Waste of time

Waste of time

‘I didn’t take malaria pills’
From NHS Choices

Traveller Alex Cheatle, 37, thought anti-malaria pills were a ‘waste of time’ until he became seriously ill during his round-the-world trip.

“I travelled round the world with a friend. We went to Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. I didn’t take the anti-malarial quinine because I had heard it didn’t work because the mosquitoes were resistant. I took mefloquine but stopped after a few weeks as I felt so weird on it.

I then went on like a traveller bore about how all anti-malarials were a waste of time. I used mosquito repellent but got bitten badly on two occasions, once when I was nightclubbing in Laos and a few days later in Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

After that I returned to London for a few days before heading off to Brazil. I was up in the mountains for three days when I got altitude sickness, which was weird because normally you get altitude sickness straight away. I had to go to bed and I felt terrible.

After I had recovered, we carried on travelling, and a few weeks later, when I’d reached Ecuador, I started getting pounding headaches and a fever that would come back every eight to 24 hours.

During one episode I couldn’t speak, got really hot, then cold, and was a complete state.

My girlfriend’s dad was a doctor and I told him my symptoms over the phone. He told me straight away that I had malaria.

I didn’t want to be treated in Ecuador, so I decided to use the next portion of my ticket to fly to America.

Normally customs officials are fantastically unfriendly but this time I became embroiled in a big conversation about the TV show Friends.

It was an air-conditioned airport yet sweat was pouring down my face and I was struggling to stand. I was rocking and holding myself up, trying to look normal.

I hadn’t checked my travel insurance and later discovered that I could have gone to a fantastic hospital called Mount Sinai in New York.

Instead I went straight to the nearest one in LA where they knew virtually nothing about malaria. It took them three days before they gave me anything except paracetamol.

It was awful. I lost 15.9kg (2.5st) because I couldn’t eat, and the headaches were like the worst migraines you can imagine.

I was constantly sweating, hallucinating and I thought I was going to die. They sent my girlfriend home every evening, and one night I was lying there looking at the emergency button above me and I thought, ‘I’m too weak to reach up and push it.’

Eventually they did give me drugs that worked, by which time I was emaciated.

But if you want to put weight back on, America is the place. It’s the only time in my life I’ve actually finished the portions.”

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