I spent most of the day Friday doing health screenings on 60 children who attend the school for orphans. I was happily surprised that most of them are up to date on their immunizations, are growing well and are getting adequate nutrition — mostly because the school makes it a priority to feed them healthy, nutritionally-dense foods.
I walked back to the homestead in the late afternoon on Friday. I meant to lay down for a few minutes….but woke up 5 hours later because Papa was calling my name.
It was after 9 p.m., and the family was sitting down to eat. (They eat late at night because the women don’t start cooking until 7 p.m., when the sun has gone down and the heat in the kitchen is tolerable.)
Dinner consisted of boiled red beans, sautéed cabbage and large, round pieces of fried bread called chapati (like a thick, slightly chewy savory pancake.)
I ate a few bites of food and drank some black tea, but I was exhausted and nauseated, so a few minutes later, I went back to bed.
I had a fever and chills through the night. When I woke up the following morning, I felt worse. My head hurt, my joints ached, I was coughing and even thinking about food made me want to throw up.
I took some Ibuprofen and Tylenol, got ready, and walked into the main room to have morning tea with the family. Mama, Papa and two of their adult children took one look at me and told me I was going to the hospital.
I protested. I told them I just needed time and rest and tea. I told them I’d had malaria before in Togo, and I wasn’t nearly as sick now as I was then.
They wouldn’t give up, so in the end, I complied. My host couple’s adult daughter, Oyana, told me she would take me to “the hospital for white people.”
I asked if I could go to the government clinic on the island, where the locals go for treatment. She shook her head. “There is a special hospital for whites,” she said.
I didn’t like feeling more elite or privileged or entitled to a higher level of care than what the Kenyans had access to, but in the end, I was too tired to argue, and I decided to trust that my hosts, who have lived here for decades, know better than I do.
We hired a moto taxi to drive us 5 miles to the hospital. I climbed onto the moto. The driver was in front of me, and Oyana was behind me. The first mile was bumpy, with tons of potholes in the red dirt road that haven’t been repaired since heavy rains washed out large sections of the road last week. It was so bumpy, and I was so nauseated, I prayed that I wouldn’t vomit on the driver’s leather jacket.
After a mile, the road became smoother. I drifted off to sleep, with my head resting on the driver’s shoulder, and I didn’t wake up until the moto stopped at a large metal gate.
In the center of Mbita Point, the peninsula attached to Rusinga Island, there’s a compound where international physicians and scientists come to study malaria, crop pests and agriculture. There are single-unit houses, apartments and a guest house for short-term visitors on the property. There is also an infirmary on site that provides medical care for internationals — which is why my hosts wanted to take me there.
The guard at the gate asked for my passport, and asked Oyana for her I.D. He wrote down our information in a log book, and then unlocked the gate and let us in. We walked across the compound to an infirmary. I checked in at registration, and then the young woman led me down the hall to an office where a Togolese man in his early 30’s was sitting at a computer. She handed him my paperwork, and he asked me some questions.
What were my symptoms? How long had I been in Kenya? Had I done any swimming in Lake Victoria? Had I drank any water from the pumps in town? What medicine was I taking?
After he had taken a thorough history, he ordered blood work. Fifteen minutes later, he called me into his office and diagnosed me with Typhoid and malaria.
He prescribed antibiotics and a malaria medicine, as well as medicine for nausea and vomiting.
I checked out at registration and paid for my visit (it was the equivalent of $20 USD for a consultation, labs and medication) and then Oyana and I took a moto taxi back to the homestead.
I slept most of the afternoon. Mama woke me up for dinner. I had a few bites of bread and boiled spinach, as well as a cup of tea. And then I went back to bed.
There are three cottages on the property where three of Mama and Papa’s children live with their spouses. Two of them got sick yesterday with symptoms similar to mine, and then Oyana woke up sick this morning.
I have been giving them medicine and checking on them, as well as trying to take care of myself in the meantime.
It’s not the most fun I’ve ever had in a weekend, but I’m grateful for gracious hosts, effective medicine and access to health care.
I’m also grateful for a new understanding of what it means to love God with my whole heart, mind, body and soul….to “pour myself out as a drink offering,” in the words of Paul, for a parched, thirsty and waiting world.
Even though it’s not always pleasant, and even though I really don’t feel well at the moment, I feel honored to have the opportunity to go all-in with the God who so loves the world.
And even though sometimes my voice is weak, I am filled with joy as I sing the familiar words,
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come
‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.