Sunday, October 30, 2011

The City of Trees

Growing up, I never understood how Sacramento earned the title, "The City of Trees."

Now that I've lived elsewhere, I completely understand. There are a lot of trees here. Tons. My dad has over 40 on his little 1/2 acre plot alone.

I arrived safely home this past Wednesday. My parents pretty much refuse to let me do anything except recover, and it's proven to be good for my soul and body. I attended church for the second time in 4 months this morning.

Culture shock has not effected me very much, but I'm having trouble making choices. In Africa, there are just not very many choices. It's either eat rice or don't eat at all. Read a book or go and chat with whoever is around. The most choices I had to make happened while listening to my iPod.

I am still uncertain of what the next few months hold. My life has changed so much in the past 5 months that I am ready for whatever is next. My prayer is that I do not waste these months to come.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How it All Went Down:

Because I know you are all curious, here are the "bullet points":

Wednesday, September 7th:
      - out all afternoon at weekly market with my site mates, Catherine & Meghan
      - attended football (soccer) match in Meghan's village
      - left match early to get home before dark
      - frustrated that I was so tired bike riding only 3k (in the African bush)
      - suspected fever when I got home because I knew it was hot outside and it felt good
      - took temperature, well over 100F
      - rapidly felt worse, fever continued to rise by the hour
      - text messaged the duty medical officer, instructed to take ibuprofen, call next morning

Thursday, September 8th
      - waited all morning to hear from medical officer
      - finally call her; apparently she'd been trying but phone calls wouldn't go through
      - convince her that I feel awful, fever still persisting, send Peace Corps transit
      - PC driver Sam arrives at 3:30pm
      - get back to city at 7pm, draw blood, see doctor
      - spend night in med unit (air conditioned bedroom in health office)
      - meet Dr. Ararat, regional medical officer from Senegal, who is filling in in The Gambia for a week
      - Dr. Ararat spends night on couch in office waiting room = instant bond

Friday, September 9th
      - wait all day for lab results, lab not quick enough
      - develop itchy rash all over body and jaundice in eyes
      - decision to medically evacuate me to regional medical office in Dakar, Senegal
      - pack my small backpack (fortunately had my passport with me)

Saturday, September 10th
      - arrive to PC office in Dakar at 4am, attempt to sleep
      - meet MD after a few hours, draw more blood, have physical exam
      - testing liver & kidney functions as well as for all sorts of viral infections
      - sleep on and off throughout day, continue to itch and take tylenol to keep fever under control
      - informed that I'll be at the PC office in Dakar until further notice*

  • *I was never hospitalized during this experience. The "Med Hut" in Dakar is a dormitory-like setup in their regional offices. There are 4 bedrooms, a commons area, a kitchen, and bathrooms across the hall from the MD's offices and exam rooms. There are always a few volunteers rotating in and out due to their own medical adventures. During my time there, I met PCVs with an array of things: 2 broken feet (different PCVs), stomach viruses/parasites, malaria, mid-service physical exams, et al)

Monday, September 12th
      - ultrasound reveals normal pancreas, stomach, gallbladder, liver

Wednesday, September 14th
      - fever finally stabilizes into normal range without help of meds
      - rash and jaundice prevail
      - continue to have lab work every 48-72 hours, keep returning negative for viruses
      - another ultrasound reveals normal looking innards
      - Senegalese specialist suspects allergic reaction to malaria prophylaxis
      - start to build relationships with other 3 PCMOs (PC Medical Officers)
      - start new malaria prophylaxis, discontinue use of previous one

Thursday, September 15th
      - PCV friend Kim arrives from The Gambia to have her wisdom teeth removed
      - Dr. Ararat comes back to her home post after filling in in The Gambia for a week

Saturday, September 17th
      - high fever returns, bring down with ibuprofen
      - start 3 days of stomach virus on top of whatever is going on

Wednesday, September 21st
      - develop splitting headache on left side of head
      - appetite returning, rash slowly healing

Sunday, September 25th
      - meet first of my Lebanese family in Dakar: Mike, his wife, and 3 beautiful young daughters
      - have ice cream after lunch and they drive me around the city

Monday, September 26th
      - go to more Lebanese family's house in Dakar despite feeling exhausted
      - spirits lifted beyond explanation to be around "family," and eat good Lebanese food

Tuesday, September 27th
      - all but 1 PCMO leave country for 1 week for PC conference
      - start taking antibiotic in the event that this is caused by infection

Thursday, September 29th
      - wake up early to have NMRI done (basically an MRI) of my internal organs

Sunday, October 4th
      - wake up with a personality; convinced that the 1st malaria prophylaxis altered my personality

Monday, October 5th
      - Dr. Ararat informs me at 9am that I will be med evac'd to Washington, DC
      - leave PC office at 8pm, fly to Paris

Wednesday, October 6th
      - meet Ed on airplane from Paris to DC, associate director of safety & security for PC

Thursday, October 7th
      - arrive to DC in afternoon, part ways with Ed after he sees that I will get to where I need to be
      - staying at a hotel in Georgetown with about 6 other Med Evacs from all around world
      - my job here is to attend doctors appointments and meet with PC Washington medical staff

Friday, October 8th
      - meet with specialist in morning
      - diagnosis until proven otherwise: drug-induced hepatitis from 1st malaria prophylaxis
      - order more labs and that radiology films be read by US radiologist

Tuesday, October 18th
      - waiting for follow up appointment with specialist's colleague
      - continue to explore options for further PC service in a non-malaria region

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

On Asking "Why?"

At one time or another, every adult finds themself in a life situation that leaves them with only one option: to throw their hands in the air, turn to the heavens, and ask God the inevitable, "WHY?" Some scream it over and over. Some whisper it through tears. Yet others repeat the question for days on end. Most, if not all of us, ask knowing fully well that we will never obtain satisfactory answers. Robyn's sister will never know why her baby son ceased living at seven months in the womb. Beau's parents will never know why he had to be the junior high boy struck by an oncoming car. For those who trust the Creator, the answer is simple: for God's glory. Joseph's life, Job's life, Daniel's life--let alone Christ's life--all bear witness to this reality. But just because the answer is simple does not mean that it is easy to understand.

After the situation requiring me to leave Africa, I am asking my own set of "Why?" questions.

Why did my body freak out?

Why would God provide so many amazing people, situations, and connections just for me to leave them three short months later?

Why did He bring me all the way there, have me suffer through what is supposedly the hardest part of Peace Corps service (training), and not have me finish the two years out?

Why am I being separated from the relationships that I have worked so hard to establish?

All the answers are unclear, save one: for God's glory.

Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose." And I believe that. I trust it, though easier said than done.

I think God's purposes are not singular in purpose. Perhaps soem of them may be. But the more I think about possible answers to my own questions, the more I realize the plurality of options. Isaiah 55:8-9 reads:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
   neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
   so are my ways higher than your ways
   and my thoughts than your thoughts."

I received news today that I will not return to Africa, I am returning home to California. After more than a month of being alarmingly ill, medically evacuated to Dakar, Senegal then to Washington, D.C. and being uncertain of cause and effect, I have come to grips with the reality that my body cannot handle the West African environment and its demands.

Though many emotions are running their course through my mind, the biggest emotion I have been wrestling with is sorrow. My heart is sad to leave Africa, though I never thought I would be confessing this out loud. Yes, the short time there was difficult. The most difficult three months I have ever experienced, illness or no illness. Mostly, I am sad to leave the many relationships that I established and were starting to take root.

The future is wide open again. For the time being, I will return to my parents in northern California and continue to recover. Options of starting service over in another region of the world are being explored. May God continue to receive all glory, praise, and honor.

Goodbye, The Gambia.