Because of the immense amount of news we hear about “disease-ridden Africa,” one can enter borderline-hypochondriac mode at the onset of a few minor sniffles while visiting an African country, as I recently did in Malawi. But I stubbornly refuse medical assistance, incorrectly fearing the worst.
I spent nearly a week in bed. Throughout my first three pathetic days of in-and-out-sleep before seeing a doctor, I considered all the possible causes of my ailment.
Convinced that I must be ill because I’m in Malawi, naively, my thoughts went wild: “Body aches. Yellow fever? Chills. Malaria?” I panicked. Realizing how illogical my thoughts were, I decided to check in with a doctor before allowing my stress levels to soar.
I called my friend who rushed over to take me to a clinic.
During the drive over, I feared the doctor’s diagnosis and the process for discovering what the results might be.
Ridden with nerves about being around needles and hearing an outcome that might be better left unknown, I cautiously approached the quiet, rundown building and went inside.
I was sent to a separate single-room building marked “laboratory” where I received a malaria test. The doctor asked me to take a seat. He pricked my finger with care, while I shielded my eyes. Smearing my blood on a slide, I nearly passed out thinking of all the blood that had been exposed in that suffocating room.
I asked myself: “Am I being a bit dramatic?” Then I thought, “there is nothing wrong with being melodramatic about having yellow fever or malaria.”
I waited outside, allowing the cool breeze to dry the sweat dripping down my face.
Ten minutes passed.
“Heather,” the nurse called, butchering the pronunciation of my name. “Your test results are in.”
Thoughts raced anxiously through my head again, “yellow fever? Malaria? Tell me!”
“Your results came back negative; I think you just have the flu,” she said kindly.
“But that’s impossible; I never get the flu,” I replied.
She continued smiling as she calmly wrote out a prescription for me.
K1,600 ($11 CAD) and a couple hours later, my mind had settled on the flu and my body had begun adjusting to the medicine.
Fortunately I didn’t get yellow fever or malaria. There was no reason to worry about having the flu or visiting a Malawian doctor.
I hadn’t even considered the flu and sure enough I had as common an ailment as I could get on any continent but because I was in Africa, my mind subconsciously went to the worst of the worst.
It turns out the most painful part about the process was the mental anxiety I had put myself through.