Malaria Pills in my Pocket

Yesterday I got my Malaria pills from Costco. We’ll start taking them next week before we leave for Mali on Friday. Mal-aria= Bad Air. They once thought the bad air in low swamp lands caused this sickness. In 1880 Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran, a French army surgeon stationed in Algeria, was the first to notice parasites in the blood of a patient suffering from Malaria. He received the Nobel Prize for this discovery in 1907.

In 1897, a British officer in India named Ronald Ross discovered that malaria parasites could be transmitted from infected patients to mosquitoes, and from mosquitoes to birds. He also won a Nobel Prize. Then in 1899 other inquisitive Italians took mosquitoes infected by feeding on a patient in Rome to London where they bit 2 volunteers, both of whom developed malaria. The mystery of a disease known for at least 4000 years was solved.

I recently read a Nauvoo-era journal written by Elias Smith, who mentioned spending the night of 23 April 1839 in tent of my 3rd great-grandpa, Theodore Turley. I had been looking for Theodore and found him there. But equally as interesting to me were the pages of descriptions of the illness and disease rampant in that area. Every day Elias reported on the sickness that lead to death among his family members.

He used words like these to describe their maladies: ague, fever, tremendous shakes, teeth aches, headaches, burning with violent fever, bilious fever, sinking very fast, most sick or taking care of sick, that loathsome disease, much sickness in the land, giving daily accounts of how everyone was feeling (mostly not well).

In this small 1836-1840 journal, Elias recorded in a tired scrawl, the hardships of each day. As I read these descriptions, I knew exactly what he was describing: Malaria. I’ve had Malaria. I was once bitten by a mosquito immune to the Chloroquine medication I was taking when I lived in Nigeria. I lived in the delirious state Elias described. Eventually I got better and eventually I returned home.

But now, with a few simple pills, and the added protection of a mosquito net, I can come and go in Malarial areas without a worry. We are so privileged, spoiled and pampered. I feel like every meal we eat is better than the best meal they EVER ate. I feel like every sickness we suffer is curable with today’s medical help. They had nothing. They only had each other to comfort and to bless. They had to come up with food and wood for the fire and take care of animals and attend to their business of survival and be sick all the time. They had such difficult lives. Someday I want to go meet these people and thank them for going first. And thank men like Elias Smith for writing in a journal so that we might know what sacrifices were made for us to have it all.
Elias Smith Journal Entry 23 April 1839
Elias Smith Journal Entry 23 April 1839

About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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