The most primal experience with death was when I came down with malaria- and not the just your average malaria. This was Plasmodium Falciparum, an evil creature that will easily kill you in 48 hours. This stuff literally makes your red blood cells explode at the same time. It ravages each and everyone one of your organs, and can cause catastrophic organ failure before you even make sense of what is happening.
I had been celebrating the end of Ramadan at a friend’s house when I began to feel tired. I figured it was just the heat, and I took a little nap on a mat while my friends cooked up the goat. By lunch time, I knew I was sick, so I excused myself and stumbled home, a little dazzled by the shimmering white sands of the road. Once home, I passed out for some unknown period of time. When I woke up, I was in pain. I felt like I’d been in a major car accident- over and over again. My body hurt down to the bones, through every fiber of muscle. I tried to think it out, but my mind was already clogged up in a malarial fog. I kept thinking it was my old lumpy stick bed that made me hurt like that. I couldn’t figure it out. I drifted in and out for a bit, not really grasping why I felt like I did.
Then the headache began.
And I got a message from my lizard brain. The loudest, clearest, most unmistakable thing I’d ever heard. I have never known anything so surely as what I knew at that moment. I knew it absolutely, with every fiber of my being. It was a fact. I couldn’t believe it more if God had spelled it out with fire in the sky.
It said to me “What you are sick with will kill you. This is fatal. You are going to die, and soon.”
Thankfully we have modern medicine, so instead of dying (which I am still absolutely sure is what would have happened) I stumbled outside, moaned “I have malara, it is serious.” and passed out on a rock. My neighbors got me on a motorcycle taxi, and I managed to confirm the malaria and start my medicine. After a week or two of shivering comically in the hundred degree heat and shoving huge quivering piles of goat meat into my manically iron-craving anemia wracked body, I was better, give or take a few new quirks that’ll keep my liver and spleen interesting for the rest of my life.
Anyway, weird feeling, knowing so surely that you are going to die.
Malaria is one of the biggest killers on this planet- killing one million people and making 250 million people sick every year. Even when it’s not killing children it is robbing healthy people, young and old, of their health and energy. People where I lived got a case or two of malaria every year (you do build up some immunity, which is why it could kill me so easy but not my neighbors.) Malaria has been on the rise since the 1960s and it’s predicted that it will double in the next decade. We have the tools to prevent it. We came close once. We could do it again, and do it right this time. Right now, it’s just a matter of will.