A YOUNG woman who nearly died after contracting malaria has spoken of her ordeal at the hands of the killer disease.
Romy Rook, from Battle, spent three weeks in a coma last year after contracting malaria following a visit to rural Uganda.
The 27-year-old returned to England in June after spending six months volunteering in schools in the region.
Romy saw first-hand the devastating impact of malaria and was vigilant about taking her own antimalarials and spent every night under a mosquito net.
She had been home nearly a month when she started feeling sick.
Two days later, she tested positive for falciparum malaria - the deadliest strain of the disease.
During her second night in hospital, Romy had a seizure.
She was delirious and slipped into unconsciousness.
Romy said: “The doctors said the malaria had reached my brain and my chances of survival were getting slimmer.
“They decided to keep me sedated while they treated me.
“I’m told that my condition got much, much worse and it was a fight for survival.”
Romy was unconscious for more than a week and during that time the malaria had caused a fluid build up on her lungs which turned into acute pneumonia, leaving her unable to breathe on her own.
Romy feared she was going to die.
She said: “The doctors put me into a chemically induced coma while I was put onto a ventilator and had a tracheotomy fitted.
“I had a chest drain and contracted septicaemia and it was around this time that my liver and kidneys started to stop working too.
“There was one really awful evening when my parents were called into the relatives’ room to be told that I was in a critical condition and might not make it through the night.
“Somehow, miraculously, I did.”
Malaria has caused permanent damage to Romy’s lungs and memory and weakened her eyesight.
But thanks to the support of her family, church and GP, Romy continues to make good progress.
She helps out at a youth club and goes to yoga and the gym daily to rebuild her muscles which wasted away during her time in hospital.
Romy said: “I hope I will soon be strong enough to work longer hours and eventually continue my career in international development.
“In the meantime I want to use my story to raise awareness for charities like Malaria No More UK, who do vital work to raise awareness about malaria. I hope anyone who comes across my story will be prompted to make sure they do all they can to protect themselves from malaria.
“I am sure the antimalarials I took while in Uganda helped save my live and despite everything that’s happened, I’d love to go back there again one day.”
* Throughout April and May, 5 pence from every pack of Panadol sold will be donated to Malaria No More UK to help fight Malaria in Africa.