What’s worse than getting malaria ? Getting malaria PLUS typhoid fever, that’s what. Take it from one who knows.
Last Sunday, I was happy checking my emails and contemplating writing a new blog entry, when I began feeling funny. Then I felt funnier. I laid down on the couch to watch a dvd with Severin with the idea that I’d just wait it out. Chills, severe stomach pain, lightheadedness…..something I ate? Anyway, I was convinced that watching Tom Cruise frown his way through the end of the world was going to cure me. You will no doubt be shocked to learn that it didn’t. JP came home from work (yes, the man works Sunday mornings) and found me decidedly feverish and pain-ridden. I still didn’t want to go to the doctor, but he insisted.
I wasn’t happy. The emergency room on a Sunday morning? Much too dramatic for me. Such a bother for the doctor. And there was nothing wrong with me that a bit of rest wouldn’t cure. Right? Wrong. I was pretty quickly diagnosed with two major illnesses, was given an IV full of quinine and antibiotics and a private hospital room.
This was at Clinique Les Genets, the smartest private clinic in all of Burkina. No cracked vinyl mattresses there. I had air con, a private bath and satellite tv, not that I did much tv viewing. I slept almost constantly for three days. My room was the Milou Room (Tintin’s little dog, for those of you that don’t read Belgian comic books.) It’s mainly a pediatric/maternity hospital, so all the rooms are called after cartoon characters. The Milou room is right between Snow White and The Little Mermaid. Actually, it’s the same room I had last January when I spent a week hospitalized with malaria. They should probably just go ahead and put my name on the door. I’ll probably be back, with my luck.
So, there I was. Not delirious, but definitely out of it. The door to my room opened and a swarthy, round, very short middle-aged man popped his head through the door. Definitely not my Burkinabé doctor or nurse. He excused himself and explained that he was visiting a friend next door and had mixed up the rooms. Fine. Go away.
A few hours later, the nurse escorted this same fellow back into my room. He introduced himself, inquired after my health and offered to do anything he could for my comfort. “I am at your service”. At first, I thought I was hallucinating. But he was real enough.
“No. I’m fine. I just need to rest.” Hint, hint.
“Yes, yes. I will be leaving you now then. But if there is anything, you have only to ask.”
OK. Weird, but nice enough. Whatever. Glad that’s over.
Well, guess who showed up in my room the next day? First the nurse came in, followed by my short pal plus a new guy in a very elegant suit. He introduced himself as the Libyan ambassador. He was delighted to meet me. He was ready to do anything to promote my health and happiness. “Is there some food you would like? Some reading materials? Anything at all? You have only to say” This was beyond strange. Until recently, US citizens weren’t even allowed into the frighteningly elegant Hotel Libya, an imposing edifice paid for by Colonel al-Qaddafi himself. (For your entertainment, here’s a quote from one of the Great Man’s speeches: " Now, America is stepping all over the world with its shoes. It is not afraid or ashamed and has no conscience. It scares everyone, and they fire missiles while they are drunk, and it sets the price of bread in the world. It orders the World Bank and the IMF to set the price of bread in Jordan. It tells them to raise it by 300 percent, and that happens.[passage omitted: more on US dominance over world economy]” I like the bit about the shoes. Question: Would it be better or worse if we stepped on the world barefoot?)
I vaguely wondered if the Ambassador had mistaken me for one of his compatriots in distress. “Do I look Libyan when I’m sick?” I thought to myself. Or maybe I look Swedish. Everybody likes Swedes.
“No, I’m fine. Thank you so much. My husband will be here soon with everything I need.”
They finally left and I had the presence of mind to tell the nurse to PLEASE quit bringing random people into my room.
As I got better, I thought more about my visitors. I became convinced that my Libyan friends had thought that I was a friendless, elderly lady that had been left alone to fend for herself in a foreign hospital. Have I mentioned that getting malaria and typhoid makes you look really hideous? ( Just yesterday I had a visitor here at home who said to me, and I quote: “Oh my! You look terrible!” )
When I told JP my strange story, though, he was convinced that the gentlemen had been smitten by my charms. Only a man who truly loves me could think such a thing. He also pointed out that it was a shame that I hadn’t mentioned to the Ambassador that we could really use a new car. Sadly, I was drugged out of my mind and not thinking very fast. I also have to admit that, charming as my dear spouse may find me, I think the most I could have gotten out of the deal was probably a slightly-used copy of Paris Match.