The Fun That Was Peace Corps Guyana - Mark's Blog

Postings from just north of the equator. Let's see if training in CPR and First Aid prepares me to teach Health Education in a small, remote village in Guyana. I'm thinking... no. Read all about this ill advised decision! In addition, here is the required Peace Corps disclaimer: "The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps." So, please, don't confuse me with the White House Press Secretary.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Sick In Guyana

Why do I not like being sick in Guyana? The operative words are “in Guyana.” Of course no one likes being sick at all. But being sick during Peace Corps adds an extra layer of fun. First off, I’m not even that sick in the first place. I even pretty much know at this point what I’ve got. I’ve had a low level flu and fever for the past seven days and counting. In fact, it’s only the lengthy duration that in any way truly concerns me. But even in the first few days, you start thinking some crazy thoughts, thoughts that you would only have during a stint in Peace Corps.

The first problem is that whenever you get sick here, you try to self-diagnose. And being in a tropical country (where, as we all know, all the weird diseases reside), you begin to think of some crazy, diseases. Do I have malaria? Dengue fever? Typhoid? Intestinal worms? Luckily, you have your trusty “Where There Is No Doctor.” So now you’re reading the symptoms of dengue fever and slowly convincing yourself you might have a very mild case. I may not have had a sudden high fever with chills, but I did feel slightly feverish pretty quickly. Not severe body aches, but my muscles are kinda sore. And I do feel a little ill, weak, or miserable, as the symptoms say. And today, a rash started, just as they say in the book. Reading the symptoms, maybe I have a mild form of dengue fever? Or maybe it was Brucellosis. I can see that you basically only get it from drinking fresh milk from infected cows or goats (something I’ve not been doing), but on the other hand, the symptoms sure sound like a more serious form of what I have…

As you can see, this could go on forever. Because you are in Guyana, where you sleep under a mosquito net and are constantly aware of the weird diseases here, your mind always turns to those things when you get sick. And believe me, you have enough time to obsess over these things. Even when healthy, Peace Corps volunteers have a lot of down time to mull any- and everything over. So imagine when you are sick and not getting out of the house? It’s definitely a recipe for disaster. It’s surprising how quickly you can convince yourself you have some rare disease that means you need to get medically evacuated to Panama for observation. In fact, because you’ve been holed up in your house, you kinda look forward to it (and become almost disappointed when the Peace Corps nurse tells you that you just have the common flu. boo).

Another reason that being sick in Guyana is not fun is that you are so far away from the comforts of home. Of course, this is a constant in our daily life here – “why don’t we just Google it to settle this? You know, use the free Wi-Fi that’s throughout Guyana? Oh, just kidding.” But when you are sick, suddenly you want chicken noodle soup like mom made it, a big blanket, and a couch, watching bad, mid-day television. Unable to get any of that, the sickness is that much worse. Of course people here are really nice and bring you things or send you home from work, showing a lot of concern as to your condition. But then suddenly you are being told to try this remedy or that remedy. Which sounds kinda cool, right? “Try this root tea our ancestors made. Eat this beet and then burn this incense.” Except that’s not what people are saying. People are saying “take some TheraFlu, then go to the hospital and get a bag of saline.” Here in Guyana, bags of saline from the hospital are the magic cure-all for every problem. Malaria? Saline bag will fix you right up. Stomach pains? Saline bag will cure it. Broken leg? Well, that’s nothing a bag of saline can’t help. I may not be a doctor, but I’m pretty sure that IV saline solution, as beneficial as it is to replenish fluids, is not quite as amazing of a cure all as it is sometimes held up to be. Of course, I’m not about to burst that bubble – oftentimes, saline is one of the few things the hospital has to give people. There is often a small variety of available medicines. So to many people here, they’ve seen someone go to the hospital sick, only get a saline bag, get better, and walk out of the hospital feeling well. It follows that the saline bag cured them, right? Why would I want to challenge that?

Anyways, you’re sick. You want the comforts of home and are instead being told to get a bag of saline. You’re reading your medical books and getting convinced you have typhus. And you just stare at the wall, waiting to get better. This is why I don’t like being sick in Guyana, even when it turns out that I just have the flu that is getting around. Stupid flu…


Post a Comment

<< Home