July 6, 2005
I promised that I would write about everything that happened to us this year, and so I will, but I must warn you that if you are squeamish, you may not want to read this journal entry, because when we talk about a virus in Malawi, it is not a computer bug.
The first member of our family that got the virus was Heather. Now, Heather is the person in our family who never gets sick. She had perfect attendance in school for five years in a row. She had only thrown up about four times in her whole life until the virus struck. I was away with the Waynesburg group when she got sick in the middle of the night. Now, Dan is a wonderful father and caregiver, but in the middle of the night he is useless. Much to my surprise, he did wake up (he usually sleeps through any nighttime trauma like this). He asked Heather if she wanted some Sprite. She said no, so he went back to bed. The next time she threw up, she did not make it all the way into the bathroom. She cleaned everything up herself, while her father snored.
However, two days later, right after I got home, the virus struck Dan. He came home from work at about 11:00 a.m. and went straight to bed. He was feverish and had horrible gastrointestinal distress of every kind. He was so sick that at 4:00 p.m. I told him that I was going to take him to the hospital because he was dehydrated. He felt so ill that he said, “Don’t let them do anything heroic, I just want to die.” Men are such good patients. I let him rest for a little bit longer, but there was no improvement.
At that point, I told him that if he did not drink some soda, I was going to take him to the emergency room. He said, “No, don’t do that, they will kill me there!” But he drank some Coke so I let him rest some more. About an hour later, I was sitting at the dining room table with our houseguests and guess who wandered out of the bedroom? The worst was over and he was on the road to recovery. Thank goodness!
Brooke was the next to succumb. She woke up with a fever and started throwing up. It continued for about eight hours. She was really sapped of energy and fluids, so I made her BRAT food (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast). She did not get any applesauce, though, because I haven’t seen any here in Malawi. She took several days to recover, but eventually regained her strength.
Dan and I were driving back from Liwonde National Park when I began to feel ill a week later. I had planned on buying a chief’s chair on the ride home. We stopped at the huts where they are carved and sold, and I began examining the ceremonial chairs. I was feeling worse and worse, but I really wanted a chair. The merchants were following me around as I looked. Suddenly I knew that I was not going to make it. I walked quickly back towards the car, stopped and threw up in a ditch. The artists were standing behind me, watching in horror, saying, “Pepani, pepani” (Sorry, sorry.) I was sorry, too. I knew that I would not be buying a chair.
I climbed into the car and told Dan, “Get me out of here!”
Fortunately I had several zip-lock bags in the car and made good use of them all the way home. Whenever we would come to a deserted stretch of road (which is unusual, because the roads are always crowded with people) Dan would say, “Let it go!” I would roll down the car window, and throw out a closed bag. We would watch as it hit the ground and exploded. It was awful. I just wanted to get home and climb in bed.
Two hours later I got my wish and slept for hours. I was sick several more times, but at least I had the luxury of throwing up in our toilet. Later that evening I started feeling a bit better, but I stayed in bed the whole next day to recover fully.
I suppose it could have been worse for all of us. We were fortunate. The one good thing is that now we have a few more interesting Malawi stories to tell.