by ronrichmond | on April 16, 2012
Headaches, Malaria, Death (almost)
No, it’s not me. I’m very much alive, thank you.
I’m talking about my good friend Antonio.
The very same Antonio who went on exploration adventures with me in the 90′s.
To Burma (my blog: “The Burma Adventure”)
To Russia (my blogs: “Russia-Diamonds,Vodka,and Archangelsk” and “Russia-Archangelsk Diamond Project”
To Angola (my blogs: “Angola Diamonds-how my exit saved my life”, “Angola Landmines – a tragic legacy” and “Angola – Diamonds and Machine Guns”).
So you can see we’ve had quite some adventure history together, exploring far-flung corners of the earth, taking risks, covering each others’ backs, and having fun.
My malaria friend disappears for quite a while
In the early 2000′s when I changed careers to the business world, my friend Antonio disappeared overseas working on petroleum projects in different countries in Africa and we lost touch.
When I joined Facebook in 2009, Antonio’s name was the first name I put into the “Find” column, but alas with absolutely no success. I was afraid he had disappeared forever into the wilds of Africa.
So it was with a very pleasant surpise that I found a comment from him on one of my websites just last week. He had just returned to Australia and googled my name to find me. And he did!
And quick as a fiddle we organized a dinner together with our spouses at the very first opportunity.
Malaria surfaces in the discussion
Last Saturday night Kora and I joined Elizabeth and Antonio for dinner at the Saiki Japanese Restaurant in Lane Cove. It was supposed to be a good Japanese restaurant with great food, but the quality of the food did not matter at all. This was old friends getting together for a yarn and to share our experiences during the missing decade.
Of course my dissertation about my quadruple heart operation (my blog: “Heart Bypass – and how they cut open my chest”) got the full attention of Antonio and Elizabeth, but I assured them I had fully recovered and was feeling fit and healthy and strong. Then casting my eyes over Antonio’s slightly pudgy frame I enquired about his health, and he then revealed to us his very close call with Malaria in 2004.
Headaches only, malaria not discussed
In 2004 a few days before leaving Africa for Sydney he experienced some strong headaches. As most of us would normally do, he simply took some headache pills.
Then while in Sydney, those strong headaches recurred, so Antonio went to see his local GP who did some blood tests but did not find anything significant, and prescribed more headache pills.
Antonio flew off to London en route to East Africa.
On the Saturday morning, several hours before he was due to check out and catch the flight out of London, he felt those strong headaches again, so he asked the hotel to call a doctor for him. The doctor duly attended, checked him out, and prescribed even stronger headache pills.
My friend also postponed his flight to East Africa to Monday evening. He felt generally OK on Saturday night, and the doctor visited him again on Sunday morning and said he should be fine to fly out on Monday.
It is worth noting that the doctors in Sydney and in London only looked at the headache symptoms, and did not suspect malaria or mention it in any way.
Severe headaches, ambulance, and finally to hospital
Come Monday morning and Antonio’s headaches became unbearably severe. He went downstairs and asked the desk to call the doctor again.
When the doctor arrived, he took one look at Antonio and said
“You’re not going anywhere, you’re going to the hospital with me.”
“OK”, said Antonio as they walked towards the main door.
At the door, Antonio passed out and collapsed in a coma on the floor, and the hotel immediately called an ambulance.
|mosquito biting arm||Malaria cycle|
Hospital finally diagnoses Cerebral Malaria
Antonio finally regains conscious at St Francis Hospital in Paddington (London) to find the orderlies taking his blood and urine sample and making a thorough check. A passing oriental-looking doctor stops by, looks at his eyes, and says: “you’ve got malaria, don’t you?”.
Antonio doesn’t know, he just knows it’s bad, bad, real bad.
While the samples are being analysed, the orderlies complete the physical check and admission questionnaire. They get his health insurance details, and point out that costs may exceed the insurance limits. Antonio readily hands over his credit card for any balance.
Antonio is feeling extremely weak and becoming comatose again when the oriental doctor returns and confirms that blood was discovered in his urine and that he has celebral malaria at a very advanced and critical stage.
At this point he also passes out into another coma.
The Top Cerebral Malaria specialist happens to be on duty
Very fortunately for my friend, one of the top world specialists on cerebral malaria was in the process of completing her shift when she was told about this emergency case.
She took a look at the test results, recognized the symptoms and the critical significance, and looked at him lying in a coma, and said,
“He’s already dead, isn’t he?”.
Fortunately, he wasn’t, but he was on the precipice.
Again, fortune was in his favour, and it was not yet time for him to go.
He has the rare B- blood type, but the hospital had just completed another operation with a patient with B- blood requirements, and had sufficient blood supplies left over.
The Cerebral Malaria specialist organized an immediate transfusion of 5 litres of the B- blood for Antonio, and within a few days, my friend was cured and feeling so much better.
He was very very lucky that the final crisis occurred in London, at a hotel close to St Francis Hospital, one of the few specialist hospitals for cerebral malaria, that the young oriental-looking doctor had recognized the symptoms right away, and that the world’s top specialist happened to be on duty, and that the right blood supplies were available. One missing link would have meant the end for Antonio.
Main symptoms of Cerebral Malaria
The disease is connected with whitening of the whitening of the eye retina, which is good symptom to define malaria from other fever diseases.
All the acute cases of malaria are almost always caused by infection with P. falciparum. The bacteria has incubation period of about 7 days, so all the cases are revealing in 6 to 14 days after the infection. If the acute cerebral malaria is not treated fast and accurate, the disease can bring the patient to a lot of complications and death. The fast development of the cerebral malaria bacterias in the body organs may kill the patient in just a few hours.
It is officially known that more than 230 millions of people are infected by the dangerous disease each year and more of 1 millions of people are dying.
In all areas, severe malaria is a medical emergency and should be treated urgently and aggressively.
My friend was lucky to survive Cerebral Malaria
Antonio was very, very, very lucky. Even the world expert on cerebral malaria thought he was dead.
And it was just headaches, which every doctor treated as just that, headaches.
It took a specialist in a specialist hospital to pick it up right away.
What about you?
Have you been to a malarial area recently?
If you have severe headaches, remember that your doctor might not be able to recognize the malaria symptoms at all. You will probably need a second or third opinion, as well as a hospital opinion.
At least my friend survived to tell the tale.
Which I am now able to share with everyone.
Through my blogs.
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