Into Africa


Posted Thu, Apr 7, 2011

By Tyler Grimes
“We can’t move him by Mutatu or his blood pressure will sky rocket and he’ll die.”
“Well, he can’t stay here, he’s not improving.”

KIPKAREN, Kenya — I opened my eyes just enough to see the soft light from the lantern cast tall shadows of the doctor and Nelly as they discussed my health. My movements were quiet enough that they still thought I was asleep. All I had done in the past two days was lie on my back and sleep, . I couldn’t anymore. I turned over when I heard the phone ring; Nelly answered then brought me the phone. It was my mom.

“Tyler, I’m so sorry I can’t be there,” says my mom says crying. “I love you so much.” I sit up to try and talk, but as soon as I do the glass of water I drank earlier in the afternoon pushes its way up and I run outside of the brick shanty, fall on all fours and let it go. My mom couldn’t be with me because I was in Kipkaren, Kenya deathly ill with malaria and Typhoid fever.

On Saturday night I was in Kisumu where the mosquitoes were more numerous and the malaria they carried more potent. I felt feverish in the evening and laid down to sleep at around six. I really wasn’t worried about malaria because I had been taking a preventive pill since I arrived in Nairobi a month and a half ago. The next day was Sunday and I would take a matutu, a 16 passenger vans that are the popular means of transportation in Kenya. The , , usually packed full, more than 16 people, and stacked high with rice, chickens, and an assortment of other goods. A matutu ride is enough to give anyone a fever and nausea, so when I arrived at the orphanage in Kipkarren it was no surprise I still felt awful. Through the afternoon I lay in bed fully clothed and covered, shivering, despite the 100 plus temperatures.

The headaches were bad, some of the worst I have ever experienced. The nausea was bad; I didn’t eat and still continued throwing up. The hallucinations, and crazy feeling was bad, but none of it compared to the pain in the joints. Malaria penetrates deeper into your bones the longer it goes untreated. After two days in the body untreated the effects of malaria become deadly. It was about a day in. Thankfully, Nelly, the caregiver at the orphanage I was staying at, was a nurse and she knew to take me to the local clinic right away.

The clinic was a brick building that looked like it had been abandoned years ago. The inside was well kept and clean, but there was no electricity or running water. The doctor ran some tests and determined I had both Typhoid fever and malaria. The malaria medication I was taking was preventative, but there is no vaccination for the disease. The Typhoid fever was probably from drinking well water without filtering it (I didn’t want to be the high maintenance American). The Typhoid had weakened my immune system allowing the malaria to enter through mosquito bites.

The doctor wouldn’t be able to make it to the city for an antibiotic until the next day. By then I would have the malaria in my body from between a day and a half to two days. The doctor took public transportation into Eldoret and retrieved the medication, it was because of him that I am writing this story now. Monday evening was when my mom called, preparing for the worst by saying goodbye.

Through that night the fever improved and the next day I was able to move to a more advanced hospital in Nakuru. I spent two days there on an IV and improved quickly.

On Thanksgiving 2008, I walked out of the hospital more thankful for life than I had ever been before.

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One Response to “Into Africa”

  1. Leah Says:

    Awesome story! Sounds like a terrible experience. I caught dengue in Haiti, that stuff is no fun especially when you’re across the world from mom.


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