The Long and Winding Road


Do you know the easiest way to make the days go by in Ghana? Get a disease. I am not sure when my last real post was, and I am not sure what has happened since then that didn’t involve illness, and quite honestly, I don’t really know if my accounts will be accurate (simply because my fever managed to kill a lot of my short term memory), but here is a summary of the past five or so days.

Day 1: Friday

The first memory of Friday I have is Ben suggesting a restaurant on our way to Fise that we could eat at. It was before the places in town opened and we were all hungry, so we decided to go there. I won’t sugar coat this- the decision was ridiculously stupid. The ‘restaurant’ was a small tent with a few plastic tables under it. The cook was serving rice out of a plastic tub and nothing was on a fire or covered properly. Justine and I spent 80 pesewas each on our meals (appx. 60 cents). I know what you’re thinking… why the hell would you eat here?! Well, my rational was that Ben was a local and should know the good places to eat, and also a lot of very good and hygienic food comes from not-so-pretty places. Anyway, by the time we got to Fise (maybe 10 minutes later?) I was feeling terrible. I was light-headed and a bit nauseous and I couldn’t concentrate on what the women were saying.

By the time we got home I felt even worse. I knew I had a fever, so I took my temperature- it was 99.5F. I laid down thinking that maybe I was just hot from walking under the direct sunlight so I rested and drank water, but within an hour my temperature was 101.5F. I mentioned this to Justine who said she was also feverish, but that perhaps it was only heat exhaustion. By 7PM we decided to go to the hospital.

We went to the closest hospital, Amasaman Hospital, and what an experience it was. The only information they got from each of us was our names, the name of the person who brought us there (Hayford), and why we were there. There was no medical history or possible allergies. No questions about vaccines. No interest in when the symptoms started. After we got our book (the Ghanaian version of your medical chart), we paid what I assume was the admission fee, 5 Cedi. After this, the ‘triage nurse’ took our blood pressure, and armpit temperature, which showed no fever. We sat on wooden benches and waited for the doctor (nurse practitioner?) to see us. The woman seemed most unenthused that we were bothering her. She looked at our pitiful books and sent us for malaria tests. The one they did was the quick version. They prick your finger and put a drop of blood onto a kit strip thing, which will show a series of lines that represent whether you have malaria or not. Ours were both negative. Amazingly, the tech didn’t tell us this, but gave us a sheet of paper and told us to go back to the doctor. Oh, and we had to pay 2 Cedi before getting the test. When I saw the doctor she said the test was negative (it was written on the back of the sheet he gave us) but that it could still be malaria and just not in the blood yet. She prescribed a three day course of Lonart for each of us (6 Cedi).

Day 2: Saturday

I started the Lonart on Friday night even though the test was negative, but Justine did not because her fever had gone down and she didn’t want to take unnecessary medicines. It came back in the morning, however, and both of us were in bad shape. We were shivering, we had bad body pains, and our fevers were going up and down throughout the day. In the evening Justine was feeling a bit better, but my fever was getting higher and higher. Eventually, it got to 102F. Hayford took me back to Amasaman hospital where the nurses told me that the doctor was not in and then laughed at me for being ‘An American scared of malaria’. They said I needed to complete the treatment, and if I didn’t feel better by Monday, to come back. I was so angry I could have punched the lady or cried. My thinking was, if I was afraid of malaria I would be happily gulping down the medicine, and also that regardless they should take such a high fever seriously. So I went home.

Later in the night, my fever rose to 104.1F and I called the US Embassy. The medic on duty told me two hospitals to go to, both of which were quite far away, so Hayford decided to check on one a bit closer before going all the way into Accra. We went to Achimota Hospital. This one was quite large and no more helpful. I once again paid for my book, got my armpit temperature taken, and waited to see the doctor for what felt like an hour. By this time the fever had broken, so I was feeling a bit less delirious. I told the doctor my symptoms and he began writing some things. When he was finished I asked what he was testing and prescribing. He (showed me how irritated he was) told me that he was testing for malaria, typhoid, and ‘some other things’ and that he was prescribing malaria meds, an antibiotic, and what I later found out was saline. He told me to go to the pharmacy and buy the drugs (21 Cedi), then go to the emergency room to have the IV put in, and then they would do the tests. No need to say that this did not fly with me. When Hayford and I went to the ER he told me that it made no sense to do a treatment before knowing the test results, and I was incredibly happy that he agreed (a Ghanaian on your side is always a great thing to have). I told the nurse that I wanted to get the lab work done first, and she gave me back the lab prescription. I went for the blood work (15 Cedi, but only took twenty minutes-ish) and it came back negative for everything. The doctor insisted that I still take the medicines though, although he wouldn’t tell me why. When the nurse came, I asked her to please explain why I needed all of these medicines and she said she didn’t know what the doctor was thinking. She was kind enough to tell me though that the antibiotic would be for if I had a UTI or something like it (would a UTI cause a fever of 104?), the injection usually is prescribed if the Lonart doesn’t seem to be providing relief to patients- I think it works in conjunction with it, and I didn’t need the saline if I could take water on my own. I told her I would take the injection. The other two didn’t make sense to me. The shot hurt like hell and burned all the way down my leg, I limped back to the car with Hayford after he returned my unused medicines (I think I got back half of my money).

Day 3: Sunday

On Sunday morning I woke up feeling fine. So fine, in fact, that I agreed to take the new volunteer, Dawn, up to Amasaman to show her around a bit. Before we left I went back to the apartment to get a few things, and found Justine’s boyfriend frantically searching the internet for the French Embassy’s phone number. She was sitting in a chair looking completely dazed. Willan found the number and got the name of a hospital she could go to where her insurance would reimburse her. They got Hayford to rush them away to the hospital, Justine in tears being carried by her boyfriend.

When we returned from Amasaman I was a bit feverish and feeling rather worn down. Justine still wasn’t back so I continued to entertain Dawn, who was trying not to nap since she knew the jet lag would be worse. Finally they returned, Justine plus one malaria injection and minus one diagnosis.

Day 4: Monday

I woke up feeling okay again and thought I could go to work, I was getting restless. I went with Hayford and Dawn to the office, and felt okay until noon. By then, however, I was light-headed from hunger and getting a bit sweaty. I decided to wait until the fried rice was finished to eat, but had to wait until 2pm because they were running late. By then I was ready to go home. Unfortunately, I fell for Hayford’s lies of going home ‘soon’. I kept waiting, thinking that it would be nice to have a ride directly home, and not to have to walk to the trotro and then from the trotro up the hill to home. I left without him at 5pm, feverish, light-headed, and super annoyed. The fever didn’t go away until I sat outside that night in the desperate hope that the breeze would make me feel better. It did- within an hour I was feeling much better.

Day 5: Tuesday

On Tuesday I agreed to go on the Accra tour with Hayford and Dawn solely because the majority of it was driving. We went to the Jamestown lighthouse, which overlooked the slums of Jamestown and the ocean, and circled around the major sections of Accra. It was nice to properly see the city. We had lunch at Papaye, Ghana’s version of fast food, and while we waited for the hour it took to receive the food my fever came back. Luckily, we were sitting in air conditioning, so I shivered the fever away. When we got home from the tour I laid down and decided that I wasn’t moving again for the next day.

Day 6: Wednesday

The day of rest. I read and slept, and ate fruits in an attempt to give my body some of the vitamins it was sorely lacking. I had a headache that I thought for sure would make my head explode, so I got my mom to call the Medical section of the US embassy to find out where I could go to have someone take me seriously. A woman named Carol called me back, and was the most helpful person I could have asked for. It almost made me cry.

Day 7: Thursday

I had no fever on Wednesday evening, but on Thursday still went to the doctor that Carol suggested. He actually acted like a doctor and took a full medical history and did an exam. Dr. Oddaye takes care of the US Embassy staff when the embassy doctor is unavailable. He was schooled in Britain, so he was much more familiar with the expectations of westerners. It’s amazing how comforting it is to have a doctor look in your ear and feel your abdomen. At the end of it he still didn’t know what was wrong, but gave me his cell number and asked me to call if anything changed. He believed that it was a virus that just needed to run its course. So I made my way back home all by myself (my first time from Accra to Pokuase!) and rested for a few hours.

In the evening the power was still out (it had been for the past 18 hours) so I weighed my options. I could either stay home in the darkness and sweat with bloodthirsty mosquitoes, or I could go with Justine and Dawn to Accra to watch live highlife music at a bar. I chose the latter. It was a lot of fun. We first stopped at Ryan’s Irish Pub where all of the white people in Ghana flock to on a Thursday night. It was so crowded with ‘those people’ that it took half an hour to get two sodas and a bottle of water. Beer would have been impossible. Anyway, there we met Willan and his two friends. They were a man from Cuba and his French wife. They live in France but he had been subcontracted to Ghana to work with the telecommunications company. His wife was just visiting. They went home shortly after, and we moved on to the bar with music, Bywell.

At Bywell we saw a lot of white men dancing with Ghanaian women. We found out later that these were prostitutes (some of them looked classy(ish)). The music was great but really loud, so by the time we left my ears were a bit muffled. It was fun watching drunk people dance and even more fun to make fun of them. The highlight of the evening had to be the performance by a sexually-questionable woman(man?). She belted out strange tunes and even stranger dance moves (complete with crotch-showing split) and in the end dry humped a German man. Yeah…much better than staying home.

One Response to “The Long and Winding Road”

  1. Chelsey Says:

    geez! shows you to be grateful for the crappy service you receive here sometimes!… I have been sick for the past three-four weeks, with what I believe to be bronchitis. I was given antibiotics both times I went to the doctor (even though online it says antibiotics dont treat bronchitis) The first time they told me it was B, but my next trip they didnt tell me anything. And when I got home my husband was like “what did they say?” and I said “here is your prescription” lol

    curious, do you guys always eat out or do you cook too? Perhaps you could be getting more constant nutrients if you were to make food yourself (once power is back) or perhaps a multivitamin someone could mail over?

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