22 September 2006

Peace Corps Medical Procedures

The official stance of the Peace Corps is to wash your hands every 4 minutes and avoid eating or touching anything for 27 months. The unofficial stance is that you might as well accept that you're going to get sick and there's nothing anybody can do about it.As far as vaccinations, they wait until you're in-country and then give you shots for everything they can think of. In Guatemala, they update your tetanus no matter what, give you shots for rabies, measles-mumps-rubella, rabies (sequence of 3), and others I'll try to remember. Personally I mind it strange they don't require this beforehand, because you're still at risk while waiting for the vaccinations to take effect.The Peace Corps requires volunteers before leaving the US to sign a form saying they'll comply with all medical requirements. That means in almost all of its countries to take chloroquine anti-malarial pills. These pills are known to have some side effects but are less harmful than most other anti-malarial drugs. From what I hear, it is hard on the kidneys and liver and for many people results in vivid dreams. Though likely a psychosymmatic effect, it does seem to be true for about 1/2 of our trainees.When Peace Corps Volunteers get sickPeace Corps volunteers are really spoiled when it comes to medical treatment. Here's the sequence for Peace Corps Guatemala volunteers when you get sick. First, you call a cell phone that's being held by one of two nurses (known as Peace Corps Medical Officers, or PCMOs) at any hour of the day. You tell them what's wrong and they help you through the process. If you need lab tests, they call you in from your site to Guatemala City, Antigua, or the center in Santa Lucia to have some tests ran. You get a little extra pocket money for such occasions. Within 24 hours most tests results are reported to the PCMO. If lab tests aren't necessary or just too inconvenient for an ill volunteer, the PCMO just tells the volunteer over the phone exactly what to purchase. If you need a prescription, they speak with the hired on Peace Corps doctor, who writes a prescription. The PCMO fills the prescription and has it delivered to the volunteer (usually by a Peace Corps staff person), or the scrip is filled at a local pharmacy by the volunteer.I was ill from Saturday to Monday with a gastrointestinal nightmare. I called the PCMO Sunday afternoon. She immediately explained in Spanish to my host mother how to make Gatorade and told me to take acetomenophen to break the fever. Within three hours a driver came and had me give him a stool sample (lucky driver). The next morning I received a phone call that the results indicated a bacterial infection and antibiotics were on their way. Within two hours the driver delivered antibiotics and I began feeling better.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Andrew, I'll see of this works. Glad to know you're feeling better. I won't post too many comments, but I check this blogspot everyday, sometimes twice. We're listenting, Brother.

I am required to mention that this blog doesn´t reflect the opinions of the Peace Corps.