On Saturday night, Hayssam and I arrived in Fort Portal, a majestic town situated along the majestic foothills of the Rwenzorri mountain range. Hayssam and I arrived in high spirits as our bus careened into town, offloading us onto a bustling street rife with guest houses. We walked with a bit of a swagger as we entered this new part of the country, ready to meet with NAADS, ready to meet with RECO Industries, ready to visit Hima Cement, and Ready to sell some shellers. Yes, we had swagger.
We haggled (rather, Hayssam haggled, and I took notes on how to haggle) the guest houses down to a reasonable price and sauntered off to a nearby restaurant where we happily chowed down on some egg roll (a hard boiled encased in a sphere of potato…so cool), cassava and yoghurt. All was well. We had swagger.
We returned to the guest house and shared stories of mutual friends. We laughed. We planned the next day. We were ready for Western Kasese. We had Sunday off because no offices are open on Sundays, so we planned to take the day off to hike the Rwenzorri Mountain. It was there, gleaming, ready for the taking. Day 1: conquer the mountain. Days 2 and 3: conquer the Gnut/Coffee biomass fuel business. Day 4: Leave with the wind at our backs. We had swagger.
Unfortunately, rotten yoghurt…or egg roll…or whatever it was, doesn’t really care whether you have swagger or not.
News Flash to Joel: food poisoning makes you sick. Very, very sick.
I woke up Sunday morning with the normal lurch of my stomach beckoning me to the porcelain hole in the ground. Normally, I visit the toilet at 7am and my stomach feels fine for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, Sunday was not going to be a normal day.
If you don’t like reading about bodily failures during acute sickness, please skip this paragraph. 7am – 10am was spent traveling between the bathroom and my guest room. First came vomitting. Then came diarhea. Then the process repeated. I finally caved and took my cipro at 10am. By this time, I was pretty much completely devoid of fluids. Dry heaves would have been welcomed at this point. Instead, my body wanted everything out, including bile and stuff I didn’t even know existed. Green and bitter. Bleh. Then, dry heaves. Then, nothing. A brief respite.
I thought the cipro would help, so Hayssam and I set out for the internet cafe. I thought I could diagnose myself with wikipedia and common knowledge. 15 minutes of surfing landed me with ascaris (a parasitic worm) or a microbial infection. Both could be solved with medications. The conclusion was that all I had to do was take cipro and albendazol and both would be taken out, just in case. I had swagger.
Of course, 15 minutes of surfing was rudely interupted by another 90 minutes of vomitting and diarheea. The illness wrung me like a sponge.
Fact: swagger does not help you when you barely have the energy to remove yourself from the fetal position in a small internet cafe in Fort Portal, Uganda.
Fortunately for me, I didn’t need swagger. The internet cafe service rep called his friend, a doctor, who rushed to the scene. I hadn’t even noticed he was called. He paced in, took me to a back room and listened to my chest. “Low blood pressure. You need fluids. You come with me to hospital.”
We didn’t know the guy, so Hayssam and I wanted to make sure that what he was saying was necessary. He explained that I needed to be taken to a clinic for an IV. To be honest, I was scared of going to a hospital/clinic in Uganda. How much would it cost? Was it safe? Do they know what they are doing? Such little faith. Fortunately, I was too crippled to be modest.
“IV. Yes. Electrolytes. Low blood pressure you say? Electrolytes will help. Yes. Yes they will. Hayssam — yes, the doctor is right, electrolytes will help. Yes, necessary. Take me. Boda boda? No, please no! Walk. Not far. Not far? Yes, I can make it. Let’s go.”
We did not have to walk far. We walked into the clinic. Suddenly the doctor had a name — Henry. Suddenly he was my friend. He measured my blood pressure — 80/60. Low. Science = good. Suddenly I had faith in the doctor, in Henry, in the clinic, in Western Uganda, in Uganda, in health care, in people.
Lie down on bed.
Slight pinch. Cool sensation as electrolytes enter arm.
Pills for vomitting
Pills for microbes
Pills for flagyllates
Pills for pain
Pills for appetite
Fluids enter body, breathing life inch by inch back into me.
Wait 1 hour.
Eat. Smile at Henry and nod in thanks.
Wake up to find Hayssam and Henry discussing business. Apparently Henry runs his own NGO in the area, doing AIDS education among other activities. I told Henry about Nourish and the way we operate. He is a good man. Slowly, swagger started to creep back into the conversation. A serendipitous ending indeed!