We live in a part of the world where Malaria is endemic. That means that people regularly contract the disease here. Our guards have had it. Our friends here have had it. Many missionaries we know have had it. But for the last eight months, God has spared our team (which is statistically improbable for a team of 16).
But this changed on Wednesday. Ironically, our first case of malaria came on a night when Cass and I were playing a game called Pandemic. It is a cooperative game where all the players work together to stop 4 diseases from engulfing the planet. All the players win together or lose together. We’ve played the game eight times now and only won twice.
After an intense 45-minute battle with the boardgame on Wednesday night, we won for the first time! But little did we know that we were entering what would turn out to be a 5-day battle. Jude went to bed complaining about some aches and pains. This was not too surprising as he had taken a hard fall earlier that day. But then he woke up at midnight with a stomach ache and a high fever. We thought it might be food poisoning or infection. Throwing up made Jude feel better, and we went to bed thinking he’d be better in the morning. And he did seem to be.
But the next night he woke up with a fever again. This time his temperature was a sizziling 105.5. We called our doctor friends in America to see if they could offer some advice. We checked his wounds—no infection. We checked his vitals—no concussion. We checked his stomach—no appendicitis (which is apparently common here). With no clear answers, we gave him Tylenol and a bath to cool down and then put him back to bed.
During the day, Jude was fine, but at night his fever returned. The thought had crossed our minds: Is it malaria? But we’d heard that usually people with malaria suffered from severe chills. Jude had none. So we turned to the chapter on malaria in our book, Where There Is No Doctor. The opening line? “If you have an unexplainable fever that comes and goes, test for malaria.”
The good news is that we had a malaria test kit on hand. The bad news is that it is not a pleasant test for a 3-year-old. It involves drawing blood from the thumb at the height of a fever. You can guess how excited Jude was about the whole thing as he saw me take a sharp, spiked thumb lance from the test kit.
The blood and a saline solution get dropped into a small test pod that looks like a pregnancy test. One line for negative. Two or more for positive. Jude got two.
So after 3 nights of fevering, Jude finally had a diagnosis and the medicine to go with it. Malaria is readily and easily treatable in Papua New Guinea. After just two nights, Jude’s high fevers went away. This morning (Monday morning) marked his final dose of the medication. Praise God for the amazing grace of modern medicine. Two decades ago, malaria was much harder to cure and was even becoming resistent to some of the chemicals used to treat it. Just 13 years ago, the World Health Organization found that a Chinese medicinal plant mixed with a long-lasting antibiotic could effectively destroy the malaria parasite. Praise God for such providence! And thank you to the many who prayed for Jude in recent days.
Here he is in his favorite shirt (thank you, auntie Carebear) reading his new favorite book, which is written and illustrated by his great grandparents (thank you, Grandma and Grandpa Wehling). Jude loves the book because his name is in it!
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