A View on Malaria

Week 5 has been a very interesting one. It  began with both me and Dan being diagnosed with malaria. After freaking out for a while about having the disease and having to get shots, it wasn’t that bad. We got our injections, took our pills, spent a day at home sleeping and watching TV, and we both started to feel better. On our second day of treatment the doctor called us over to tell us about another intern at KMET. He was also from the US and was diagnosed with malaria the same day as we were. However, he was even more sick, and refusing treatment. We were shocked to hear this.

We were never able to talk to the other intern because he didn’t come to the clinic that day. By the end of the week we learned that his father, who is a professor coming to teach the Harvard students, had to fly his son back to the US to be treated as soon as he arrived. We believe that he made this decision because he thought that he had Dengue Fever, not malaria. According to the clinic here, Dengue Fever is not within this area of Kenya, while malaria is very common. Even though it is sometimes hard to trust experts here in Kenya because we have assumptions about being able to receive better healthcare in the US I think it is important that Dan and I did. While Griffin’s experience is now over, ours isn’t.

This week I also experienced the weight of people’s assumptions and perspectives based on how they treated me. When I called home with the news that I had malaria most people were very worried. My best friend dramatically asked me if I was going to die before I got home. This was extremely different compared to how my host family reacted to the news. They all felt sorry that I was sick but there was clearly a mentality that I would be fine very soon. My little brother even had me chase him all the way to the store so that he could show me a remote control car even though I had told him I was supposed to be resting. He responded that he has had malaria lots of times, so I would be fine too.

To my friends and family at home malaria is the number one killer of children in Kenya. To my friends and family in Kisumu it’s the most common disease. Both of these facts are true but they completely change the perspective and reactions people had to my illness. Neither one is wrong, it is only one’s perspective that determines the correct response. 

Ally Siegel