The Ravages of Malaria

“Time bilong rain“ is pidgen English for “the rainy season.”   The rain poured down, pounding on the metal roof with deafening ferocity. The electric power was out and the hospital generator had been turned off at 10 PM. As the waves of heavy rain waxed and waned a wailing was heard across the grass lawn from the outpatient/admitting building. The cries faded as the rain intensified only to return with a mournful eeriness during pauses in the deluge. The nightwatchman knocked at the door with a request from nursing to come to the outpatient department. Going out into the dark wet night I open the outpatient door to find the room lit by a single kerosene lantern throwing dim light into deep dark shadows.  On the cot lay an adolescent boy brought in because the chloroquine malaria treatment was not helping him. His gripping hand, frozen in rigor mortis,  was still reaching up to his parent for comfort. During my exam, the dozen wailing family members paused in their grief for one last glimmer of hope.  In Papua New Guinea Pidgin English, to “die“ is to sleep. To “die pinis” (die finish) is to be dead.  Announcing ‘‘em I die pinis “ the cries of grief rose to embrace the pounding rain.

Time spent over the years in Papua New Guinea, in Cameroon West Africa, and Uganda east Africa I have witnessed the ravages of this mosquito-borne parasite. It takes children who a week earlier played, ate, worked, sang, laughed, and cried with family and friends and strikes them down with fever, unconsciousness, and life-threatening illness, often ending with death from severe brain injury or the consequences of advanced anemia.

 By far the majority of malaria-infected people respond to oral outpatient treatment. Those that fail oral treatment will most likely recover with intravenous artesunate or quinine therapies and hospital-level supportive care. Given the pervasiveness of the malaria parasite despite available treatments, there is hardly a person that does not know of a family member or a family member of a friend who has not suffered and died from this feared disease.

Dr. Lou Coda with his daughter Dr. Clare Coda caring for a young patient in Uganda, East Africa.

Please join us in praying for those impacted, and for those working on vaccines for Malaria.

Dr. Lou Coda

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