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I Got Sick!


Guess what... I got malaria.

Yes I was taking prophylaxis. No I never missed a day. However prophylaxis is not 100% preventative and I guess I'm just really, really unlucky.

Although I could delve into how horrible I felt and how I missed work because I was sleeping 20 hours a day, I actually wanted to compare my in-patient experience with the US experience.

In the US doctors take a lot of time to detail history and labs are evaluated by collaborating lab technicians. The assumption-based treatment in Ghana is a result of the lack of resources available. It is better to treat immediately than wait for labs and scans that may take more than a day to get them all. This made me a little concerned about misdiagnoses (I have seen it several times at the hospital) and I was still convinced I had food poisoning instead, but my labs confirmed malaria parasites in my blood. They went ahead with artesunate injections and I was admitted into the ward. Artesunate is the treatment for children typically but my noob immune system had never seen malaria before and therefore I was treated as a pediatric patient. This was another difference, they never explained what my treatment was, side-effects, dosages, or anything. They never even asked about allergies, which would have been nice since the tape they used for my IV was latex and it made my injections quite a bit more painful. After 24 hours of hospitalization I was sent home with an arsenal of oral medication and very vague instructions scribbled on the boxes. Once again side-effects were omitted in any explanation. At least the treatment seems to be effective and I have still two days of oral medication to finish.

This is not to say the medical system in Ghana is bad or anything. It is low on resources and that is the basis for all of this. The lack of resources actually makes doctors all the more intelligent. Instead of always consulting labs and scans they understand the intricacies of illnesses more effectively. They are fluent in clinical presentations and are always following-up on literature to learn more. There is a great deal to learn from these doctors and I am so grateful to be not only their student but under their care.

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