Man plans…

 Posted by Miriam Apter at 8:55 pm  Rwanda
Jun 142012


Shabbat #2 was pretty much the same, lit candles, ate, read, slept, walked around the area. Saturday night I got sick, some sort of stomach thing and had a pretty rough night. Sunday my stomach was better but I started to have flu like symptoms- fever, congested, weak etc. On Monday, Angel (the translator and person from FVA who stays with us) walked into my room and said “you have Malaria”. I kindly explained that I don’t think I have Malaria, I am taking pills for that and it is probably just a cold. My room mate, Jane, who is a nurse then informed me that the Malaria pills are only 95 percent effective and maybe I’m part of the other five percent. I started googling, and came to see that I had all 6 of the symptoms of Malaria. I went back out to Angel and said “so… you think it  is Malaria?” She said “Yes”. So I asked what happens now. She said we go to get you tested. She called a cab and we went, Jane came along. I asked if we were going to the clinic that one of the volunteers goes to which was rather… well not exactly the type of place I wanted to be pricked with needles. She laughed and said no, we were going to a nice place, a private doctor. The “nice” place was relatively clean. If you are comparing it to the St Nich in the Heights after Christmas. They do a finger prick for a Malaria test, Jane was there to make sure they used a sterile needle, and when she looked at the packet of the Malaria test she showed them that it was expired and got them to replace it. They did the test, we waited the thirty minutes for the results and then went to speak to the doctor. The doctor and another woman, were facing Jane, Angel and me in the doctor’s office. They were all talking in Kinyarwandan and every so often Angel would ask me a question and translate. I kept trying to cut in and ask Angel to translate. Finally, I burst out “DO I HAVE MALARIA?!” and they all laughed and said no, it came back negative. And continued speaking in another language. Someone eventually explained that they were just trying to figure out what was wrong with me. It was suggested that it was because of my Kosher food. And that because I couldn’t get  Kosher oil and was only eating things boiled, it hurt my stomach. Jane explained that oil is actually bad for your stomach and that theory  doesn’t make sense. My stomach was doing a lot better though anyway so I figured it was flu and just had to wait for it to pass.

Those symptoms lasted until around Wednesday when I thought I was starting to feel a bit better and went to the orphanage in the morning. After about an hour I realized I was still too sick to be out and went back. Wednesday night was bad and I had fever again, and was up all night coughing. Thursday morning I my chest and lungs were hurting from the coughing and I had a hard time breathing. I decided it was time to get some more tests done and we went to the hospital, which I was assured was “real”.  I was told we would walk there, so I assumed it was close but it turned out to be a 30 minute walk, which you can imagine went great combining my hacking cough with the dust and heat. Relative to the doctors office it seemed pretty sanitary. The people wore gloves here, and one of the offices even had a computer. It was super advanced. We did a lot of running around from office to office, and wherever we went there were lines and lines of people. You can’t make appointments, it is first come first serve and patients could have to wait outside for a full day to be seen. We went into someones office who would take us from place to place and we skipped the lines, I’m not sure how. I was told that it was because I was a volunteer but I am not sure exactly what was going down. I may have been paying extra for that but that’s unclear. My initial examination, blood pressure, basic questions, height and weight took place in a waiting room with about 30 people watching. Then I went into the doctor (again passing over a long line of people) who asked me some more questions. She listened to my breathing and ordered another Malaria test (finger prick), a blood test and a chest x-ray and wrote out a couple of prescriptions. I did all that, we went to the pharmacy for the prescriptions which turned out that one of them was just a bottle of regular over the counter cough syrup, and the other was a bag of white pills, unmarked, no label that was put in a bag at the pharmacy from another unmarked bottle. They told me it was a fever reducer (I didn’t have fever at this time) and I refused to take those pills much to Angel’s chagrin.

Information about what test I needed was given to Angel on little scribbled pieces of paper (looks like HIPAA laws don’t apply here)

The X-ray was done in a room that was pretty open, with an open window. Before I undressed I looked for a door to close or a curtain for the window and realized there wasn’t one. They took my x-ray and the doctor said to bring blood test and xray results together, and the blood test was going to take 3 hours. The whole hospital trip took about 3 hours, I went home to wait for results and we went back 3 hours later. It turns out, I have Bronchiole Pneumonia. Well, that would explain why it hurts to breathe. They said I started off with the flu and then it turned to pneumonia. I got a prescription (a real one this time) and we’ll see what happens. I did some reading online, pneumonia can either be viral or bacterial and they can’t always tell. If the antibiotics work then great. If not, it takes around 2-3 weeks to recover from, at which point I am due to go home. Based on the medical care here, the possibility of it getting worse, and the sanitary as well as food conditions, I am not exactly in the best place for a quick recovery. The plan as of now, is to see whether the antibiotics work and I will be better enough to start working again, and if not I may have to consider coming back early.

That’s the basic update as of now, we’ll see how Shabbat goes… hopefully I’ll have a complete recovery and be able to go back to work for the two weeks I have left…


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