Courtesy of Mercy Adedokun
Malaria kills over one thousand people each year. Several years ago, a current Sevier student could have become one of these deaths. Mercy Adedokun, a seventh grade student, visited Africa when she was 10 years old. When she returned to Kingsport, both she and her dad had Malaria.
“My family and I traveled to Lagos, Nigeria back in 2016 over summer break,” Adedokun said. “My parents wanted us to travel there to meet some of our family we’d never met.”
Adedokun’s dad moved to the U.S. in 1988 and her mom moved in December of 2001. Mercy and all of her siblings were born in the United States, so they had not met a lot of their relatives. It was only natural that the family would travel to Africa.
“On my first day, I realized how much more hot and arid it was,” Mercy said. “Some of my favorite things were the food and the family I got to meet.”
The food in Africa is quite different than American food. According to Adedokun, it is much healthier, less greasy and less artificial.
“For me, the most surprising thing was how many free-roaming animals there are,” Adedokun said. “Also, the roads and the people on them are very different.”
It is no secret that when someone travels outside of their country of origin, it can be an adjustment. Lifestyles are quite different in other countries and cultures. For Adedokun, Africa was no different.
“The most challenging thing was only being with my family and not talking with my friends, since it’s something I do on the daily,” she said.
Even though this trip was fun and exciting, it resulted in a terrible experience. The trip itself was great, but led to a draining hospital stay and Malaria.
“I realized I was sick around the Saturday we came back,” Adedokun said. “My dad and I both got sick and we both had really bad puking fits. Lack of sleep, appetite, and energy were some symptoms I had, as well.”
Being sick is bad enough on its own, but this was a whole new level of sickness.
“After I started feeling sick, I went in for a blood test,” Adedokun said. “Although my mom asked them to check for Malaria, they didn’t, so I had to get tested again. This time, it came back positive for Malaria.”
Although common in Africa, Malaria is not very common in the United States. This is probably why the doctors didn’t test for it at first, and had to do another blood test.
Malaria is a serious, and sometimes deadly, disease that people can get when a parasite-infected mosquito bites them. It is a flu-like illness with symptoms like high fevers and shaking chills.
“Of course, after finding out, 10 year old me really thought I was gonna die,” Adedokun said. “After finding out my mom had it when she was younger, as well, [I felt] a bit better. Emotionally, at least. I still felt like crap on the outside.”
They got a call from a Johnson City hospital that wanted Mercy to come in. There, she got medicine to treat the illness.
“The only way I could take them was crushed up in white milk,” she said. “That really was the worst part. I could taste the pills and white milk makes me sick.”
Staying in the hospital for three days, confined to a room with her family, after just getting back from a vacation in Africa, was both boring and scary for Adedokun, especially since she had not been able to see her friends before having to go to the hospital.
“My sister started worrying over me, but my brothers didn’t really care,” Adedokun said. “My dad was the other person that got sick, but he got [better] before me.”
Even though this experience was traumatic, Adedokun believes that seeing her family would be worth going back and facing the fear that she might get Malaria again.
“My fear of bugs [has] been doubled after this,” she said. “It also made me fear getting sick and going outside again.
For a few months, I could barely sleep because of the overwhelming feeling of having bugs crawling all over me.”
Adedokun has some advice for others who would like to visit Africa.
“If you ever go to Africa, be prepared for how different it is, and how English is not the language you’ll mostly hear,” she said. “I would recommend that other students travel to Africa if they have the chance, but only if they’re prepared. It was a really big culture shock, even for me, someone who has lived in an African household for 12 years.”