Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A profile of a pregnant woman with malaria

World Vision gives us this profile of a pregnant mother struggling with malaria. The disease is preventable, yet 10,000 pregnant women die of malaria every year in sub-Saharan Africa. Insecticide treated mosquito nets can keep people safe, but it is a struggle for aid groups to distribute the nets and make sure they are being used.

From World Vision, writers Andrea Peer and Jessie Lester introduce us to Esperance.

At 18 years old, Esperance contracted malaria for the first time. “It started on Tuesday,” she explains. “I had no appetite and a terrible headache. I was also coughing and felt nauseous, like I wanted to vomit. I couldn’t eat,” she says.

Esperance grew up in the mountains of Rwanda, where temperatures were not warm enough to host the anopheles mosquito that carries the malaria parasite. When she married and moved to a warmer region, Esperance was exposed to the disease for the first time. “Near my new home there is a river and bushes. A lot of mosquitoes come and bite us. That’s why I believe I am suffering from malaria,” she says.

Four days after her fever began, Esperance slipped into a coma, and her husband of seven months carried her on foot to Rwanda’s Kigeme Hospital, one hour away.

Because she had never contracted malaria, Esperance’s body had no immunity to the disease, making her risk extremely high. And if that wasn’t frightening enough, this young woman’s bout with the illness came at the worst possible time — four months into her first pregnancy.

Hyacinth Umhoza, a nurse at Kigeme Hospital, acknowledges that the risk of malaria is much greater for women who are pregnant. “Their immune system[s] [are] weakened because they are feeding two bodies, so vitamins and minerals go to two people. Any disease can attack both of them,” she explains.

At the hospital, Esperance received three rounds of intravenous therapy, which finally brought her out of the coma. “When you get someone who is unconscious and you bring them back, it is a miracle,” says Hyacinth. “Esperance has recovered. It seems that God is behind this,” she adds.

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