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Community Rallies to Help Young Atlantan Struck By Malaria

atlanta yoga instructorIt is any travelers’ worst nightmare — getting sick in a foreign country with no way home, little money and no insurance.

That is why friends and family members of Atlanta-based yoga instructor Ayodele Murphy are scrambling to get her moved from a Mexican hospital back home for treatment. Doctors believe she contracted a severe form of malaria, probably on a recent trip to Africa.

“It has been very difficult on our family, especially because we are not there,” said her sister Nandi Murphy. “I feel helpless, because it is out of our hands.”

Added her brother, Omari Murphy: “Our mother got to Mexico on Friday morning. Since then, there have been a lot of ups and downs. The key word is helplessness.”

Since Sunday, Murphy’s friends have raised nearly $30,000 for her medical bills and for transport back to the United States. But the family is still unclear on when she will be able to return and what hospital will accept her, since she doesn’t have insurance.

“We want to bring her back to Georgia. She needs to be with family and friends,” Nandi Murphy said.

She said her sister left for Sierra Leone April 21 with friends to do some economic development work. She returned to the United States May 4, before turning around and going to Cabo San Lucas for a yoga seminar.

She called her mother on Mother’s Day, telling her she wasn’t feeling well.

“She said she was really weak and having a bad headache,” Nandi Murphy said.

Four days later she was in the hospital. She wasn’t diagnosed with malaria until Tuesday. Early symptoms of malaria include fever, chills, headache, sweats, fatigue, nausea and vomiting.

Doctors believe she is infected with the parasite Plasmodium falciparum, which causes the most dangerous form of malaria, with the highest rates of complications and mortality. Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease, common in tropical and subtropical regions including Asia, the Americas and sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the World Health Organization, there were about 207 million cases of malaria in 2012 and an estimated 627,000 deaths.

Now that she has been diagnosed, the question now is how to get her home. Nandi Murphy said the family is working with officials at the United States Consulate to develop a plan to get her flown back to Atlanta. A hospital in San Diego would not accept her, because she is uninsured. She said the family is now working to find a hospital in Atlanta that will accept her.

Nandi said her sister applied for insurance through the Affordable Care Act, but didn’t qualify. In the meantime, her friends have continued to raise funds though social media and her personal website

“If you talk to anyone who knows Ayodele, I guarantee you will hear something about her beautiful smile or something about the way her laugh fills a room,” said artist Fahamu Pecou, who is among those spearheading the effort to help her. “I can’t say I’m surprised by the outpouring of support. It is a reflection of the joy and love she exudes.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, Ayodele Murphy was still in a Cabo hospital listed in critical condition.


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