Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On Being Healthy...

I have been blessed with a germ-impervious body. I rarely get sick. It is a hearty Dutch model, and has served me well. When I was a kid, friends of my parents would say about my sister, “Oh, she is so pretty” and then they would look at me and remark, “And she is so healthy-looking!” Yes, that summed it all up!

When you are 6 years old, healthy-looking is good. And useful. I did not have measles, mumps, or even chicken pox, even though my siblings were hit with those illnesses. At 16 years old, looking healthy was certainly NOT the goal, but so it goes. What do ya’ do?

I am not bitter…really!

But now I find that, at my current age (you guessed it, 42!), healthy-looking is a good way to be. Except since we have arrived here in Africa 6 months ago, I have been sick 5 times! Last week, I had the opportunity to visit a couple of orphanages to screen some children. Two days later, I was sick. Like for four days! This sturdy Dutch body is apparently no match for sneaky African germs. Guess it was the flu….again. I was given a malaria-detecting test and tested negative. That is good.

Malaria is a constant concern here. Most of the nationals know right away when they have it, because it is not their first bout with it. Some have nausea, some headache, some achy joints. A fever is present, but it might be constant or intermittent. That’s one of the the problems with malaria: symptoms can vary so from person to person.

Malaria is a big killer. World-wide, it will kill millions of people again this year. Almost half the world’s population is threatened by this disease. Young children, older folks, and anyone with a weakened immune system are at greatest risk. Malaria comes up in the course of a conversation regularly, as it is a part of life here. Right now, we have two guards suffering through it. That brings the number to 14 of people (staff and children) that I am aware of who have battled malaria since we arrived in May. And it is just the beginning of mosquito season!

This Thanksgiving, be thankful that you live in a malaria-free part of the world.

And pray for those who don’t.