Hospitals, Travel and Me – Burkina Faso (Part One)

Here’s my final two parts of my hospital experiences. Burkina Faso, and this is where it all happened, I got my first ever serious tropical disease, malaria. I was in Banfora, a large town (but definitely a town) six or so hours south west of the capital Ouagadougou.

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I remember the lead up – I’d had a great afternoon and was finally, after many weeks of travelling, starting to feel like I had gotten the West African ‘vibe’ if you will. I had a great steak for dinner and started to cough a bit. I’d met this lovely Czech couple, and hung out with them in an outdoor sort of bar place, and my temperature started to spike. It had taken only a couple of hours if that, but suddenly I knew I was not well.

Outskirts of Banfora.
Outskirts of Banfora.

I was taken to the Banfora hospital. I was seen by a doctor who didn’t speak English, but my French was I guess good enough to communicate with him. He wanted me to come back in the morning for a blood test, and gave me medication to treat the malaria – this famous ‘three day cure’, which was basically a mefloquine combined with something else.

I was staying in a half-hut. It was boiling in the day but not too bad at night, not much light and not particularly clean, but very cheap. It wasn’t a great night, I would take paracetamol to get the fever down so I could sleep, but wake up 2 hours later with the temperature back up. It was nearly 40 from memory.

drummers in Banfora

The next morning I went to the hospital. I had to walk a kilometre in the state I was in because it was hard to get a moto. Bought a few brand new syringes for blood tests. I was spinning and the temperature was raging. Walking had been a very bad idea, but I’d had no choice.

Blood taken, I had to insist to stay at the hospital from memory. I was taken to a very small room with three beds, only one was occupied. It was a bare plastic mattress. No sheets or pillows or anything. Some guy turned up who spoke English. He was a godsend.

I was told that the blood tests didn’t show anything, however because I’d started treatment it would be masked. I needed a whole bunch of drugs, but I also needed to get them, they didn’t have them at the hospital. This English speaking man offered to get them for me. As well as any food I might like as that wasn’t given either.

So I gave him the money and he went away. He came back in an hour with bananas and drugs, a pillow and sheets for my bed as well. I never even got his name. But, seriously, an angel. There were no nurses and perhaps two doctors. The place seemed generally quite big but I don’t think there were many beds for patients who had to stay overnight or longer.

The doctor had to hook me up to the drip, and this was not easy for him. There didn’t seem to be a tourniquet thingy so to assist in the vein finding, he used some plastic gloves and tied them around my arm. Stab! Miss. Stab! Miss. STAB! Miss…. The lady, the patient, in the other bed, came over to help him and eventually he found a vein.

The day became night. They locked the toilet. I have no idea why. So, I had to wheel my drip outside to a wall and pee there. Such is life.

Perhaps the worst thing, though, was them telling me at 7am that I was absolutely fine now and should go back to my accommodation. Like, I was kicked out at 7am. I was feeling no better, not at all. I spent a few more days trying to sleep and little else in Banfora, being bothered by this one guy who kept asking for money.

And so, I moved on to Bobo-Diolosso. And another hospital awaited. But that’s for the conclusion post of this story! May the Journey Never End!

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