World Malaria Day. Ah, the memories!
Today – April 25th – is World Malaria Day. I know you’ve had it circled on your calendars, and I’m probably interfering with your own malarial memories, so I’ll try to keep this short. No guarantees, though, since I suck at brevity.
Once upon a time, I was 13 years old with feathered Farrah Fawcett hair and a penchant for lying to my parents.
Hey, now. Don’t judge. ‘Cause you know what? My parents always told me stuff like, “Play to your strengths, Beth,” and I was a really good liar. So who’s to blame — me or them? Yes. I think so, too. Poor parenting on their part.
Whew! I’m glad we settled that little dispute right up front.
Once upon a time, I was 13 years old. And I woke up one morning not wanting to go to school, which, if you’ve ever met a 13-year-old, will undoubtedly strike you as completely typical.
I did what any 13-year-old in my situation would do.
I faked sick.
Now, I’m an excellent sick-faker, if I do say so myself. And I’ll give you – for free – my VERY BEST, numero uno, sick-faking secret which I discovered at age 8.
Sick-Faking Tip #1
Never, ever, EVER break character.
Never, ever break character, not even when you think the school nurse isn’t looking. Because I am here to tell you that that mean lady will definitely catch you if you decide to dance on your sick bed for the entertainment of the other sick children and she will send you right back to class with a note that will require you to explain yourself to your teacher. You will be humiliated. Trust me.
By the time I was 13, I was a champion at faking sick. I stayed in character all the time. I moaned in the bathroom. I practiced grimacing in the mirror. I wet my face at the sink so I looked clammy and my skin was cool to the touch.
Sick-Faking Tip #2
Fevers are hard to fake, but pale and clammy is almost always as good.
I stumbled to my bed. And I did all of this even if I was home alone.
I was, like, the Supreme Method Actor of faking sick! So you can understand why, on the morning I told my parents that I was dying of a dreadful disease, they took me very, very seriously.
Of course, our family also happened to live at that time in a part of Indonesia that was an incubator for malaria. So that whole malaria thing might have had a teeny, tiny impact on their consideration of my case.
It turns out that I was so good at sick-faking, you guys, that I mimicked nearly all of the symptoms for malaria. I had chills, sweats, a pounding headache, general aches, nausea – all of the unproveable classics, just to seal the No School deal. WOOT! Go, me!
Sick-Faking Tip #3
Don’t do it. It’s not worth it.
Karma is mean like the school nurse, and Karma will call your bluff.
My parents took me for a blood test.
I stayed in character while they pricked my finger and made a smear on the glass slide. I even went more pale at that point because I was that good. (And because there was blood. But whatever.)
The lab analyzed my blood.
I had malaria.
I. Had. Malaria.
Seriously. Malaria is what I had.
And then I got sick. Except it was real sick and not fake sick. And it lasted for three weeks while I took volumes of bitter medicine that made my ears ring and made me vomit and made my headache and gave me chills. Or maybe the malaria did those things. It’s hard to say for sure.
You guys, I have to hand it to malaria. It’s a way, WAY better method actor than me.
In the end, I dropped 10 pounds… and I dropped faking sick… and I dropped some of my lying. (But not all of my lying, because I eventually learned that if you call it fiction writing then no one gets mad.)
I also dropped vanilla pudding which is what my mom fed me during my prolonged No School deal. Truly I say unto you: there are only so many times you can yarf vanilla pudding before you relegate it, along with malaria, to depths of Things I Hope Never To Taste Again As Long As I Live.
And those, ladies and gentlemen, are my malarial memories. Brought to you by World Malaria Day and by vanilla pudding.
P.S. I might not have ever confessed the malaria lie to my parents before now. Sorry you had to find out on my blog, Mom and Dad. (And, um, just kidding about the poor parenting thing.)
P.P.S. I also lied about who stole the Almond Roca from your top dresser drawer, Dad. It was delicious.
And A Much More Serious Post-Script
I get to be alive and to joke about my experience with malaria because my parents had access to medical care and money for treatment.
But malaria’s no joke.
According to the World Health Organization, there are 216 million (that’s MILLION) cases of malaria every year, resulting in 655,000 deaths. Most of those deaths are children under age 5.
I don’t know about you, but statistics like that can make me feel hopeless. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the scope of the problem and to feel heartbroken and small. But the incredible news for those of us who want to make a difference is that malaria is both preventable and treatable.
Image credit Medical Teams International