British volunteer opens up about her experience with malaria
The Fight "It’s hard to put into words the severity of my condition when I suffered from malaria in 2012...
...I spent almost three weeks unconscious in hospital, had four blood transfusions and because it had reached my brain, my chances of survival got slimmer as my liver and kidneys began to shut down."
I had returned to England after an incredible six months volunteering in schools in rural Uganda. It was a life changing time and I learnt and saw so much including the devastating impact of malaria which is commonplace there. I was vigilant about taking my own antimalarials the whole time and slept under a mosquito net as I knew the risks were high.
I had been safely home almost a month when I finished my course of antimalarials and it was then that I started to feeling sick. My GP thought it was just a bug but two days later my Mum was so worried she called an ambulance and t the hospital I tested positive for the most deadly strain of malaria – falciparum malaria.
On my second night in hospital, I had a fit in the middle of the night and slipped into unconsciousness. The doctors said the malaria had reached my brain and my chances of survival were getting slimmer. I was put into a medically induced coma and onto a ventilator as well as having a tracheotomy fitted and chest drain. It was around this time that my liver and kidneys started to stop working too. There was one really awful evening when my parents were called into the relatives’ room to be told that I was in a critical condition and might not make it through the night. Somehow, I did.
Two and half years on, I am well but still feeling the effects and will continue to. Malaria has left my lungs and memory permanently damaged. My eyesight has also been weakened, I am extra sensitive to some lights and have some hearing loss. But at least I have access to the help and support I need from specialists and on-going treatment.
It’s these kind of long lasting effects of severe malaria that so many children affected have to live with from a very young age. Whilst I learn to adapt to some of the longer-term effects of my malaria, many young children with severe malaria experience problems after they recover impacting on their school performance and ability to learn. Cognitive impairment on their language, attention and memory mean they don’t do as well in their education which affects their opportunities as they grow into adults. This 'hidden' toll of malaria is often unnoticed or overlooked.
We have the tools to prevent malaria and quickly diagnose and treat the disease effectively. We also have the proof that the fight against malaria is working with child deaths cut in half since 2000. Which is why I continue to fundraise for Malaria No More UK. Afterall, despite all that I have been through I still feel I’m lucky. A child dies every minute from malaria and many who survive have to live with the life-long consequences. I’m determined to help make malaria no more.