Five Days

Day 1

Ant has come home shivering and shaking. For the fourth time in three weeks. The local hospital has diagnosed malaria so he swallows the cure and goes to bed. I am doubtful of the verdict; no self respecting mosquito would live at this altitude in these temperatures … I battle most of the night to bring his temperature down from 104. His complexion goes from sunburn-red to chalk-white. His eyes look fever mad. He talks rubbish. I call a friend who calls a friend. We can have a jet on the farm airstrip at dawn, they say. All I need to do is to call before 5am to report on Ant’s condition. At 3 his fever breaks. He pours ice cold sweat. I have spent the night up as I did when the children were sick, coaxing water and thrusting thermometers under an arm.

Day 2

He didn’t need the jet. He no longer scares me. We have it under control. But he does need a plane. He flies to the capital on a commercial flight accompanied by a nurse. I’m not sure the nurse is much good. But he enjoys the outing: the nurse, not Ant. Hat packs us a picnic. Ben packs the car. I pack the bags. Do I pack for three nights or a week? You can never tell in these sort of circumstances.

Day 3

The children and I leave at dawn. We have a 12 hour trip. We stop halfway for brunch by a great river surging mocca – Hat’s egg sandwiches and chocolate chip flapjacks and very strong coffee for me. We throw our crusts to the vervet monkeys hanging out in a figtree and watch them scrap over the spoils. The car is confetti’d with popcorn; the music choice is squabbled over; Hat burns CDs in the backseat. They both keep me awake. We’re in the capital as night falls, trailing in on rush hour traffic. Headlamps piercing a sultry seaside twilight.

Day 4

Long hours spent in the hospital waiting for test results and xrays. It’s not malaria the experts say. They don’t know what it is. What it was. The worst is over. Ant is pale and tired. The febrile glaze gone from his eyes which are blackringed. A man is wheeled out of ultrasound and dies on a gurney in the corridor in front of us. People stand around and stare. A nurse prods him in the chest. To test his reaction I suppose? A gasp as he expires. I feel sick.

Day 5 (3 days later)

The doctor has pronounced Ant well enough to leave. So we do. In the meantime Hat has returned to school and Ben gone travelling. We drive home with a flask of tea and eat apples pinched from my hotel. The cops make a nuisance of themselves, stopping us and then bullying us for a bribe for an offense we did not know existed (must we really have our name and address on the side of our vehicle?). We buy aubergines in the bottom of the valley and peas at the top. The temperature inverts and collapses from 31 to 13. So we know we are home.

9 Responses to “Five Days”

  1. inthewronggear Says:

    And what was it?

  2. nuttycow Says:

    So pleased to hear Ant’s better. It must be very scary to get ill and be so far away from everything. Remember when my dad got cerebral malaria and they were living about 6 hours from the nearest town at the time. Hideous.

  3. Addy Says:

    So glad everything turned out well in the end. It is not as straightforward as being ill here.

  4. Ellie Says:

    A relief he is well now! I was worried as I began reading! (But then thought, probably you would not write it that way, if the outcome had been quite bad??).


  5. Was Living Down Under Says:

    So scary! I’m glad the children were home with you. I’m also glad he’s better.

  6. Elaine - I used to be indecisive Says:

    Phew, what a relief that everything turned out ok, but what a huge worry for you at the time.

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