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By: Charlie Webster

From Sickness to Advocacy: My Story

March 09 2018

Never in a million years did I think I would be so well versed in what a mosquito can do or at the forefront of fighting the world’s oldest disease – malaria.

It wasn’t that long ago that malaria almost took my life. I had complications, a rare form of the disease and it wasn’t diagnosed initially – I am so incredibly lucky to be alive today.

In August 2016 I was to broadcast from Rio, Brazil for the Olympics. Before that, though I set off on a cycle ride of 3000 miles for charity, cycling from London, England to Rio – all in just 5 weeks. Totally mad, but I was so excited. I wanted to inspire people to push outside the box and give hope. I had been to 2 doctors about inoculations and had every injection under the sun apart from anti-malarial tablets – I was told I shouldn’t bother taking them.

I made it just in time for the opening ceremony of the games! I cycled the final mile to the top of Christ the Redeemer and with such relief of succeeding in such a mammoth challenge.

I didn’t quite feel right though and started to get nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. I managed to get to the toilet and stayed there for the majority of the ceremony. I was laying on the cold concrete floor of the stadium, my organs failing and hemorrhaging from a disease I could never have imagined myself contracting.

I was admitted to the hospital, and for three days I laid in excruciating pain, every moment getting worse. The doctors came in and in broken English told me I was dying. I was utterly shocked. My mum and brother were rushed over from the UK, and the next day I was put into a coma, given constant blood transfusions and hooked up to a life support machine. I was given 24 hours to live.

12 days in, the doctors still hadn’t found out entirely what was wrong with me. As a complete last resort, the doctors sent my blood off to be tested for malaria. It came back positive.

Though I was still in a coma, I could hear everything going on around me and was desperately fighting for my life.

Almost a year and a half later, I am so grateful to have had access to malaria treatments and for that doctor that on a last whim tested my blood for the disease. My mum was told that even if I lived I would most certainly have brain damage and various disabilities.

Today, I fight against malaria because I know what it feels like and the suffering and pain it causes. I survived, but so many don’t. 90% of malaria deaths are children below the age of 5, and they are voiceless. I want to do everything I can to give them a voice.

This disease has taken so much life from our world, but we are the ones who must stand up and fight it. The 2018 Nothing But Nets Leadership Summit is a big step in that fight, and I’m so excited to say I will be joining the Summit in Washington.

I know together we can accomplish our goal of being the generation to end malaria.

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