Friday, July 26, 2013

Pursuit of Healthiness: Medical Clearance

I suppose I'm overdue for a post, but there really hasn't been anything to write about. The Peace Corps, you see, is a giant game of "Hurry Up And Wait." There are a few deadlines that require great effort (usually paperwork-related) but they are so spaced out that you're just left sitting in the dark for weeks or months at a time.

Today was one of those deadlines that I am so happy to have completed so I can resume sitting around and pretending I don't have to pack 2 years worth of stuff into 2 suitcases in a couple of months (really 1 because I have designated one suitcase to be filled with peanut butter and kraft mac n cheese). Today was the end of medical clearance!

Ahh yes. No more being pricked or stabbed or poked and prodded. This is a major relief for me for two reasons. First, I don't like the doctor. Don't get me wrong, I love my doctor and all the nurses who work in his office. In fact, I had my first tearing up moment when they were all saying goodbye and wishing me luck. They have all known me since I was born, after all (Yes, I still go to my pediatrician, judge if you wish). But the Tupps clan is traditionally a self-medicating kind of family. If we go to the doctor, we go because there is no other choice. If it can possibly get knocked out by our immune systems, we let it. So the fact that I had to have a dental exam, physical, extensive blood work, vaccines and a...ehem...female exam in the span of a few weeks was just too much. Granted, I have had months to get this done but let's not pretend my procrastinating ways left my system when I graduated.

Secondly, since the Tupps clan isn't in the market for routine medical maintenance, we don't have health insurance. So basically I thought I was going to have to put up my unborn children as collateral in order to pay for all of these things. I made it work, though, with some resourcefulness. For the dental exam, dentists belonging to the ICD will do peace corps exams and xrays for free! So I found this nice old man in Atlanta to do mine.

Then there's the lab work. There's really no way of getting around paying a good bit for lab work and PC requires a lot of it! I did manage to get my HIV, Hep B and Hep C tests done for free by requesting my test results from the Red Cross after giving blood, which is something I do regularly anyways. That cut a big chunk out of the cost and I had enough money saved from nannying and graduation that I could now (at the last minute) get the rest of my blood work done at the health department. Of course, no one wants to make two trips to that awful place so I scheduled my pap test for the same day.* Needless to say it was not the best day ever.**

Now all that I had left was the physical, which I thought wouldn't cost much until I saw the fine print that it must be done by an M.D. or a D.O. and realized the only people who work at the walk-in clinics or the health department are nurses or PAs. Anyway I came out of it spending less than $500 so for all you uninsured future PCVs it can be done!

And it is done! And I am glad, because I felt like I was walking around with band-aids on my arms for a solid two weeks.

Now, on to more exciting things.

I found out that staging is in Philadelphia! So while I'm not as excited as I would have been if it were in LA or DC, I still can't wait! Philly cheesesteaks and the Liberty Bell! Staging, by the way is sort of a 2-day debriefing where all of the Group 21 Mozambiquers meet each other before we fly out for training. Did I mention that I'm excited? I cannot wait to meet everyone I'll be going with and to, you know, actually GO. The only bad thing about it is that the Braves aren't playing in Philly the days I'll be there, sigh.

That's all for now. I'll report back when there's something to report about again. In the mean time, the list of things to do/buy gets longer and the days get shorter.

*Side story: An example of how awful the health department is: I am sitting in a chair waiting for a very nervous nurse to draw blood. I have tiny veins and whenever I give blood they always have some sort of issue getting that large needle in there. She asks for someone else to do it because she can't find one to draw from and two nurses come in to help. One of them says loudly that she hasn't drawn blood in a long time and needs to "practice on someone." My nurse tells her she doesn't want to practice on me because of my veins. She says "Aw, I bet I could do it!" I don't know what the stare I gave her looked like but I was trying to channel, "touch that needle and I will use it to gauge your eyes out slowly." It must have worked because she let the second nurse do it.

**Another health department gem: I was not allowed to eat or drink anything before drawing blood for my lab work, yet they still expected me to pee in a cup. Twice.