasters" (band aids) and a VERY limited supply of OTC items like aspirin (from India) -- IF and WHEN you can find the store open! I was well-prepared for sinus-type problems (remember, I'm from Illinois), and skin rashes when I arrived, but have been unable to find "cough drops," tissues, or any other soothing aids. I DO know that if something SEVERE develops, I can be flown to a bigger medical facility in Nairobi, but it was a touch scary in the meantime! Just an additional note about "medical care" in this area -- although it has proven to be quite satisfactory, all "luxuries" such as food, drinking water, towels, bathsoap, must be provided by friends or family of the patient. So the next time you're "stuck" with hospital food, it may not taste so bad after all!