By Julia Wick
The night Lauren Rose â07 started to feel sick, she was nestled in a neat European style hotel, a place that felt very far from Cape Coast, the rambling Ghanaian town it was located within.Â Rose had been in Ghana for a month traveling with a group of 14 Americans on a trip sponsored by the Experiment in International Living.
She lived for two weeks with a Ghanaian family, participated in Twi language classes, studied Ghanaian dance and history and worked on 10 day community service project.
She spent her last Friday in Ghana relaxing with her group mates, watching movies in their hotel room.Â At 3 a.m., she woke up nauseated and dizzy.Â She was careful not to wake the girl from her group sharing her bed as she made her way to bathroom. The first time she got sick that night, she didnât worry much.Â She crawled back between her white sheets and regretted eating such a large dinner at a cheap local restaurant earlier that vening.
Rose didnât sleep the rest of the night.Â By daybreak, sheâd vomited a half dozen more times and had started to fear she might have something worse than food poisoning.
At around 7 a.m., Roseâs roommate woke up and decided her friend needed more help.
The girls knocked on the leaderâs door and were told that Alyssa Mezochow, another group member, had left for the hospital just 20 minutes ago with similar symptoms.Â
Rose remembers panicking while riding in a taxi cab to the hospital.
She couldnât stop vomiting, and with no food left in her system, she was heaving up water.Â A high fever set in, and her bones and muscles began to ache like nothing sheâd ever felt before.
Earlier in the trip, another group member, Jonathan Tien from New York, had had a negative experience while being treated for typhoid in a large public hospital, so Rose felt scared instead of relieved as she got nearer to medical attention.Â Because of Tienâs experience, the group leader chose to take Rose to a different hospital, affiliated with a local university.
âIt was really more of a clinic,â Rose said, describing the place as quite small and the clientele as mainly elderly locals.
âI know it sounds stupid,â she said, âbut I was so scared about the needles, I mean, you think Africa, you think AIDS.â
âLuckily my friend Alyssaâs mom is a nurse at Penn,â Rose said, so her friend was able to check and make sure the doctors were doing everything they should, âthings like making they tapped the needles before using them, and that they were wrapped in plastic.â
Or, as Rose described it, âeverything I was too delirious to know.â
Rose was told she had malaria, despite the fact that sheâd been taking Mefloquine, an anti-malaria pill, once a week since the week before she arrived in Ghana.
During the three hours she was treated in the hospital, Rose went from being terrified at the thought of having malaria to being relatively comforted by the knowledge that a brush with the disease is almost a fact of life in West Africa, itâs so prevalent.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, visitors to all of Ghana are at risk for the disease, and itâs transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito.
All of the African leaders of Roseâs program had experienced malaria at one point or another, and because of its pervasiveness, Rose noted that Ghanaian doctors tend to treat all malaria-like symptoms as if they are indeed indicative of malaria.
Although Roseâs high fever, muscle aches and fatigue could all be indicative of malaria, it wasnât until she returned home to the U.S. a few days later that she discoveredÂ it wasnât.
After blood tests, her doctor determined her symptoms were caused by either a parasite or salmonella.