Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My friend Taylor

There are many things that one should be prepared for when heading to Africa. I spent a considerable amount of time researching and organizing vaccines and health care coverage, buying a mosquito net, packing bug spray and sunscreen, finding appropriate clothes, etc. Africa, in my mind, was a big scary unknown place where a countless number of bad things could happen to you.

After being here for a few weeks, I slowly realized that this is simply another place on earth where humans live happily and comfortably. The local people are not overly concerned about mosquitoes, malaria, sun exposure, robbery, health care, and the like. They simply live their lives. And, after being here for a while, we simply lived ours. All of my concerns faded to a point where sunscreen, mosquito nets, bug spray, etc. didn't seem like such an important detail any longer.

Originally, I wouldn't have dreamed of walking barefoot anywhere here, but, time wore on, comfort levels rose, and I found myself wandering campsites, beaches, and more without shoes on. Everyone was doing it. I know, I know, bad reasoning, but when in Rome, or Africa... Especially when you are staying on the tropical island of Zanzibar, it just seems natural to wander the white sand beaches in your bare feet. Little did I realize that this would come back to bite me (more literally than you might think).

As the island became a memory, my left foot became itchy. I thought it was simply a mosquito bite which needed a moderate amount of scratching. After a few days without change my mind started to drift towards athletes foot. I scratched. My nurse friend took a look, she was not convinced it was fungal. This concerned me a bit, but instead of doing something intelligent, I scratched. Several weeks after realizing my foot was suffering from an ailment that could not be diagnosed using the extensive knowledge obtained from my Bio 30 course, I decided I should have a local medical professional have a look.

I have health insurance. I will leave the name of the company out of this post in hopes they will continue to cover me. I decided I should call Blue Cross (oops) before going to the doctor. My card suggests that I call them collect. It was interesting to learn that the Ugandan telecom company does not offer that service. So after 2 hours of phone drama, I finally reached a human being. She took my information down and I explained, to the best of my knowledge, what my problem was. She politely suggested I see a doctor. After my brain finished calling her names, I used my mouth to ask some further clarifying questions. None of these could be answered however, all I was promised was a return phone call.

My driver and I decided not to wait for the call. At this point I was ready to get this figured out. I scratched. My driver said he knew the place where all the westerners go. Considering my heritage, I agreed this would be a good place for me.

The clinic was called "The Surgery". There were many mzungus, including two white doctors. After about an hours wait, I finally saw a doctor. My ears have become tuned to Ugandan English so understanding him wasn't a problem. The conversation was short and sweet. He asked me what my problem was. I showed him. He asked me if it was itchy or painful. I scratched. He asked me where I'd been. As I was saying Tanzania, he said, "oh, you have a tapeworm. Don't walk on the beach without your sandals on next time."

The doctor's desk was littered with normal doctor things: pens, papers, pictures, a stethoscope, and a few pill bottles of random sizes. He sat down at his desk and asked me if I'd like drugs. YES PLEASE! At this point I thought I'd receive a prescription; instead, he grabbed a huge bottle of pills sitting right on his desk, dumped some into a zip-lock bag, and handed them to me. He said, "take one twice a day. You're lucky, this kind of worm affects dogs badly but in humans it can't get to your digestive system. Your body prevents it." Wow, what a relief. For those nerds out there, I have Albendazole, the same drug used to de-worm just about everything imaginable. I am on a strong dose because the worm is in my foot instead of my gut.

Interestingly, as I write this now, it has become incredibly easy to see the worm under my skin. It is like he has been found out and has no reason to hide any longer. So, you may be wondering, who is Taylor? He is the worm in my foot. I named him Taylor the night before I went to the doctor. There is no reason for the name other than it was the first one that came to mind as I gazed upon the small, but significant eighth member of our team.

No comments:

Post a Comment