Before I begin the final part of my experience with malaria in a West African nation on my own and thousands of miles away from my friends and family – oops, sorry too much there, I think it’s really important to remember that malaria is still a killer, despite the work that has gone into a vaccine. 90% of deaths from malaria occur in Africa, 627,000 approximately is the world-wide figure for deaths from malaria in 2012. (figures from the WHO – http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/malaria/en/)
People in Africa rarely have any sort of health insurance, they don’t usually have access to the best in medicine. I spent another couple of delirious nights in Bobo Diolosso before deciding that I wasn’t getting any better, that swallowing was getting close to impossible, and that I needed out of Africa.
First though, I had to negotiate a bus trip of 6-7 hours back to the capital Ouagadougou, find a flight, book a flight and survive it back to Australia.
The bus journey was not a lot of fun. I ate a baguette and bananas on the way, feeling nauseous and anxious but it seemed to last forever. I met a couple I had seen at a restaurant in Bobo-Diolosso and chatted with them. They were American missionaries, and as a sometime atheist sometime agnostic, well, I was still very glad of the company.
I had been in email contact with my parents, and they had mentioned a clinic in Ouagadougou that was recommended on the American embassy website. And this couple also recommended being checked out there as I was really worried about my swallowing difficulties.
And so, I had made new friends on the bus journey and this clinic is where we went. I was expecting maybe to be there a few hours, they had kindly offered a bed in their house, but as it turned out, I was told I should stay there for a few nights. In the end, it was a full week.
I still had malaria in my system, this time with a positive diagnosis which I hadn’t received in Banfora, and they used quinine. They did blood tests and I went by ambulance to a clinic to get x-rays, as well as other tests. I had a secondary infection which was causing the pain whilst swallowing. Sleeping was hard, but people spoke English and I was so very well looked after, all taken care of by travel insurance.
Meals came from the restaurant next door so I could actually choose what I wanted for dinner, and after two days I was able to eat again which was nice. People visited me which was so lovely, and when I left I had a place to stay with a warm family. It was such a relief, I bought a ticket out on Air France and then from Paris to home by Emirates.
I left Burkina Faso back to 70-75% health I guess, and I had tests back in Australia too. It took a couple of months to get back on my feet and working. But somehow I made it – and in 2007 I was back in Burkina Faso completely the route through Mali and Senegal. It took a long time to get over, I must admit, 18 months. Strangely I didn’t feel particularly apprehensive when I went.
I also discovered that someone I had met when I had first arrived in Ouagadougou had died from malaria not that long after I had left Africa. Kinga Choszcz, also known as Kinga Freespirit died in June 2006, she was from Poland, she had written a book about her amazing travels and is still an inspiration to travellers today.
You can read a little about her – HERE.
Do take malaria seriously, because it IS a killer. I was extremely lucky to be honest, and very lucky in going back to Africa twice not to contract it again. People get malaria when travelling in Africa all the time, especially West Africa, and as for the people of Africa, it’s often just a part of life. When I returned to Mali, my guide through the Dogon Country had malaria and at night hooked himself up to a drip! He was okay… many people in Africa have had malaria so many times, their bodies are apparently somewhat resistant to malaria.
This is my story about my encounter with malaria. Thanks for reading.
PS. Oh the night I flew out I had a minor reaction to peanuts and when bussed to the plane I was speaking to off duty Air France hostesses who started telling me about a plane that was hijacked from Brazzaville and landed in the desert in Chad! (this was in response to my comment about how much security there was at Ouagadougou airport) So…. That’s how it ended!