A British man’s trip to Africa was nearly fatal after a parasite swam up his penis and laid eggs.
James Michael, from Kensington, London, was enjoying the trip of a lifetime with his friends in 2017.
One day, he and his pals decided to take a dip in Lake Malawi in southeastern Africa – that was when a parasitic worm slithered up the 32-year-old’s penis.
As the parasite continued to lay eggs, his immune system eventually attacked his spine to the point he had to be hospitalised for three months – where he was told he only had a 30% chance of recovery.
When I look back at photos from my time in Africa, it’s weird to think that’s where the parasite crawled up my penis. That wasn’t exactly how I imagined the trip of a lifetime with my friends going – the whole experience was surreal and strange.
Plotting a line, it was like going straight from a paradise beach to a hospital bed, almost incapacitated and helpless. This journey has made me definitely think more about my health and about how I look after myself – like reading up on health risks when I travel.
While fighting the infection – known as bilharzia – James had toilet and digestion problems, extreme acne caused by steroids, and had to use a catheter, crutches and a wheelchair. Fortunately, he’s now made a full recovery.
While he didn’t notice any problems after coming home at first, it was in October last year when he began notice a loss of feeling in both his legs. He initially suspected it was fatigue from cycling, but it was soon revealed to be more sinister.
After going to hospital, he was worried he had MS or motor neurone disease. He was given antibiotics and sent home – but his symptoms weren’t subsiding.
I explained to them that something serious was going on. I went to the neurology department, and they did blood tests to see what was up. They determined quite quickly that my immune system was attacking my spine, leading to the loss of control of my legs.
I was put on a six-month course of steroids to counter this, but they didn’t actually know what had caused this. It was a horrible feeling – I felt completely helpless, and the odds weren’t good. I couldn’t wish what I’ve been through on anybody.
The pain has been like nothing I’ve ever know. At times, it has been an excruciating physical pain that’s been debilitating.
James added his girlfriend couldn’t even touch him as the pain from that was too severe. Looking back, he says he’d ‘urge anyone thinking of getting into Lake Malawi not to’.
The 32-year-old added:
It’s just not worth the potential risks of a little worm climbing in your body through your parts. It’s a grotesque, sickening thought. This has been horrendous. It’s felt like a never-ending mountain I’ve had to climb.
I’ll certainly think twice before taking a dip in Lake Malawi.
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After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BCTJ-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He’s now left his Scottish homelands and took up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.