I’m a 19-year-old student from Dorset and last year I took a year out of education to travel to Ghana, Australia and New Zealand. After my first trip to Ghana in August 2017, I fell in love with the country and was so happy after an opportunity came up to return in June 2018, volunteering at an orphanage in Kumasi with children with disabilities.
I was never expecting my trip to be cut short in the way it did.
I knew I had to be careful, 100% of the population in Ghana are at risk of malaria. I was fine on my first trip, I was fully armed again with preventions, malarone malaria tablets, bed nets and spray. My bed net must have come untucked and an infected mosquito made its way inside my net, that’s all it took.
There was a flu bug going round at the volunteer house so I thought it was that when I fell ill, but my condition quickly worsened. It was horrible, I was sweating, unable to sleep, no appetite, sickness, extremely high temperature, the worst ongoing headache I had ever experienced, a loss of balance and my muscles ached. All the energy was zapped out of me.
I’m glad I picked up on the signs quickly, a lot of the other volunteers thought I was overreacting, like me they believed that the malaria medication malarone is 100% effective, it’s not.
I went straight to the clinic and got the result within the hour, I had malaria. Plasmodium falciparum, the most severe and deadly strain of malaria. I was terrified, the emotions were overwhelming, I felt sure that malaria meant certain death. I instantly called my family to let them know, they were so worried about me.
The hospital in Ghana was in desperate need to resourcing - the staff were so manic and busy. They treated me instantly with an intravenous drip for dehydration after my test result, I had five hours attached to a drip that day and then more the following morning and evening. It was traumatic and the nurses were so overworked.
I managed to get sent back to the UK, I needed more treatment in Bristol before I could finally return home. I felt so weak, I had to have wheelchair assistance because I could barely walk. I carried on taking coartem (malaria medication) for a few days and it took me about two weeks to feel normal again. I lost two stone during my treatment and recovery period, my immune system is very low but I’m gradually building back my strength.
I’d love to return to Ghana again, I was so sad I couldn’t finish the project, I met so many children there who had malaria but could not afford treatment. Malaria is easily treatable but not everyone has access or can afford the treatment. It shouldn’t be that way, your fundraising and donations can go a long to saving and protecting lives from this disease.