It could be any one of us

Tanaka Chidora Literature Today
Sometime this year, I travelled to a foreign country to attend a graduation ceremony. The journey gobbled around 36 hours of my life, to and fro. A week after I returned to Zimbabwe, I woke up at 5am as usual to go to the gym (happens whenever folks in the village start to congratulate your wife for looking after you well well).

On that day, however, the bravado with which I usually attacked the weights was not there. Something strange was going on in my body. There was no need for prophecy or some diagnosis for me to know that something was wrong. I, however, concluded that the effects of the journey that I had undertaken the previous week were beginning to show and what I only needed was enough rest. So I went back home and drove to work.

On my way to work I bought my favourite breakfast: a coke and a hotdog. I decided to savour the taste in the comfort of my car in the car park of my workplace. This too did not awaken my tired limbs and appetite. Have you ever reached that stage where you become desperate, desperate for even the minutest skeletons of appetite? I reached that one, right there in the car park. At that point it was no longer just the appetite that was afflicting me but also a crazy headache.

I still maintained that the journey that I had undertaken the previous week was responsible for the physical demise I was finding myself in. So I gave up on the hotdog and coke and went to my office. After an hour or so, my office mate remarked that something was wrong with me. I tried to brush it off by reminding him that I had travelled the previous week for 36 hours so I was probably suffering the effects of the journey.

Towards lunch, my office mate took matters into his own hands and informed my boss that what I needed was to go home and seek medical attention. Now my boss is this motherly but assertive woman. She called me to her office and gave me a short tutorial on the dangers of sitting on a sickness after which she advised me to go home (“No arguments TC. Go home and visit the doctor.”). Without arguing I drove home.

I didn’t get home. The road was hazy, as if in that cold winter afternoon the shimmering heat of October was playing tricks on me. I was sweating profusely and some mischievous and crazy drummer was thumping away at some wooden instrument in my head. My sixth sense told me that this was not sickness as usual. The rate at which I was deteriorating called for drastic measures. I was almost reaching that stage where you get out of your body and you watch it crumble like some terminator thing (you probably know what I mean here if you grew up hero-worshipping Schwarzenegger).

I became desperate, so desperate for physical sanity that the moment I saw a 24-hour facility by the roadside, I just turned into it, parked, shambled into the reception and begged to be admitted. I told them that if they just gave me drugs and allowed me to go home (to come for review the following day of course: basic procedure) I would die. After some tests, the doctor concluded that my galloping BP and high temperature were sufficient ground to detain and observe me for four hours. They also performed a full blood count in order to ascertain the cause of my ailment. For the first time in my life, I was put on a drip and hospitalised.

Four hours later, the doctor came back and confirmed to me that I had typhoid. At this juncture, let me inform you that I do not easily get shocked. I have made peace with the fact that absurd things happen in life and so many times when absurd things happen, they find me psyched and ready. But I wasn’t ready for typhoid. The doctor looked at my stare-eyed self and said: “Do not ask me how and where you contracted it. This is Harare. Anything can happen.”

The source of my shock was the fact that prior to my hospitalisation, I had been conscientious when it came to water. I consistently bought bottled drinking water. I consistently bought Waterguard to put even in washing water. I kept my nails short, and washed my hands with running water and soap. My wife moved with a bottle of sanitiser in her handbag, and would apply it on our hands after greeting people. She never allowed me to eat anything without sanitising my hands. We are the most meticulous couple I have ever seen. But still, typhoid found its way to me.

The doctor told me that I had made the right decision, otherwise it could have been too late. The point I am trying to make is that the current cholera scourge that is afflicting Harare is not the problem of Harare or that of Glen View and Budiriro citizens. Hakuna akafitwa necholera. We are in this together. It could be anyone. Anyone. I learnt that lesson in the most unlikely of ways.

In times like this it is not advisable to sit at home and wait for an ailment to run its course. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

We also cannot joke with human life because tomorrow it can be any one of us. I am saying this in the context of cholera-generated social media jokes. I know we love to joke. Sometimes laughing allows us to weather our problems. But I think cholera calls for new kinds of solutions, not laughter. The time to laugh shall come. Situations that make us laugh will always be with us. But for now, let’s respect those who are caught in its web, because the candid truth is that we are all caught in its web.

That is why today I decided to postpone my usual book review in order to write about this urgent matter. I also wish to salute MoHCC whose conscientisation messages have been consistently reaching our inboxes.

Remember, we are in this together.

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