I’ve now endured my first overnight stay as a patient in an African hospital. The two nights in a hospital was not a first for me (Baylor’s birth), but being the patient was (at least I got a bed this time). I was treated for gastroenteritis and malaria, though I’m sure I never had malaria. It’s funny — they tested my blood for malaria, and the doctor told me I didn’t have malaria; but then he proceeded to send the nurse in with a huge needle filled with malaria vaccine. They said malaria sometimes doesn’t show up in tests, and that because my fever was at 102 and climbing, they would treat for it just in case. But I’m about 99% sure I never had it.
Malaria is a strange thing here. Anytime someone is sick, it’s malaria. I had some allergy problems the other day, so my voice sounded a little like I had a cold, and at least three people told me they were sorry I was sick… with malaria. It’s as if the Tanzanians generically use the word ‘malaria’ to mean illness, kind of like South Alabamans use ‘coke’ to mean carbonated beverage. Or police in Knoxville use ‘football player’ for individual being charged.
But I didn’t have malaria — I want to go on record saying that. I don’t want to be one of these missionaries that plays up his experiences in the field to make them sound more dangerous and exciting than they are. I’ve never had malaria, and I’m not belittling it as an illness — many people have suffered and died from it. Nor am I belittling missionaries… well, maybe a little. I just happen to think a lot of missionaries like to make themselves sound tough, as if they’re enduring great and vast trials to be in the field. I lived in China for three years beginning in 2001. And you better believe there were many who would talk about the dangers of being a “secret” missionary in China. But for most, there was little or no danger greater than that of being sent back to the U.S. — something I prayed for while crying myself to sleep my first night there. The real heroes are the Chinese Christians and preachers and missionaries, who actually do risk their lives for their faith in God.
Anyway, I didn’t have malaria. And while I’m being honest, the thermometer only read 101 and climbing, though somewhere I heard that if your temperature is taken by underarm, you add one degree. Is that true? So I don’t have any great story of battling through illness and cannibals to serve God in Geita. Nor did I have to kill a lion with my bare hands — not on this occasion at least. Nope, I went to the doctor because my stomach was forcing me to do two things at once, neither of which I wanted to do. And I couldn’t keep any food, medicine, or fluids down… or up. I was getting quite dehydrated and losing weight and energy fast — I actually lost 11 pounds in the first 12 hours of illness.
Christie and I debated trying to wait it out (hoping it was a 24-hour virus) or go to a hospital. We decided a hospital was best, as long as it wasn’t the Geita hospital, which makes things difficult since we live in Geita. We narrowed it down to a 3-hour drive to Mwanza or trying to get some strings pulled to get us into Geita Gold Mine’s medical clinic only 8 kilometers away. I opted for the gold mine for the following reasons: 1) it was closer, 2) we had heard they offer pretty decent care, and 3) this was a great opportunity to find out for future reference whether or not we’d be able to see doctors there in emergencies. We were able to get in, the care was very good for rural Tanzania, and we were assured that during emergencies (only), we would be able to return. All in all, it was a very pleasant experience — the gold mine clinic, not the gastroenteritis…
So, I’m thankful to my wonderful wife Christie, who did EVERYTHING while I was sick. Alicia Groen and the lil’ Groen gals (they’re bona fide) babysat Baylor so that Christie could sit with me in the hospital, and even did our laundry. I also am thankful for the doctors of the Geita Gold Mine medical clinic, who charged us only about $80 (USD) for two nights in a hospital with over 8 liters of medicines and fluids — we don’t even have to claim that on insurance. And it was great of Holly and Carson’s landlord, Gaston, to be the string we pulled to get into the gold mine clinic in the first place. But all praise be to God, who got us through our first taxing health situation in Geita town. He is always good.
I should be back to regular blogging in the next couple of days.