In less than a week, I’ve already experienced a hospital visit in Ghana!
It started innocent enough. My body got diarrhea – which is typical.
The next morning I woke up at dawn to go for a run, but my stomach hurt so I went back to sleep for a few hours. I felt exhausted, which is unusual. I got up again and went to lunch with my colleague to a local assembly member’s house. As we watched his wife pound plantain and cassava to make fufu (which is apparently super yummy) I started to feel waves of nausea. I went outside and knelt on the ground, pretty sure I could puke at any moment.
My colleague felt my head and asked about my symptoms. I felt hot, but I’ve felt too hot since arriving in Ghana so that didn’t mean much. She decided to take me to hospital to see if I had a fever, in which case I might have malaria. Our lunch host asked his neighbor to drive us so we didn’t even have to walk to the roadside and hail a taxi.
At the hospital, I paid 5 cedi for an identity card. Then 2 cedi so they would fill out forms for us. A nurse weighed me, listened to my pulse, and took my blood pressure. My colleague asked them to take my temperature as well. It was 37°C, which we were relieved to see.
After that, my memory is pretty fuzzy. My colleague and lunch host did most of the talking with staff while I lay on a bench and slept. I chatted with a doctor and told him my symptoms. I had a malaria test done, in which a nurse pricked my finger and took two samples of my blood. After a 30 minute wait, the malaria test results came in negative and I was prescribed some painkillers and UN rehydration salts.
We went back to our host’s house so my colleague and he could eat lunch. I watched so that I would know the proper way to eat fufu and red soup next time it was offered. It smelled delicious, but the fish in the soup didn’t my nausea so I lay down on the couch and slept more. Our host said that he was grateful I started feeling ill before eating and not after, so he didn’t have to worry that it was his wife’s cooking. We all had a good laugh.
My colleague drove back to my temporary home, I took a Cipro (antibacterial), and slept until 6am the next morning.
I think I most likely got sick from eating raw carrots. I washed them, but next time I’ll definitely cook them. The two leftover carrots looked so rotten the next day that I don’t know if I’ll buy carrots again anyways.
At the hospital, I have no idea if I was helped faster because of my skin colour or not. It didn’t seem like it was super busy – there were about 20 other people there. Most were adults, but I think there were about 5 children. To be honest, I’m not really sure. One child was sleeping and crying and I thought to myself that I really hoped I wasn’t jumping the line in front of him.
In comparison to most other EWBers that I’ve talked to, my first experience of sickness was soooooo easy. I had my colleague taking care of me, two local friends to chat with hospital staff, and we even got driven around. Most people are alone and have to find their own transportation to the hospital where they’re then responsible for themselves. My experience, though, was similar to getting the flu back home: it’s no fun because you feel horrible, but it’s not actually that big of deal. During Pre-Departure training, a doctor told us that less than 1% of traveling deaths are from diseases.
He then told us that 40% are from motor vehicle accidents.
Don’t worry – I’ve got a helmet. One hospital visit is enough for me.