Giardia, So Ill, But So Simple To Cure… If You Live In The West

Could you keep clean here?

A week or so before Christmas I started to feel a little unwell, it started as horrid wind and then progressed to diarrhoea.  Within a week, I was feeling really ill and not able to do a lot, I was eating very little and found it harder and harder to look after my two little boys.  I missed out on all the Christmas food and drink (and therefore felt rather sorry for myself), however I had all my family around to help with the boys.  I was able to lounge about and go to bed early.  Eventually after a month, I headed to the doctor, the visit was delayed by short improvements in how I felt (followed by relapses), the Christmas period and the suspicion that they would not be able to help.  The doctor did some tests and told me I had giardia, a parasite that is one of the world’s most common causes of diarrhoeal illness. People or animals carrying giardia in their intestines pass it out in their faeces. The parasite is then spread through poor hygiene or contaminated soil, food or water.  With a tough outer shell, the parasite can survive for long periods outside a host body, such as in soil or water. A person only needs to pick up a few giardia cysts for infection to develop within their gut.  Thankfully it is treatable with antibiotics and relatively rare in the UK – within 24 hours of starting treatment I was feeling almost normal.

I was ill for long enough to know how debilitating it was.  Imagine how it would be if you lived in a slum, could not afford tests or antibiotics and had to live with this parasite.  Now add in having to work (long hours) or your family won’t eat and when you do get home, you are living in one room with your large family, no running water and no way of keeping your hands really clean.  Before you know it other members of the family have caught it too – what if that is your husband and he struggles to work too, or your baby, we all know diarrhoea can be a killer in babies when left untreated…

All I can say is that this was a real eye opener.  The ARBAN UK committee is working so hard to raise relatively small amounts of money to keep the clinic we have managed to build open and treating these seemingly minor illnesses – things we take for granted in the UK, but which can mean tragedy in places like Jheelpur Slum in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Every pound we raise goes straight to pay for the doctor and drugs in the slum, let us hope we can continue to raise enough to keep it open and stop people having to live with such simply cured and debilitating illnesses.