December 1st, 2012
First off Happy World AIDS Day!
Second, I have had a very important and defining moment in my Peace Corps Service. I finally administered treatment for someone who was seeking medical care by consulting the book ‘Where There Is No Doctor.’ Every Peace Corps Volunteer around the world, as well as most workers in any rural part of the world, have this book on their shelf. It is the go to guide when trying to diagnose and treat any symptom or injury where/when there is no Doctor available. It’s the web-MD of the non-internet world. Despite the fact that I am a community development health volunteer my copy of this jewel of a book is a bit dusty. My experience with consulting its pages, mostly trying to self-diagnose, has made me a hypochondriac. It seemed any symptom I was having was a result from contracting TB, Malaria, a parasite, and a worm simultaneously. In reality I really only had mild cases of the runs (aka diarrhea), but its really easy to freak yourself out in the middle of the night in rural Africa when you feel like you are dying.
To avoid any un-needed stress I decided it was best not to look up my symptoms anymore. However, a few days ago my Babe (host dad) was building a new fence and the wire snapped and hit him in the eye. Make (host mom) had gone to bed and I was left to attend to Babe’s swollen and very painful eye. It was night, going to the clinic was not an option, so I pulled out my copy of ‘Where There Is No Doctor’ just to see what it had to say. It recommended an antibiotic eye ointment and keeping the eye covered for a few days since Babe was still able to see out of the eye, so I prescribed just that. I wasn’t really convinced he had heard what I told him as the next day he was out working in the field again and not seeking treatment. I left the homestead for a few days and arrived back today. I asked Babe how his eye was (it looked much better) and he showed me an antibiotic eye ointment Make had bought him when she went into town and he has been wearing his sunglasses as a protective barrier. He was so happy it was no longer causing him pain.
I feel I can officially call myself a Health volunteer now. I had read many accounts of PCVs consulting and treating out of this book, but so far my service had not presented me with a situation where I was being relied on for medical help. I’m glad I can finally add a ‘Where There Is No Doctor’ story to PCV service resume so to speak.