Friday, October 4, 2013

Typhoid Trials

As I sat by our housekeepers’ hospital bed last weekend, watching her writhing in pain as tears rolled from her swollen eyes, my head spun.  I’d like to present myself as the brave hero that was nothing but confident that everything would be fine, but that would be entirely untrue.  Thoughts of handling a Shona funeral, Ziwone’s baby, and what I’d tell her husband crept into my mind.  And hospital bills…

I had refused to do it.  I just could not drop her off at P.N., the federally run hospital downtown used by gardeners and housekeepers all over the city.  The hospital is notorious for its day-long waiting lines full of corpses and all body fluids. When I thought about our gardener’s  uncle, who died in that very waiting line just a few short months ago, I turned the car and took Ziwone to a private hospital. It was more expensive for sure, but she was in bed hooked up to an I.V. within ten minutes.  And thank goodness she was.  It was typhoid.

Our first contact with typhoid fever has led to an exhausting week of medical tests for everyone on our property, clinics and hospital visits, and water samples.  Our high-elevation city of Harare has an amazing track record when it comes to malaria. But it is known for its outbreaks of typhoid, a serious, life-threatening disease still present in the Third World. The city’s water supply is often compromised with the bacteria, causing epidemic rampages among lower socio-economic citizens who use the water supply as their only available source of water.

Boreholes (sort of like private wells) on properties throughout the city are sworn to be safe.  But occasionally septic seepage can infect a borehole or, in some cases, an entire neighborhood.  When a person tests positive for typhoid, the city sends an investigator to test the water, as it is serious business.  Though we did have an investigator come quickly, he took samples from our hot water geyser when we had no electricity to run our borehole pump.  Therefore the accuracy of his test is anything but reliable, so we await a private company’s results.

Typhoid can be spread a number of ways.  Though it is a salmonella bacteria most often transported in water, it can be found on fresh produce washed with infected water, communicable through bodily fluids, and occasionally carried by an insect that has recently landed on infected feces.  It is a good reminder, if nothing else, to keep our guard up despite our comfort in the Third World. 

While we await our water results, we had everyone on our property tested. Four people tested positive for typhoid and were treated immediately, including little Lilly. Kurt, Jonas, and I, all vaccinated last year, were left unscathed. We’re quite thankful after watching the agony of Ziwone, who is slowly on the mend. 

Now to go buy some more bottled water…