Med Ailments


I am currently in the third and final day of my COS conference  (“Close of Service” conference ), and trust there is much for me to write for you about the swirls of emotional everything that has been going on (and of course this year’s West Africa Invitational Softball Tournament – WAIST!), but first let me share with you all a copy of a letter our medical office gave to us yesterday to carry around with us for a bit after we leave Senegal (ahh rambly run-on sentence I apologize).  Enjoy:  

Peace Corps Office of Medical Services

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

Amanda Susan Wybolt has resided in Senegal, West Africa for the past _____ months.  Her immunizations have been kept up to date which included: Typhoid, Teatnus-Diptheria, Havrix A, Rabies pre-exposure, TOPV, Yellow Fever, MMR, Hepatitis B, and Meningitis A, C, Y, and 135.  At the time of departure from Senegal, this volunteer was found to be free of disease.  Any illness notes was subsequently treated.

In the event that the volunteer should present herself for treatment, please be aware that the following diseases are highly endemic in Senegal and that they have possibly been exposed to:

  • Malaria – falciparum, ovali, vivax
  • Tropical eosinophilia
  • Infectious hepatitis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Yaws
  • Hansen’s disease
  • Scistosomiasis hematobium
  • Schistosomiasis Mansonii
  • Typhoid Fever
  • Poliomyelitis
  • Yellow Fever

Intestinal parasites including:

  • Hookworm
  • Strongyloidiasis
  • Ascariasis
  • Tapeworms
  • Entameoba Histolytica
  • Giardia Lamblia
  • Balantidium coli

Additionaly, she has been taking Mefloquine 250mg weekly.  She has been advised to take malaria prophylaxis for 4 weeks after leaving the malaria area and to commence a 14 day treatment with Primaquine beginning 2 weeks after departure from this area.

If you have any questions about her past medical history while being a Volunteer, please contact Peace Corps: Office of Medical Services: Post-Services Department.

Sincerely,

Peace Corps Medical Officer/Senegal

 

Amazing.  This would be part of why we like to play the “How many years do you think your Peace Corps experience has taken off of your life?” game.

I don’t know what the deal is but for serious my feet are taking a beating in this country.  Along with many other parts of my body I know, but specifically my big-toenails … they are just getting creamed here!  They both fell off shortly after the new year, but thankfully grew back to look only slightly weird  as so:

But they regardless, did in fact grow back, and with a little buffing and polish looked normal, hurrah!  Then, flash-forward to mid-September when I return from Spain and both of my nails felt like they had a blister underneath them.  As as sat bending and twisting on the floor of the Kolda house trying to find a good angle at which to inspect my toes (you wouldn’t think so but unless you’re freakishly flexible it’s quite difficult  to find a sufficient or comfortable angle to see your toes), I realized that not only were there blisters under each nail, but also that they were quite wiggily!  Ahh!   So not what I need in my life.  Long story short, Senegal won and off the big toe nails came again and are now growing back like this:

Attractive, right?  I’m impatiently waiting to see how they continue to grow/if they’ll smoothen out.  In the world where I can actually attain a daily-look of non-sweaty decency, I’m a big advocate of toe-nail painting (all of them, not just the big ones), so I’m really hoping they aren’t so… well, gross after a few months.  (Sidenote: as far as my right-big-toe is concerned, the nail absence is mildly interesting because freshmen year of highschool, post the homecoming dance, I was cleaning up with the other freshmen student council members and had a table dropped on my toe and had to get over two dozen stitches in my toe and I’ve never actually been able to see the scar until now.  According to the doctor, there’s even a tiny chip off the tip of my toe bone that got knocked off that is floating around in my big toe WEIRD!)

Don’t worry, I’ll keep you all updated with some more super-yummy looking macro pictures of my feet.  I know this is the real reason you read my blog anyway.

This year I enjoyed my very first warm Christmas.  I hadn’t planned on leaving Kolda for the holiday, but as I was sitting in the regional house on the 22nd of December, watching volunteers file into the house, ancy-ness got the best of me.  The weeks prior to Christmas, I had been repeatedly sick (cystic amoebas EW!), had been getting increasingly homesick, and feeling a bit of cabin fever in regards to Kolda.  Not that I don’t love my site, Kolda, and the people here, (indeed, traveling around Senegal makes me like Kolda even more), but when my friend Jessie texted me to invite me to a few days in Popenguine – a beach town just north of my training city, Mbour – I jumped at the chance.   Next morning at 4am, I was at the Kolda garage on my way.

Popenguine was everything I needed it to be: at most 13 people, most of whom I hadn’t met before, lots of cooking and beers, walks on the beach, football and frisbee on the beach, burying each other in the sand, hiking around Popenguine (it’s beautiful!), and more eating and sleeping in.  Popenguine is actually my friend Ankith’s site.  Ankith is an eco-tourism volunteer, and has set up a bunch of hikes and day trips (kayaking through the mangroves and such) around his site with his local women’s group, so I definitely plan on returning before my service is up to take advantage of those activities.  Ankith’s life sounds tough, doesn’t it?  He assures you that he “works” very hard, every day.

I ended up staying in Dakar for New Years since my friend Christiana was arriving to Senegal bright and early the 3rd (which ended up being the 4th).  Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from new years since none of us had anything planned, but it ended up being one of the best I’ve had.  We had dinner at the home of some embassy workers (yay hired chefs!), then met up with a bunch of our other PC friends downtown Dakar, rang in 2010, then moved to a fancy hotel’s club to dance the night away.  Nothing was planned and we flew by the seat of our pants all night, but it was incredible.  I got to see some of my closest friends from my training group, and ended up staying out with everyone until 5:30am!  If only Dakar had 24 hour diners.

While in Dakar, I got a solid amount of work done in the PC office, and got some of my recent ailments taken care of as well.  Amoebic cysts (cystic amoebas?): gone.  Staph infection: treated. Itchy-4-month-long-bug-bite: solved.  The PC nurse sent me to the dermatologists to get my staph infection and mystery “bug bite” checked out, and now, I’m so thankful she did! Turns out that what I thought was a bug bite, was definitely not.  I had gotten these “bites” around August, and noticed that they were unusually itchy and formed a small water blister that whenever I popped, promptly reformed a few days later.  Weird.  I wasn’t expecting much upon return from the doctors, but when I sat down with the PC nurse, I got quite a shock.  Creeping eruption.  “Creeping what?” I thought. Oh god, I’ve heard of this,  “This is the worm thing right?” I asked the nurse.  Yes Amanda, not only is it the “worm thing,” but the “worm larvae thing.”  More specifically, creeping eruption is where a worm larvae gets under your skin and basically lives there, “creeping” along under the surface (see photo).  “Well what’s the blister than?” I asked.  Oh the blister? That’s the worm’s life cycle. 

Que me jumping around the office with emphatic “EWWWW!”s.

Let’s just say, during my four-months as a “host,” little mr wormy dude had gone through more “life cycles” than I can count.  Yeah. Ew.

So the doc gave me a pill and cream to kill the little guy with.  Now, I think I’m all good.  I had had “bites” in two places, on the inside of my knee and my lower back.  This is strange because usually people get creeping eruption on their feet since it’s said to come from fecal matter.  Apparently I enjoy rolling around in shit but blacking out to do so because I have no recollection of ever having “fecal matter” come in contact with those two spots of my body, (or any place on my body for that matter).  To be honest, about two months into my hosting of this itchy “bug bite,” creeping eruption had passed my mind as a possibility, but at the time, I couldn’t see any “creeping” in my bug bite, just an “eruption,” so I just ignored it.  It’s only now that I clearly see the creep-trail, (again, see photo).  Oh well, now I know.

Anyway, shortly after new years, Christiana arrived and our adventure began.  We traveled in seven sept-places, endless taxi cabs, met up with over twenty-five PCVs, met five other PCVs’ guests, and ate everything from village food to ice cream.  That adventure though, is its own blog post.

Hi everyone!

I apologize for my MIAness, but have wonderful news – I have a camera cord now!  I know, I know, most of you weren’t even aware of this problem, you were just annoyed at my lack of photo posting, but it was because I didn’t have a cord to connect my camera to my computer and the person closest to me with one was a 8 hour car ride away!  Boo Olympus cameras with their odd memory cards and weird cord attachments.  But either way, it’s all good now.  I promise to upload as much as I can between now and tomorrow night.

Other news: the well at Fode Bayo’s Case de Sante is finished!!  They’ll be a blog entry on that alone so I’ll leave my comments at that for now, but HURRAH!

I have a puppy.  His name is Nacho.  He looks like a little cow (white with black spots) and likes to sleep on my feet while I work on murals at the Case de Sante.

I’ve been sick a lot lately, turns out I had amoebic cysts (cystic amoebas?), which meant 40 pills in 10 days.  I’m more than half-way through the medication now, and am happy to report normal potty routines (if there is such a thing in this country) and slowly increasing energy.  Your welcome for leaving the details at that.

I’m the new editor of Peace Corps Senegal’s volunteer newsletter.  I know, why they let me have this much control over something all the volunteers read is beyond me, but hurrah!! I’m really enjoying contacting volunteers from all over the country with what they’re up to, and should have my first issue ready to “go to print” (read: be converted to pdf) by Wednesday!

Officially: I’m pooped.  Emotionally mostly, and physically.  I was going to stay in Kolda for Christmas since we had such a lovely Thanksgiving, but was convinced to join a random smattering of volunteers spending the holiday in Poponguine (beach town north of my training town, Mbour).  At first I was really against leaving Kolda since there’s so much happening these next few weeks, but now that I’m in Kolda, the idea of getting out of here for a week is beginning to feel like a refreshing breeze.

Cold season is dwindling.  As in, the nights are still COLD: sleeping with a wool hat, under a wool blanket, with socks/pants/long sleeves, but the days are hot again.  90s and 100 degree days, hello again.  Le sigh.

I woke up about 15 minutes ago from a restless night sleep here in Kolda.  I’ve been sick this past week (ameobas or bacterial infection, ew!), so a full dose of cipro has left me fatigued and a bit dizzy, but still, I didn’t sleep well.  Why? Because I’m SO nervous/excited about what should happen in about two hours.

Yesterday I met with a friend who’s organizing transport for me and my well materials this morning – he said they’d be at the “hardware store” at 9:00am.  Then I wandered over to the hardware store and purchased all the suppilies needed: 16 bags of cement, 10 bars of size 6 reebar, 10 bars of size 8, a libar of something called findefeer, and a wheelbarrow.  And now I’m nervous… because everything is going so well!  And if all continues to go well, two hours from now, I’ll be sitting atop my 16 bags of cement on a tracktor riding the rue national all 67k out to Fode Bayo.

Hopefully, you won’t hear from me for a few days – that’ll mean I made it =) Wish me luck, off we go!

PS: This post is titled “Thank You” because due to all of your generous donations, you’ve all helped meet the  $500.00 needed through Water Charity. THANK YOU SO MUCH!  I truly have the best friends anyone could ask for.  I’ll send along pictures of our well, (because it’s now just as much yours as it will be mine and my village’s), as soon as I get them.  Love you all!

Journal Entry

God I was sick today.

It’s amazing what having a “cold” in a hot climate can do to you.  Never the less, one where there’s no CVS… on the continent, and you can’t really explain what you’re feeling anyway because you only speak gurgles of Mandinka compared to everyone else.  It’d come out like this: “My nose and throat and ears hurt me. And sometimes my body is hot,” instead of: “My nose and ears and throat feel like they’re ina triangle of slowly solidifying plaster.  My sinuses feel as if they were under the weight of lead marbles being stacked higher and higher, one by one, every five minutes.”

“No, thank you, I do not want any millet right now.  Nebedayo? … [Damn it that’s what I tell you to eat when you’re sick…] Ok, sure, throw that in with the jumbo.”

“Alla maa jaatakendya fisiyataa ye.” [Blessing that’s said when one’s sick.]

Yeah, yeah. “Aminii, aminii.” [Response to a blessing.]  Thank you. Now I am going to lay down some more.  [Add one more lead marble to the pile.]

“Id like to plunger my face” – how do you say that in Mandinka?

Since installing into my site, I’ve been getting numerous, small staph infections in my armpits.  I know, gross right?  They’re disgusting.  I’ve kept from saying anything about to anyone but my sitemate Maggie and the PC doctor because I think it’s just… well, gross.

How gross? My staph infections appear in different ways week to week.  Sometimes, I get boils; little red, warm, hard bumps that have what seems like a blister over them, but the skin of the blister (boil) is so thin that when you touch it, it bursts (really painful after you do that, and I can’t stop fidgeting with them so I always burst mine), and then the liquid of the bursted boil creates more boils etc etc.  Gross.

Another way they can appear is as open sores; again, little, red, warm, bumps, but this time they have a open area of pus on top.  Think like a really big zit with a white-head that takes up half the size of the zit.  Grossed out yet?  Even my villagers asked me what they hell they were when I started getting these (and they get some pretty funky skin shit).

Last fun way I’ve gotten them is simply as large, warm, pinkish/red masses; they start little, like a bug bite, grow to the size of a marble, then to the size of a walnut, all the while aching and being really tender to the touch.  That’s what I have now in my right armpit.

All forms of this infection are pretty achy and tender to the touch.  As if it wasn’t enough to be absolutely disgusting – hey, now you can’t move your arm without it hurting! UGH.

Still, I feel like I can’t complain all too much because at least my staph occurs only in my armpits (so far).  My good friend April has been getting them on her face – around her eye – to the point where her eye swells shut.  With how much the Senegalese love to point out the obvious and how it’s socially ok to ask what we consider to be rude, blunt questions, (“What’s wrong with your face? What is that? Did you know you look terrible?), I can’t imagine how emotionally difficult her infections must be.  She did a pretty good job describing the experience though: http://downinafrica.blogspot.com/2009/08/you-know-whats-really-fun.html.

April and I got along great in training and are constant text buddies over the woes and celebrations of peace corps/village life.  This morning, our conversation is about our staph infections. Both of us have gotten the same medical orders for our bulging, hard, red, warm, stupid infections: warm compresses 6 times a day to try to help it drain on its own, (imagine boiling water, adding soap, dipping in a wash cloth then putting that under your armpits… and that’s what I’m doing right now!).  If that doesn’t work after 36 hours, start on erythromyocin (antibiotic). If that doesn’t work, come to Dakar where we’ll make an incision in it and drain it.

Mental.

I’m so sick of these stupid staph infections.  They don’t seem to ever go away, (at least not without a new one appearing, hurrah!), and nothing I seem to do is really getting ride of them.

UGH. I’m gross.  As April just texted, we deserve a stiff drink and ice cream.

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