coartemEveryone in the Solomon Islands eventually gets Malaria or Dengue. Hardly a day goes by in the office that a colleague, or a colleague’s child doesn’t have malaria. In fact, the SSEC even sells a type of “magic water” (homeopathic remedy) that relieves symptoms – of just about anything! (yes, it even works as birth control).

So it’s now my turn. Despite the prophylaxis I have contracted the pf type (plasmodium falciparum). My dad, an infectious disease physician, seems to be quite alarmed and is calling me for temperature checks every 4 hours. I’ve heard enough horror stories about the potential for my brain to melt down for a little while!

It all started with the fatigue. I was tired all the time. I couldn’t put it down to the heat – I’d adjusted! – and due to the safety restrictions I was home at a reasonably early hour for a good night’s rest. I’d attributed the fatigue to poor diet – coconut milk and slippery cabbage can only sustain you for so long – but at the urgings of various people I dutifully went down for a check to number 9 with the full list:

  • Scratches and bruises from the mugging and a twisted toe
  • Sore throat and suspected lodged fish bone
  • Vague feeling of fatigue

Horrified doesn’t even begin to describe the state of the hospital system in Honiara. I dutifully sat in the queue waiting for the triage nurse who was watching a child fit on the filthy outdoor tiles while the child’s mother restrained his limbs. I’ve never seen a more blank expression in my life. She pressed on through the questionnaire despite the medical emergency happening before her eyes. The mother smiled at me apologetically. I was aghast. Her child is fitting, she’s not getting the help she urgently needs, why am I even a focus at all? Eventually they managed to get through the questionnaire and the child was taken elsewhere. The nurse disappeared.

Casually looking around I struck up a conversation with the friendly woman from Isabel next to me. As it turned out she’d been waiting in the queue for over 24 hours. 24 HOURS. Just to get in line to even see a doctor. I could not believe my ears. It wasn’t long before, shamefaced, I took myself off to a western clinic in town. The lack of resources was indescribably appalling. Particularly knowing that Australian supported troops/federal police were keeping state of the art medical facilities open, but empty 24/7 just minutes down the road while staff in the clinics twiddled their thumbs.

So here I am now. Medicine in hand. Limping around bruised but luckier than I can even fathom that I can afford decent and timely health care.

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