Things were not quite right when I woke up. My head was splitting and I had a slight fever – and when I pushed my breakfast away untasted, dad was concerned. I love breakfast. Luckily, there was a boat leaving for the mainland that morning and he decided to go to a doctor to get me checked out. It was probably nothing, but just to be on the safe side…
The wind had got up and we reared and plunged our way to the coast. The hospital, when we reached it, was a low whitewashed building with a Javanese doctor, and a large Papuan nurse at a table just inside the door. They sat me down, erected an old fashioned blood pressure machine and fished a thermometer out of an old pencil case and wiped it down with a tissue. “Blood,” said the doctor in Indonesian. “I think we need some blood.”
An hour later he had the results. “Hmmm. Red cells – normal. White cells, yes, yes. Antibodies – fine. Just one problem: this infestation of malaria parasites.” He pointed to the item on the result sheet. I almost passed out with worry!
A memory came flooding back. A month before we left, dad was researching the health aspects of the trip and was complaining bitterly about the cost of malarone malaria pills. “Bloody hell,” he said, “they’re sixty dollars each. I can’t believe it!!” 24 hours later he was in an unusually joyous mood: “I’ve found another brand” He chortled. “Only two dollar apiece. I’ve stocked up.”
But as we climbed into the iron furnace that was the boat’s cabin to return to our hut, I was clinging to the doctor’s words after my panicked questions. “Why are you so worried? Malaria? It’s nothing – basically just a long lie in!”
Meanwhile, amidst attack and criticism from members of the family, dad doggedly maintains that his pills are “top quality and very good value”.