Butt Shots, Blood Collectors, and Other Stories

If you have it, work it!
We need never be ashamed of our . . . rears (forgive me, Mr. Dickens). Especially if you’re on the verge
of convulsing your way into the eternal black hole. When the man in the white
gown tells you to lie prone and sticks that nasty pointy thing in your behind,
you’d rather stay still, give up the drama, if you want it to be done and over
I’ve always been scared of needles, the kind they insert in
your veins or stab your deltoids or glutes with. Aside from pregnant cats,
needles give me the chills. But there’s no escaping them when malaria creeps
through your bloodstream and render you incapable of any form of protest. So I
gave in.

For four straight excruciating days, I became a zombie,
driven to the clinic every day at 8:30 AM and 8:30 PM, amidst thunderstorms and
flooded roads and cows too dumb to know they’re not supposed to be playing
Bambi in the middle of the road during a storm.
Being stabbed left and right, right and left, every single
day until your bums lose all their sense of feeling is not something I should
be writing about in this blog. But for aid workers, it’s actually one way of establishing
field credibility. We hold our positive malaria tests like a badge of honor.
The more frequent you get malaria or typhoid or any of those unpronounceable
tropical diseases, the more bragging rights you accumulate.
But well, one can never really brag while your poor body is chewed
by all kinds of parasites that the doctors had to pop de-worming pills in your
mouth before you can even utter “pinworms.” So yes, Doctor No.1 thought the
jelly-like appearance of my stool (read: pus) might be a sign of worm
infestation. Dilman said it might be malnutrition, as vegetables and fresh meat
are rare commodities here in the bush and I’ve been stuffing myself with tinned
peas and tuna since time immemorial. But I had different theories floating in
my antibiotic-coated brain.  
Now the problem with watching too much NatGeo and “Grey’s
Anatomy” is that every time you fall ill, you feel like you have the deadliest
disease one can get. When you’re diagnosed with malaria and you feel like your
head is splitting like a coconut, you’re certain you’ve got cerebral type and
expect to wake up in Purgatory the next day. Or when you get watery diarrhea at
least six times a day, you think you have cholera and a slight wrinkling of
your hands will send you writing your last will and testament. Not to mention
the colic pain that sends one screaming for a morphine shot like a heroin addict
on withdrawal.  
Do not disturb, unless it’s a photo shoot.
Anyway, I must have really looked like a corpse because my
colleagues would look at me with a mixture of fear and pity in their eyes, as
if I were going to leave this world for good. They—from the guard to the
driver to cook to the project officer—kept asking me to consider seeking
medical treatment outside the country.
To make the story short, I flew to Kampala, as soon as I
finished my last butt shot, around the same time LRA rebel leader Caesar
Acellam, the great warlord Kony’s long-time bush mate, surrendered or captured—depends
on whose story you’re listening to. Rumor has it that he purposely allowed himself
to be seized by Ugandan soldiers (of course, after putting up a show of
make-believe fighting) so he could hitch a ride back to Kampala and seek
medical treatment of an illness that’s eating away his machoness. So well, what
right do I have to refuse treatment, when Mr. Acellam himself, a force to be
reckoned with in his prime days, has laid down his arms for the sake of his
health? Health is wealth, eh?
So I submitted myself to another series of needle poking and stool
sampling, as the doctors tell me the same story—malaria, parasites,
allergies, gastroenteritis, blah, blah, blah. And then there’s the issue of
blood samples. In a span of five days, they might have sucked out close to a
liter of blood with all the blood tests, and retests, and more tests. Which is
kind of scary especially when you’ve just watched breaking news on TV about a
boda-boda driver in Jinja town in Uganda, who siphoned blood out of victims of
a road mishap on the accident site, carefully funneling the crimson fluid into
a plastic container. It didn’t help at all when I overheard the blood will be
used for juju.
Meet your friendly neighbourhood witch doctor.
Ugandan actor Mike Wawuyo in the film, The Felistas Fable.
At least mine were safe in the lab. I know so because the
doctor actually showed me the test results. Yes, I’ve seen it with my own eyes
so don’t give me that smirk!
“You have elevated basophils, maybe the malaria parasite is
dormant in your tissues that’s why you have this irregular bouts of fever. Maybe
you are allergic to something,” so went Doctor No. 2.
Maybe I’m allergic to
the medicines you’re giving me?

“Ah, maybe I will just give you anti-histamines then. Maybe
it will help.”
Lord, I hope my liver
can forgive me for subjecting it to too much toxins disguising themselves as medicines lately.

Or maybe I’ll just forget about it, go back to work, and
pretend I’m in the pink of health. What you don’t know won’t kill you—on
second thought, maybe it will.
Ce’st la vie!

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9 Comment

  1. admin says: Reply

    I've messed up Disqus, and decided to uninstall it, but the comments disappeared. So I'm manually repasting the old comments here. Sorry for the mess.

  2. admin says: Reply

    From Ritu Lalit

    "It didn’t help at all when I overheard the blood will be used for juju". I am going to check with the path lab if they are doing this as a side business … macabre thought!

  3. admin says: Reply

    From Beth

    Holy crapanoly! I've lived a sheltered life.

  4. i think the dr mike didn't like your butt!! :0) so thankful he was an actor and YOU are an amazing writer. 

  5. Joyce says: Reply

    This sounds like a nightmarish story.

    I hate needles too, which is not good since I'm having surgery in less than two weeks.


  6. Hahaha! I hope my morbid thoughts didn't rub off on you. 🙂

  7. Brenda, I am yet to see a real witch doctor—who, I hope, will not "like" my behind. 🙂 Thanks for dropping by. 🙂

  8. It is a nightmare. But I'm sure I'll laugh at this one when I recover. I pray for your successful surgery and fast recovery.

  9. Jenn says: Reply

    Reiza!!  Oh goodness girl– you have to take care of yourself. I guess I didn't think this would be one of the dangers that would follow you on your travels–only because I was not thinking. I hope these doctors know what they are doing. I hope you recover!!  Sending prayers and blessings your way. You must get better–as I love to read of your travels 🙂   Take care–and keep us updated!!  Cheers, Jenn

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