Published: Oct 2, 2012
By Justin Douglass
Malaria: From observer to victim
©2011 Justin Douglass/World Vision
Fatoumata Drame, an 8-year-old girl, shows signs of malaria in Mali.
Editor's note: Justin is a World Vision communications officer based in Mali. On a recent assignment he got malaria. Today he shares his experience.

It felt like I was moving towards the ceiling, like I was leaving my body. I couldn’t move. I was too weak; too helpless.

A tear rolled down my cheek. A fever was terrorizing my body.

I whispered for a wet towel. A nurse brought one and put it on my forehead. He checked my temperature and looked at my IV bag.

Three days earlier, I was in the office working on a report about malaria. I had recently visited a rural clinic and saw children suffering from the consequences of the deadly disease.

I witnessed a 4-year-old boy in the throes of fever and vomiting. I met his parents who worried the child would die. I was writing a report to alert donors of the need for mosquito nets and other malaria prevention measures.

Ironically, or maybe not, around 2 p.m., I started to feel dizzy and hot. Then came a bout of diarrhea with blood. I knew something was very wrong.

I phoned a colleague and asked him to take me to the hospital immediately.

As I got out of the car at the hospital, I put my arm around my colleague’s shoulder to give me extra support. Within a few hours, I had become extremely weak and could not walk by myself.

I was ushered into the doctor’s consultation room where we discussed my symptoms.

At the same time, the doctor took a blood sample, but the laboratory was closed for the weekend. I would have to wait until Monday for the results.

As my condition was serious, they did not wait for the results from the blood test and treated me for malaria immediately. Monday came and the doctor’s assumptions were confirmed.

He told me I had the most severe kind of malaria found in sub-Saharan Africa.

It attacks the brain and liver. The doctor told me that because I had been treated immediately, there would be no long-term damage. I was relieved.

I joked with the doctor by saying, “The next time you give me an intravenous injection, you must give me one that has new brain cells!”

Faith, hope, and love

In dark moments, when I didn’t know if I would make it, I started thinking about life. What remains?

Faith: In my loneliness I am not alone. God is with me. During this time of extreme weakness and sickness I remembered the miracles God has done in my life, and I reminded myself over and over again of the times when God carried me when I could not carry on.

Hope: I hope for a better tomorrow and an eternity with no sickness or malaria.

Love: The love of God is so much greater than my little mind can fathom. The love of God never ceases to amaze me. During this time I realized how important friendships are to me. In times like these, possessions mean nothing.

I wished that my wife was there to help me, but she was on the other side of the world, caring for her sick mother who was also hospitalized.

In my life I seem to have double disasters — times when all I can do is trust in God and know that he will give me the strength I need to overcome.

Sometimes God is gracious and removes me from a situation. Other times, he allows me to remain in the midst of my disaster and chooses instead to give me his supernatural strength to carry on.

As I thought about life, the medical staff worked around me. The doctor on duty continued to hang up two bottles of medicine next to my bed, one to reduce the fever and the one to fight the malaria.

Four days later, I was better. I was fortunate to be close to a doctor.

Having lived through the experience of malaria, my heart goes out all the more to those little children who are most vulnerable and who live in remote areas far away from a health center.

Who knows what might have happened to me if I had been in their shoes?

What I still can’t understand, however, is why so many people — children and adults alike — must continue to live with, suffer through, and endure illnesses that are preventable.

Make a one-time donation to help provide insecticide-treated bed nets for a family. These inexpensive nets will provide a family with years of protection against malaria-carrying mosquitoes while they sleep.


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