Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Don't get bugged in Kenya to be diagnosed in South Africa

I haven't had much health issues while travelling in Africa over the last ten years and I think that I can count the serious cases on my hand one. But trust me, they were SERIOUS. In Cameroon I ended up in hospital and that was probably the worst experience I've had. Not because of the service I got from a very basic hospital, but because I felt as if I was dying a certain death. The doctors were fantastic and the I managed (against the doctor's instructions) to send one nurse across the street to buy me a Coca-Cola...which I believe was the last "medication" I needed to deal that virus a final blow. So, I guess I have been lucky because I am not very cautious about what I eat and I never say "NO ice" like many visitors do because they don't trust the source of drinking water that might have been  used to make the ice.

Last week in Kenya I felt a strange feeling in my muscles, you now that feeling when you know that flu is on its way. Funny enough my throat was not sore and I was hoping it would go away.  I arrived in Cape Town on the Thursday night and went to the office the next morning. At the office I could feel that something was not right, my head started to ache and my whole body was getting jittery. I went home and by 7 pm I was sick as a dog. I eventually believed I had malaria and tested myself with a malaria kit, but the results were negative. That night I couldn't sleep, the pain was unbearable, I was sweating like a horse but was as cold as an Eskimo skin diver. I still couldn't believe it was flu because the symptoms were more in the line of tick fever, malaria or bird flu.

The next morning I went to the doctor and asked for more blood test because I thought I was going to die. At least this time I was in South Africa and not in Cameroon, so I  was more relaxed about where I would end up, even though mortuary also felt like a good option at that stage. The results came back and the doctor told me it was a bacterial infection and not malaria or flu. At least if  I die they could say what it was NOT, but still could not say because of what. The doctor prescribed antibiotics and send me home to sleep it off.

On Monday morning the antibiotics has not shown any positive results, and the pain pills I was taking every three hours made me wonder if they had any "active ingredients" in them. I went back to the doctor to ask for a medical certificate for work as it was obvious that I would not be going to work for the next few days. The doctor was quite surprised that I was still not well, but what surprised ME more was that she put "Respiratory tract infection" on my Medical Certificate. She obviously had NO idea what pain I've been going through over the past couple of days. My head feels like it could explode at any time, and she believes I have a sore throat? She did however say that I should come back the next day if I was still not well so that we can do further blood tests.

Two nights ago my wife jumped in to see if she could quicken the recovery process and did her own diagnosis and prescription. I went to bed that night with more chemicals in my body than what you would find in a US Superfund site. It was still not a sedated night, but I had the headache under control. At around 12:30 I could feel the effect of the painkillers working out and topped up with some more. This morning I feel better, but the headache is lurking in the background and when I type it feels as if I am falling over onto the keyboard. I picked up a cough and I am pretty sure that my bug did eventually turn into flu due to the strain my immune system was taking in fighting this unwanted guess. It allowed a loophole for the flu virus to enter and today I am definitely sitting with an additional "respiratory tract infection" on top of what I had two days ago. If this is the pain and discomfort one has to go through to get common flu, then I would rather catch malaria and get the recognition I deserve, but "respiratory tract infection" is NOT going to cut it.

When I look back at Cameroon I am glad I was forced by the doctor to stay in the hospital that day. They saved my life. Had I come back to South Africa to be told I had "respiratory tract infection" I might not have made it. I am still not sure what I had in Cameroon, or Kenya for that matter, but I know the difference between "flu" and "you are about to die". Maybe in Kenya I would've been treated differently. We all believe South African doctors are very good, and yes, they are, but do they really know the difference between "I am not feeling well" and "I think I am going to die"? Probably not.

It is Wednesday morning now, a week after I first had a funny feeling in my arms and muscles. I have just made another appointment with another doctor. I still feel miserable with a headache that feels like a knock on the head with a 10 pound hammer each time I cough. Maybe they will identify this bacteria at last so that we can target the enemy by name......

1 comment:

  1. I currently live in Kenya and there are some superb medical institutions and doctors here.

    I have had to trust them with my life and it wasn't in vain.

    Even local clinics, which aren't much to look at, have well trained professionals.

    But of course, not everyone is good, and even in SA I recall some dodgy types.