Misimu Zangu: Bilharzia

(Guest Post)

A friend wanted to share her story. So here goes..

***

There was one time in life I almost caught Bilharzia. Well, let’s call it mental bilharzia for this case. For those of you who do not know what bilharzia is, google defines it as a chronic disease, endemic in parts of Africa and South America, caused by infestation with blood flukes (schistosomes). I live in Africa and even though I have never heard of bilharzia cases in my country, there was the chance, right? Here’s my story:

If you went through 8-4-4, you probably remember learning about various types of diseases and a sub topic in that chapter was waterborne diseases. Amongst the water borne diseases, we learn about bilharzia and all the symptoms that come along with it. One symptom I never forgot was that there are traces of blood in stool when you have bilharzia. Knowledge is power, right?

When I was 12 years old, I woke up in the middle of the night with a very bad stomach ache. I rushed to the toilet and while I was seated on the toilet bowl, I started trying to think back on all I had eaten to get a stomach ache but nothing came to my mind. When I was done with my business, I noticed blood on the tissue paper and immediately I panicked. I had finally caught the disease. Finally, because if you also read the text books we used to use in primary school, water borne diseases look like the in thing in Africa and maybe we were all going to get it.

As I sat on the toilet at night, I did the math and according to my science text book, I had only three days to live, four or five if I was lucky and drunk enough water and got some form of medication. I tried as hard as I could to remember when in the past one month I had walked on water that had been exposed but when I could not think of any one time, I settled for getting it through tap water. Bilharzia has strange ways you see, and I couldn’t put it past it to have made its way to our tap and into the cup I was using.

I quickly did the math of how I was going to spend my last few days on earth. It was a good thing my sisters were on holiday so it made things easier for me and of course for them. I would tell them I love them after breaking the news to them that I was soon going to die. There however was a plus, I would get to see my mother again. I wasn’t even past the part of grief where you stop dreaming they are alive and wake up all hopeful and psyched only to be disappointed. So I would go and join my mother, and even though death is a scary thing at times, this one time it wasn’t.

I slowly walked out of the toilet and went to my sister to ask her for a sanitary towel, I was going to break the news to her the next morning. No one wants to be woken up in the middle of the night with news about death. So I went back to sleep with thoughts of bilharzia and death and a mother.

A few many years later, it was never a stomach ache, it’s what I’ve come to know as cramps, and the blood was not bilharzia, it’s something that will be repeating itself every month that is called menstruation. Yes, we live in Africa, but bilharzia isn’t that common either.

Growing up a girl is tough. Growing up as a girl without a mother, now that’s 100 times tougher.

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