On the one month anniversary of my being in Malawi last weekend, I received an unexpected initiation — the kind of extreme illness that is common here. It can be from malaria (mosquitos) or food/water pathogens, but it always will include the combination of fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and head pain. My wonderful neighbors, who are also professors at the university, drove me to a clinic here in Zomba on Saturday, February 6th, and I stayed overnight on I.V. fluids and antibiotic injections of Ciprofloxacin. The Registrar, Mary Wasiri, stayed with me through the night as my “guardian.” She has been a close ally and advocate since I arrived, and was also the person in charge of assuring that I had adequate housing. The cultural practice here is for a friend or family member to always stay with the patient. And a bed or mattress, along with meals, are always provided for the “guardian.”
This is the clinic I went to:
My bill for the overnight stay and all of the services was 51,082.82 MKW (Malawi Kwacha), which is $68.53. This included the doctor consultation, nursing care, I.V. fluids, antibiotics, and pain medications.
Unfortunately, I did not respond to the antibiotics and by Tuesday my fever went up to 104. The doctor at the U.S. Embassy advised that I go to the Blantyre Adventist Hospital, which is about an hour away to the south. A driver from the university drove me and again I was accompanied by the Registrar, Mary Wasiri. She stayed with me the as my “guardian” the two nights I needed to stay. This is the hospital:
My room (and it was painted a very cheery yellow). See the customary mosquito net over the bed:
The redeeming quality of the room was that it actually had a balcony! This is the view of the balcony from my bed:
After three days and two nights of I.V. fluids, a stronger antibiotic (ceftriaxone), routine pain medications (paracetamol aka acetaminophen), and good food, I am home and feeling better. I still do not know the identity of the bugs that got me sick, but the doctor did a blood culture and I will find out the results this Wednesday.
The hospital bill total:
The total, of course, is in Malawi Kwachas. U.S. dollars = $398.12. That is a lot of health care for the price, I must say!
Yes, this is Africa and Malawi is the fourth poorest country in the world, but I am impressed with how much they can do with so little. And although it was extremely unpleasant to be so ill, I’ve had a glimpse of what so many Malawians need to endure without proper access to medical care and medications.