The Helmand Sistan Project
Tales of the Field

Deadly Malaria

One of our professional staff fell ill with Blackwater Fever, a particularly virulent form of malaria, upon arriving at the field site. As soon as we were able to unload a vehicle, Khan Zaman drove him through the night across the vast, barren Dasht-i Margo desert to the U.S. agricultural engineering project base at Lashkar Gah, from where he was flown to Kabul in the U.S. Ambassador’s plane and placed in the American Embassy dispensary. After several days, even with remarkable help from the head doctor there and from the foreign community who rallied to give blood for his transfusions, it was determined he might not survive if he remained in Kabul. He was flown out to the United States, accompanied by a doctor and the Ambassador’s wife. His condition became so perilous during the flight that he was taken off the plane in Frankfurt and rushed to an American military hospital in Germany. He was hospitalized for weeks in Germany before the American doctors determined he had recovered sufficiently to endure his onward flight to the United States, where he was hospitalized for some additional weeks before being able to return to his home. His lengthy recovery left it impossible for him to return to the mission. Deep in the Sistan Basin, the members of the mission knew nothing of this traumatic event until Bob Hamilton, who departed from the field early, sent a letter to update us. Blackwater Fever, nearly always fatal, is contracted by those who, having had an earlier case of malaria, are bitten by a malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquito. Our colleague eventually was able return to an academic position from which he is now retired. 

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