Queenslander's quest for love ends in deadly disease
AFTER an 18-month courtship with a woman he had met online, Anthony Walker went to Ghana looking for love - but came home with a severe case of malaria that almost killed him.
"I went there looking for a wife but yeah, came home pretty sick," said the 54-year-old gyprocker from Surfers Paradise.
"It's a funny lesson to learn and I've certainly got a new appreciation for life."
Mr Walker spent a fortnight in the west African country before returning home to Australia on June 19, saying he was "dead lucky" the malaria had remained dormant until he arrived back.
"I'd obviously been beaten by a mosquito, unbeknown to me, and I didn't get any fevers or symptoms until the 29th," he said.
"If I'd gotten sick over there, they would have given me a Panadol and some orange juice and that would have been it."
Thinking he had the flu, Mr Walker went to a GP but was sent home with instructions to rest and return if he did not improve.
And that is where his story could have ended in tragedy, had it not been for the quick thinking of his sister Lyn who lives in Newcastle.
"I had been going in and out of consciousness, I could hear the phone but I couldn't answer it," he said.
"She found my friend Dave Godfrey on Facebook and joined the dots and he came around on his bike and knocked on the door.
"I had one last surge of adrenalin and I got up and got to the door and then I relaxed because I knew the cavalry had turned up.
"They saved my life."
Mr Walker was taken by ambulance to Gold Coast University Hospital where he was diagnosed by the medical director of infection control, Dr John Gerrard, and his team in less than an hour.
Dr Gerrard said Mr Walker was suffering from very severe malaria when he arrived at hospital on July 9.
"Malaria is caused by being bitten by mosquitoes and the parasite infects the red blood cells," he said. "Under a microscope we could tell that there were a trillion total parasites in his bloodstream."
The team diagnosed it quickly as Mr Walker had been suffering from common symptoms including rigours, which are uncontrollable shakes and sweats that drench the bed, and fevers.
His kidneys had already begun to shut down.
"He was very seriously ill and had it not been for his sister, who is the heroine in this story, he could have been in very serious trouble, but he will recover completely."
According to Queensland Health, three cases of malaria have been reported this year on the Gold Coast.
There are reports of resistance to Artesunate, the normal drug used to treat the disease.
"It's a drug derived from a Chinese herb and was a major breakthrough in the late '80s and early '90s. However resistance is spreading through South-East Asia," he said.
"That's why we need a new vaccine and Gold Coast Health and Griffith University are working towards that."
As for Mr Walker's journey to find love, well, he said that despite communicating with the woman for 18 months, it was clear when he arrived that the relationship was not going to progress. "It just didn't work out," he said.
DR GERRARD'S TIPS TO AVOID MALARIA
* The best thing you can do to avoid malaria is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
* From dusk to dawn wear long sleeves and long trousers, preferably light coloured.
* Use strong repellent.
* Take antimalarial tablets prior to your trip. These can be about 90 per cent effective.
GOLD COAST MALARIA CASES (LAST FIVE YEARS)
2019 (year to date): 3