While sitting and looking at my swollen and red foot, I couldn’t help but think, “it could be worse, I could get malaria.” Don’t tell my mother, but I hadn’t been taking my malaria medicine. I am taking it now Mom, no need to worry.
I stopped taking it so I could sleep, which I couldn’t do while I was on it, and I can’t do now. For those non-medical in the audience, mefloquine is a medicine that prevents the effects of malaria from being felt, but it also causes intense night terrors, anxiety, sleeplessness and sometimes waking hallucinations. While I have not had any hallucinations that I know of, I can attest to the rest. Oh, and the long term effects are not well known, sometimes the side effects do not go away when you stop taking the meds.
There were not really many mosquitoes on the Plateau during training and I convinced myself that if I took precautions like using the mosquito net, bug repellent and wearing socks I would be fine. It worked there, but now I live on the coast. There are plenty of mosquitoes and it is definitely a malaria stricken zone. When I got that bite on my foot, I had to be realistic. I have consistently had bites on my ankle (where the malaria ones bite) that I was getting in the evening (when they come out) despite my best efforts with repellent and burning coils. I considered that bite a warning and it has been well heeded.
At least I know I have not gotten malaria yet. Even though its effects can be delayed I can be sure of this. My participation in sometimes-risky outdoor sports has prompted warnings of all kinds from my mother, my friends’ mothers and just about all of my female acquaintances. Their warnings range from general (don’t do anything stupid) to very specific (ex. don’t climb trees when your drunk), but never seem to make much difference. It is always right after I need it that their warnings come back into my brain. I hear their voices, clear as a bell ‘don’t go hiking by the river at night’ right when I’m in the middle of doing something sketchy. I was one mile away from camp on a ridge trail along the side of Eagle Creek in the Gorge in the pitch dark when I heard that one. Where were you when the sun was still up?
This means that since I have not heard the repeated admonishments of my female co-workers to take my medicine replayed in my head, it is not too late. This time I will take their advice, and all it took was three days of excruciating pain.
November 12, 2008