Sunday, 6 July 2014

WHEN WE FEIGNED MALARIA



 
I had never feigned sickness before I got to standard three. It was early 1998. I was transferred to a new school and I did not like it one bit at first. I have always been scared of change. I felt I did not fit in. We were supposed to speak in English for crying out loud! That and the fact that I was taunted by a group of girls for my looks. I fell ill for weeks. Yeah, the doctor said it was malaria but as kids you could feign a disease and it would actually manifest itself. Or maybe doctors were in on it; to help us kids implement our avoid-school-for-as-long-as-you-can schemes. Who knows? Or maybe they needed to rip parents off. Otherwise if kids didn't feign sickness, dispensaries and clinics would be pretty much empty seeing as to how adults rarely fall sick. Think about it.

Don't get me wrong here by the way. Kids do fall sick for real. Their immunity is lower anyway. Back then, I'd nosebleed so often, I became a pro at stopping my episodes. Sometimes, I'd wake up in a pool of blood on my pillow. I've always been a heavy sleeper. Whenever we had chicken for dinner, the liver was mine by default, because, nosebleed girl. Anyway, back to my theory.

Think about it. A little later on in life, I learnt that the people who attended to us were clinical officers, not doctors. There was a little medical centre in Dagoretti that I was taken to on a monthly basis. Yeah, I fell sick every month. Most of it was tonsillitis and the flus that would cause my nosebleeds. Real diseases this time. There is no way you can fake these ones. The clinical officer I saw during these times of real and fake illness would smoke like there was a competition that required you to smoke as many cigarettes as possible for a chance to win a trip to France '98. He was drunk half the time too. Now you can see how my theory could prove true. The fact that stool and urine samples were required sometimes did not daunt me. I would sit on that bench with my dad and look like I was going to collapse the next minute. I would condition myself so perfectly, my lips would dry up into a cracked grey. I also knew, with my little experienced brain, that you would not get an injection for feigning malaria or whatever it is Clinical Officer Macharia would 'find' in my system. So I was safe.

Enter the capsules with their different colours and ingredients. The red and cream were always on Clinical Officer’s illegible list. Others were entirely cream. There was Septrin too. And some other tablets I hated. Now you can be sure that taking meds when you are not really sick will totally make you sick. Plus I am allergic to Septrin. My feigning sickness was complete! And everyone fell for it.

I know. Don't look at me like that. You probably did it too. I would take the tablets and immediately go into puking fits. I cannot take tablets comfortably to this day. I cannot even understand how those folks who throw the pill in the mouth first, bob their heads back then take a sip of water do it. I cannot place a pill on my tongue. I place it on the back of my tongue and all its taste buds, right below it. Then I take as much water as I can to make sure it swims in the tide without coming into contact with my tongue. If it does I will puke, or retch wildly at best.

Of course I grew up sooner rather than later and quit the stupidity by upper primary school. I stopped shoving my fingers into my throat to puke at the breakfast table when no one was watching. I learnt to love my primary school. I learnt to embrace my classmates for what and who they were. By high school, I was certain the clinical officer knew I was pretending back then after my biology lessons. There was this book called Principles of Biology. Heavy book. Blue book. Conc stuff. It described what malaria was in detail. Red blood cells were destroyed in that process. I was shocked. The symptoms described in the book were even grimmer. I surely never had such a disease in my life! Maybe I did once for real, the uncomplicated malaria but not the severe one. I can never be too sure.

Some of us still carry that ‘malaria’ with us in our adult years. A little headache, niko na malaria. A little stress in your studies or work, naskia ni kama malaria hivi. Straight to the local chemist with your diagnosis. You can be assured that that mama with an afro does not sing about that ‘malaria’. Kids pass on from that deadly disease. Adults too, especially foreigners who travel to the tropics even after all the necessary vaccinations.

And now you begin to appreciate those boring lessons in high school, they made us knowledgeable if you paid attention for long enough. If you were not too focussed on colouring your book black, red and blue from all the biros you used. We became better people. I am yet to find an application for a lot of topics though. Especially chemistry. Moles. Mathematics. Differentiation and Integration. I digress.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind. Good ol’ Paul wrote that in the book of 1st Corinthians 13:11. Throwback, ladies and gentlemen. 

My second guest post, graced by Shiku Ngigi. Her articles are interestingly written with particularly nice flow that will have you ignore a fire just to complete them. Read more on her site.



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