Wednesday, April 24, 2013

More than an Itch

If you looked at my one-year-old baby picture you would probably feel torn between laughing and a feeling of complete pity for me. I really wish I had it so I could share with you all. You see, in my photo I am covered in mosquito bites. I look like a happy yet tortured little soul.

Growing up everyone would tell me that I must have sweet blood. I was always itching and squirming from numerous bites from the first warm day of the year 'til the last. I don't know why, but they've always loved me, and still do.

Yes, the itching can be torturous, but it was livable. I guess that I actually got used to it, because in no way did those pesky little bugs ever stop me from fully enjoying the great outdoors.

Because of the mosquito's love for me, it should come as no surprise that on my first trip to Africa one of those little buggers shared Dengue Fever with me. It must have been my last day or two in Malawi, or possibly the layover on the way back in Ethiopia, when the bite happened. It wasn't until I was safely home that my sleeping issues began feeling more serious than jet lag. Then there was, of course, the infamous rash that resulted in a week long quarantine. North American doctors don't see Dengue Fever everyday, so apparently unfamiliar rash+ returning from Africa= crazy scary disease and imminent death for all who come in contact with said disease.

I survived the Dengue fever, and was lucky enough to have one of the less serious strains. But, inevitably, three weeks after I moved to Zimbabwe a few years later, I sat on Tecla's couch with the worst headache I have ever had, unable to force down a bite of food.

By the next morning the verdict was clear. The mosquito got me again; I had malaria.

I have always handled sickness pretty well, but let me be clear. Malaria: Take the worst flu you've ever had and times it by about 8 million.

I'm not kidding. It is bad.

And not only was it bad, it was scary.

When you are bundled up under six blankets and still shivering it's bad. But when you are bundled up under six blankets and still shivering when it is well over 100 degrees, it's scary.

That week is mostly a blur, but what I do remember is misery and being so very cold. I also remember people coming to pray with me, and being so thankful but too delirious to really communicate with them, understand their prayers, or even determine if they were speaking English, Shona, or Ndebele.  I remember the most amazing meals being prepared by precious and loving people just for me, hoping they would entice my appetite back to life. I remember looking at the food and fighting back tears because I just couldn't make myself eat. I could barely force down water a few sips at a time.

When I hear the Malaria statistics I am not surprised because I remember how ruthless it was to me, an adult in great health. But children, especially those who are malnourished with weakened immune systems, they are the ones who are losing this battle.

Malaria kills 655,000 children per year.

The good news is that we have weapons to help children and their families in this battle. These weapons are low cost but high efficiency.

Something as simple as treated mosquito nets and malaria prevention training saves thousands of lives, and is available to save thousands more if we are willing to help.

Having had a taste of this disease, I can understand the misery of Malaria. What I have a harder time understanding is how so many mothers survive the loss of their children from a disease that is highly preventable.

April 25, 2013 is World Malaria Day, and I urge you to visit Compassion International's Malaria Intervention Initiative page and consider what role you can play in arming these children in the deadly battle against Malaria.

You will be amazed at how little it costs to save a life.

P.S...I cannot walk away from this post without making a plea for Subdini. She is 9 years old, lives in India, is a beaming ray of sunshine, and has been waiting for a sponsor for 392 days. If you could use a smile or are ready to have your life changed by a beautiful little girl on the other side of the world, please click here. You know you want to.


Linda Roy said...

Oh Becca, you are bringing back so many memories how the Lord would and still does put you on my heart when you are/were needing prayer. The Lord would put on my heart to pray for you RIGHT NOW whether I would be at work or in the middle of the night, waking me up suddenly. You have kept this mom in prayer and on her knees many times, praying for healing for you, praying for the hedge of protection over and around you. It's a wonder I haven't had knee replacements for the time spent on my knees in prayer as you have served our Savior as you have served others. I am so blessed to call you my daughter and that you serve the Lord in the ways you do.
I love you Becca and I am a mother blessed by God to have a you as my daughter. Mom

Cathrine said...

Quick question: did you learn the art of putting x's in every mosquito bite?

Rebecca said...

@Mom- I am so thankful to have a mom who is so supportive of me in so many ways. Love you :)

@Cat- Ummm...of course ;)