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Text: Mikhail Kravchenko
Photo: Sasha Manovceva

Since we published Mikhail Kravchenko’s report and pictures from New Guinea (Irian Jaya, Indonesia), this added many more readers and requests so we asked Mikhail to start a permanent column and to tell the story of how he did not die from malaria in Cameroon.

In a “lost world” in Central African Republic, where people still use stone cleavers and roads are made by bands of hippos, you would feel very safe from being bitten by a wild beast, except for mosquito. They do not seem more serious than in Moscow, just scratch and forget. However, some mosquitoes are not really mosquitoes but messengers of the netherworld. I never noticed it while having a break in Moscow and returning by plane to Africa for a next film shooting in Cameroon. While getting ready for the trip, I was not quite myself, the fever started but I really thought it was because of my hectic schedule. So, gnawing on antipyretic drugs on the flight, I was looking forward to circle the Lake Chad riding on a giraffe. However, on getting to the village where the film crew stayed, all I could do after dinner was crawl to a hut only to never be on my feet, this time.

The fifth day saw me starving, as every bit of food was followed by a throw-up. Kidneys already refused to go on, and liver was on its way to it. But the inner feeling was that this is the hardest period that has to stop and everything was to get a lot easier.

I found out that that my feeling was right, in a way. A usual patient with this kind of malaria here in Cameroon dies exactly on day six, and that was where I was going. It is traditional that thousands are being treated for malaria, while millions die of it.

I found myself somewhere in between, where you can choose where you go next. If you go right you are still in your body. You swing to left, and you are not alive anymore, you are a kind of invisible sphere and you do not have a bit of regret for the consequences of this choice.

They say that when a person falls from a building, in these moments he sees all the major points of the world he created. Instantly, in the whole, all together. This was exactly what I saw. I watched the pictures and thought something was missing. It was not limited to just my own life. Say, I leave, and if I was painting a picture together with someone, I take some colors and some paintbrushes with me, and the one who stays is not able to finish the painting.

My sister, a medic with vast Moscow practice, came to Cameroon to see us filming. And she saw my dying body. She remembered all the curses she ever heard at work, from patients’ family members, from patients themselves, from porters, from hospital stuff. She had never known so many curses are written in her brain. She would curse and swear and after every word she would say, rise, live! At this time, something rearranged inside me, some kind of anger came and I stopped this sphere heading to the left. This was a fantastic feeling. Even my sister felt that my invisible body developed the wish to live and my energy filled all the space inside the hut. It was as if I lied there, and I caught a huge falling building and held it, while the sphere containing me, stopped and went right, away from death.

On the next day they delivered me to Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon. The doctors who accepted me near midnight there, would not believe what I had was malaria. They thought that it would have killed me long ago. In the morning, tests revealed malaria agents, plasmodia, and now they thought it was too late to attempt to cure me because the way from start to the corpse with this malaria form is ten days. However, they started pumping me with liquid that drives plasmodia out. I was so horizontally disadvantaged that all my wrinkles went, and it was fun, though the ankles and feet were as fat as boar’s. However, the threat was gone, and I could go to Moscow to finish treatment.

Once I was able to answer the phone, I learned that on that very day my soul had been swinging between life and death, my friends saw me in their dreams being thousand kilometers away from my hut. The dreams varied, but the subject was the same: only a miracle or my own decision could have saved me.


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