A Story: how IST turned into med hold
A couple of weeks ago, my cohort got together for what’s called IST [In-Service Training]. IST occurs approximately 90 days after moving to site and serves as the end of our probationary period. Oh and we invite counterparts as well. I haven’t gotten into a whole lot about the cluster-fuck that is my assigned health center because if you can’t say anything nice… Anyway, I’d asked my official counterpart to come, but she said she could not. [This is a person that I enjoy working with and while I realize she is exceedingly busy, a person I can see building a successful relationship with.] I asked another person to come, and she too, said she could not. So I was prepared to attend all alone and be totes fine with it and display my message to PC in a obvious way [you want to know why nothing is happening? I can’t even get a counterpart to IST] But alas PC circumvented my plan by calling the HC direct and inviting the previous volunteer’s counterpart–he has since moved to another position in the HC, and I’ve talked to him before IST exactly once. Well played, PC… well played.
Fast forward to Sunday night. I still don’t know that a counterpart is coming, but we get started. First topic, Ebola [short story: it’s coming]. A PC epidemiologist and our country director spent time with PC | Uganda trying to develop a plan on what to do if a case enters either country [I give our evacuation chances to be 50-50, and if I had to narrow that down even more, I’d go with April-June as prime evacuation time. There are a whole host of reasons for this, and if you really want my opinion ask me and I’ll tell you in private].
Imagine my surprise on Monday morning when a vaguely familiar person greets me [Surprise: it’s the HC data manager aka my counterpart for the week]. Monday is what you’d expect from a conference involving roughly 50-60 people [welcome…we’re glad you’re here…review…how to work together with the PCV… blah, blah] Yay… it’s 5:00 and day one is in the books. A group of us decide to go out to meet a few ED 8 volunteers who are COS’ing in the next few weeks. We toddle off… it’s about 7:00 or so so in Rwanda, dark. But we’re in a city. A city with street lights. No problem, right? Wrong. This is what I remember. I was walking alongside 2 other volunteers, sometimes on the sidewalk sometime off. We were talking. Then I was on the ground with intense pain in my left leg. The though–well that hurt– went through my head, and I know myself enough by now to know if that thought goes through my head then I am essentially screwed [The ripped toenail of 2017 and the broken bones of 2015 as evidence]. I sat on the ground for some time [if felt like a long time, but I’m sure was less than 30 seconds], looked to see if any bones were poking through the skin, look to see if my jean were intact, and I in fact did not have bones poking through the skin, and my jeans were in fact intact. Win- win, right?
Not so fast…
I could feel the swelling occurring and even thought I made it to see the ED 8’s off, I came back early because I was seriously worried that my leg would swell to the point that I wouldn’t be able to get my jeans off, and well, the jeans are important. They are probably the only pair that fit me in this entire country. I got back to my room at the hotel, took off said jeans, and went about applying First Aid the best I could given the circumstances. I knew that our PCMO was coming tomorrow so I thought I’d have her take a look at it, and that would be all.
I was wrong… So very wrong…
After her session, she took a look, and was like hmmm, there’s a lot of swelling. I think x-rays are warranted in this situation. You are coming back to Kigali with me for x-rays so you’ll be on med hold today and tomorrow, and if things are OK, then you can go back. I’m thinking… OK, nbd, I can go to Kigali for a day, then meet back up with my peeps in Musanze after med hold, and enjoy the rest of the conference [read: free food that I don’t have to cook, hot showers, and a king sized bed].
That did not happen…
I got the x-rays. Nothing was broken, but there was still an abundance of swelling and pain so I stayed on med hold another day. [To be honest, I doubt I would have not gone back if it were not for Thanksgiving–so while in retrospect staying in Kigali would have been the better medical decision, I do appreciate that I got to spend Thanksgiving with my cohort]. Thursday night, Friday and Saturday were pretty much a blur as I was in a lot of pain and despite the opportunity to explore a new city, I just could not. And that made be somewhat sad.
I returned to Kigali in the PC truck on Saturday after deciding that public transportation would be too dangerous and/or painful to deal with. So I have been hold up at PC HQ since Saturday, November 24. In that time I have read 21 books, drew countless versions of the remodeling I’m going to be doimg post-PC, searched for new furniture for my post-PC house, thought of projects to do, stayed up past midnight and slept in past noon, eaten 3 pizzas, 5 hamburgers, 8 green apples, 2 jars of Biscoff, 4 containers of Pringles [Cheddar Cheese, Pizza, and Sour Cream and Onion x2], 3 versions of spaghetti, and 3 burrito bowls. I have also had 13 holes poked in my arms, including lucky #13 where I did it myself [yes, I know… I’m a bad ass]. I’ve taken 126 tablets of ibuprofen which has done nothing for pain, and minimal for swelling but that’s all I can get from PC. [I’ve also taken 14 tablets of prilosec so those 126 tablets of ibuprofen don’t eat a hole in my stomach]. I have had one x-ray and one CAT scan with another to be scheduled this coming week. I’m on Day 15 of med hold which means I haven’t seen my little house in Mbazi in nearly a month. I’m sure my plants [mainly lettuce] have died and #notmycat thinks I’ve abandoned her. This also means I haven’t been to the health center in the same period of time so if/when I do go back, it will be exactly like starting over and with my upcoming vacation in less than two months I think why bother starting something now when I’m going away again.
To be sure… I have no idea when I’m leaving Kigali. Going up and down hills/stairs is still exceedingly difficult and when you are located in the country that calls itself ‘The land of 1000 hills’ that means that I have nowhere to go that relatively flat/ safe. And so I sit… living that med hold life
By now, I know that guards by site. They know I ‘live’ near the tanks [meaning I sit outside and read a lot and my sitting space is near the water tanks. I know there are 87 stair steps to get from the med hold room to the front gate of PC HQ [and even more if you want to go inside PC HQ depending on where your final destination is.. I know that guards do security checks every 30-45 minutes, although they don’t always badge the same spot each time. I know that when it’s raining, there’s even more time between security checks. I know the bottom bunk bed is the most comfortable of the 4 in the infirmary, and if you leave a fan running, it helps to act as mosquito control. I have gone entire days without speaking another word in English or Kinyarwanda. And of the 16 days I’ve been in med hold, I’ve been by myself for 11 of them.
Who knows where I go from here? I’m still swollen, not fully bearing weight, and in pain almost daily. I do know if I’m here another 30 days, medical separation from the Peace Corps becomes a distinct possibility.