Mosul was a miserable city with a miserable population of miserable frightened people. They were afraid of Al Qaeda and they were afraid of the Americans. Lieutenant Abigail Elden wondered how she ever got this assignment. She was an economics major and the Army called her up a year after graduation. She had just got a job at a major stock broker firm in Tallahassee. Maybe her father was right about advising against joining Army ROTC but she didn’t want a huge student loan to pay back from her college expenses.
And now here she was in Mosul, a dusty fly-and-mosquito ridden Arab city of a large crowd of pathetic souls. US Army vehicles of all description were moving around adding to the dust, sand, and dirt settling on everything. She lived in a tent quadrangle with other administrative personnel trying to keep track of military unit identification and managing the paper work for vehicle supplies, personnel assignment changes, and casualty lists. At least the nights were air-conditioned in the American civilian-contracted trailers from the field-wise Halliburton people. Non-combatant military officers like her slept in a cool tiny trailer bed at night and sweat in a tent during the day.
The flies were everywhere. How they kept getting into the trailer was unknown. Some felt they were new flies born of maggots and eggs left by their airborne parents. The tents were fumigated but she still had to walk outside. Her sweat attracted the mosquitoes. She hated taking her malaria prophylaxis pills. They gave her diarrhea with cramps worse than her period, so most of the time she didn’t take them. The toilet facilities were of field quality and insect-ridden. Helicopters flew overhead at sunrise and sunset to spray the American-occupied zones with insecticide. The Halliburton group also helped manage the fumigation and malaria-containment program started in Mosul the year she arrived which was last year, 2007.
When she got sick she knew right away it was malaria. The shaking chills and dark red urine were known to everyone not only from her stateside training but her personal experience with others in Mosul. The only positive side of getting the damn disease was going home and getting her honorable discharge. The Army sent her to the Veterans Administration in Tallahassee and she got her old job back. Her strain of malaria was different from the standard plasmodium strains. She couldn’t get rid of it. The VA had a program with experimental anti-malarials that offered hope and now Elden was being followed by the head of the CDC anti-malaria program on the Atlantic coast, Dr. Alberto Ganucci out of Atlanta. She felt this was a Godsend since Ganucci was a key physician with the management of her disease. She maintained intermittent visits to the Tallahassee CDC office at three month intervals or as needed if she had any suggestion of falciparum symptoms.
At least her job was going well and her attacks were infrequent. Elden managed one or two falciparum episodes a year but they were miserable and always seem to come at a bad time for her job which was her whole life right now. There was always some active turn of events at the stock exchange, or a visiting VIP for her to entertain when a malaria crisis appeared. But everything seemed to turn out okay. She came home exhausted from the stock exchange late tonight and had two phone messages which seemed to blink urgently on her voice machine’s red light. Maybe she was anemic again and needed to go back on iron pills.
The first message was from Dr. Alberto Ganucci. He had a gravelly assertive voice. “Ms. Elden this is Dr. Ganucci. Tomorrow I will be tending to the national malaria study at my Florida CDC office in Tallahassee and must check on your blood levels of the new medication. It’s also the scheduled time to review your standard blood tests.”
Elden paused the message machine to look at her calendar commitments. Tomorrow is okay and I had actually already written in the morning CDC visit. She released the pause. “Ms. Elden you are also due for another shot of the national malaria study immunization medication. We know they are effective because of your infrequent attacks. The staff and I are available all morning. Allow two hours for your visit.”
But damn the attacks are awful. And I have this new corporate reorganization group of stock companies forming because of some major company buyouts and takeovers.
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