Back in 2002 I was working as a volunteer teacher in Zambia and was taking a daily dose of soluble Doxycycline prescribed by my UK doctor. During the school's Easter break, I decided to go and explore Tanzania with a couple of teacher friends. Taking the bus from Musikili, Southern Zambia, to northern Kapiri Mposhi was a long, bumpy slog. As we neared Kapiri Mposhi, our bus driver overtook a police car on a bend and was subsequently arrested. As a result, we had to spend the rest of the night on the bus, our mosquito nets hidden away in the hold with the rest of our luggage and very little spray to hand. I got savaged by mosquitoes that night. The next day, we continued on, taking a two-day train journey from Kapiri Mposhi to Dar Es Salaam.
A few days after arriving in Dar Es Salaam, I attempted to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. I managed a day's climb before feeling incredibly weak and headachey. I already had a bout of bronchitis so assumed it was a combination of that and altitude sickness. My guide recommended I abandon the climb and go back down to the foot of the mountain. I did as he advised and took a bus to a nearby town. Within an hour, I had to ask the bus driver to stop as I was feeling incredibly nauseous and weak. Having got off the bus, I headed down a dirt track towards a village and started staggering. Sitting down on the ground with my large rucksack, I felt very delirious and hot and could tell I was getting feverish.
A man came up to me and gestured to my backpack and money-belt, telling me I couldn't stay there as I might be at risk from robbers. He said he would take me to the hospital and began to lead me towards a taxi. I explained that I couldn’t get in it as I had just got off a bus because I felt so sick, but he insisted that if I had a fever I needed to get medical help.
En route to the hospital, he introduced himself to me as Andrew and bought me a plate of food which I couldn't touch. That was very unusual as I normally have a voracious appetite! At the hospital I had my blood taken by the doctor and my blood pressure checked by a nurse. Each time she put the pump onto my arm, I started to feel weak and fainted.
A few hours later, having spent the afternoon in a hospital bed, the doctor came over to me. I still remember with horror the words that came out of his mouth.
“Mr Orlando. You have malaria. Plus four parasites.”
A whole wave of emotions came over me - I couldn't process this news as I felt sure that malaria meant certain death. And I'd always been especially careful, wearing longer clothes in the evenings and taking my doxycycline tablets every day. I didn’t want to die!
The doctor reassured me that that wouldn’t be the case as I'd got to hospital in time. He said had Andrew not brought me to the hospital I probably would have died but luckily they'd caught the disease in time before it became cerebral malaria. I was discharged the next day and given a week's dose of Arinate to take.
I had a very high fever for a couple of days and my heavy limbs made me feel like I had a triple dose of influenza. I was incredibly delirious and didn't sleep at all well – I was constantly hallucinating.
Andrew came in every day to see me. I could barely eat but gradually got some of my appetite back and recovered my strength. When my fellow teachers came to visit me they barely recognised me as I'd lost over a stone in weight and had a very sallow complexion.
I had symptoms very similar to those I'd experienced whilst in the throes of malaria a year later, and then again the following year too - back in the UK. But I was one of the lucky ones, and am so grateful to everyone who helped to keep me alive!