Alex's malaria ordeal

Alex Cheatle

Traveller Alex Cheatle thought anti-malaria tablets were a waste of time, until he became seriously ill during his round-the-world trip.

"I travelled round the world with a friend. We first went to Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.

"I didn’t take the anti-malarial quinine because I had heard it didn’t work because the mosquitoes were resistant. I took mefloquine but stopped after a few weeks as I felt so weird while taking it.

"I then went on like a traveller bore about how all antimalarials were a waste of time. I used mosquito repellent but got bitten badly on two occasions, once when I was nightclubbing in Laos and a few days later in Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

"After that I returned to London for a few days before heading off to Brazil. I was up in the mountains for three days when I got altitude sickness, which was weird because normally you get altitude sickness straight away. I had to go to bed and I felt terrible.

"After I had recovered, we carried on travelling, and a few weeks later, when I’d reached Ecuador, I started getting pounding headaches and a fever that would come back every eight to 24 hours.

"During one episode I couldn’t speak, got really hot then cold, and was in a complete state.

"My girlfriend’s dad's a doctor and I told him my symptoms over the phone. He told me straight away that I had malaria.

"I didn’t want to be treated in Ecuador, so I decided to use the next portion of my ticket to fly to America."

Severe migraines

'I was constantly sweating and hallucinating and I thought I was going to die.' Alex Cheatle

"The airport was air-conditioned, yet sweat was pouring down my face and I was struggling to stand. I was rocking and holding myself up, trying to look normal.

"I hadn’t checked my travel insurance and later discovered that I could have gone to a fantastic hospital called Mount Sinai in New York.

"Instead I went straight to the nearest one in LA, where they knew virtually nothing about malaria. It took them three days before they gave me anything except paracetamol.

"It was awful. I lost 2.5 stone (15.9kg) because I couldn’t eat, and the headaches were like the worst migraines you can imagine.

"I was constantly sweating and hallucinating and I thought I was going to die. They sent my girlfriend home every evening, and one night I was lying there looking at the emergency button above me and I thought, ‘I’m too weak to reach up and push it'.

"Eventually they did give me drugs that worked, by which time I was emaciated.

"But if you want to put weight back on, America is the place to be. It’s the only time in my life I’ve actually finished the portions."

Malaria

Malaria is a tropical disease. It is spread by mosquitoes infected with malaria parasites. In this video, an expert explains how malaria attacks different areas of the body, and what you can do to avoid getting infected.

Media last reviewed: 31/01/2014

Next review due: 31/01/2016

Page last reviewed: 26/05/2012

Next review due: 26/05/2014

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