Next step on my Peace Corps journey: gaining medical clearance.
Before one can embark upon their Peace Corps service, they have to be medically cleared by a third-party company that works with Peace Corps to make sure that potential volunteers are physically and mentally healthy enough to serve the full 27-months without major issue. I gained access to some of my medical tasks back in October since I was required to fill out extra paperwork that focused on my functional limitations in my knee due to surgery a couple of summers ago. After getting ahold of my surgeon (no easy feat since he is one of the best, and therefore busiest, orthopedic surgeons in KY), I submitted my paperwork in mid-November. A couple of weeks later, the rest of my medical tasks populated on my medical portal with a due date of mid-January, giving me almost two months to get them completed. Most responsible adults would have instantly started making their doctor’s appointments to ensure plenty of time to complete the multitude of tasks that were required. However, because I like to live life on the edge, I waited until two weeks before the due date to have my dental and physical checkups completed. This is where my Peter Pan Syndrome tends to bite me in the rear.
Dental was no problem–my dentist was super easy to work with and the process was virtually painless (I mean, it’s the dentist, so there was a little discomfort involved). The physical and blood work I had to have done? Well, that’s a whole different story. First, I don’t have a primary care physician so I had to call clinics in my hometown to find somewhere I could get everything I needed taken care of in one fell swoop (physical, shots, blood work…all that fun stuff). Second, I had to have picked the most difficult clinic in Richmond to deal with. Good heavens. It’s a miracle I didn’t spontaneously combust with frustration in their waiting room. I specifically told them that my paperwork had to be signed by an M.D. or a D.O. so, naturally, they scheduled my appointment with a PA. No disrespect to PA’s…I sure can’t do what they do…but the federal government does not care. When the feds say they want an M.D., they want a freakin’ M.D.. I made it clear to both the PA and the nurse that was dealing with me that I needed a M.D. to cosign the paperwork and they assured me that they would take care of that. I was also clear about when I needed the paperwork and they again assured me that it would be ready by that time. Were either of the aforementioned requests done in a timely fashion? Of course not. I was in their office the day my medical paperwork was due, pleading with the receptionists and my nurse to just get the paperwork cosigned so I could have it. After an abundance of super pathetic, desperate pleas from me, the PA finally had another M.D. in the practice sign the papers, but it took me coming in there with my bodyguard (aka my dad) to get them to take me seriously and just do what I ask.
During all this nonsense, I was still stressed that I wouldn’t be cleared because, when my blood work was run to see my level of Hepatitis B immunity, it came back that I didn’t have any. So that’s great. I am currently going through another 3-shot series of Hep B since I am part of the 10-15% of the population that struggles with building immunity against this disease. I am really hoping that this next go-around takes because I would really like to not contract Hep B…not exactly something that’s on my bucket list. In addition to these shots, I also had to have a TB skin test (no pain) and a tetanus shot (dear Lord Jesus). If you have never had a tetanus shot, consider yourself lucky…it sucked soooo bad. Not only did the process hurt, but I had a knot on my arm for a solid 3 days that impeded my ability to sleep on my left side and had me concerned that my arm was gonna swell up and fall off (ok, maybe I was being a little dramatic, so sue me).
Anyway, after all that craziness, I had my medical paperwork uploaded and was just waiting for word on whether or not I was cleared. However, last week, I received notification of one more task that needed to be completed before clearance could be granted. Due to a recent outbreak of polio in Ukraine (which is just north of Moldova), Peace Corps wanted all volunteers to get an adult polio booster. Super not complaining about that because, while I think that FDR is a super cool guy, I am really not trying to emulate that part of his life. I went to the travel clinic at UK because (1) I knew they would have the immunization that I needed and (2) I was not trying to deal with the clinic in Richmond again. So, while I was there, I ended up getting a vaccination for Hepatitis A because, at this point, why not? I mean, really? I’d rather be over vaccinated than end up with some gnarly disease.
So, here’s a quick run-down. In the last month, I have received:
-5 vials of blood drawn
-A thorough physical examination
-Dental check-up and x-rays
-Full medical clearance to serve for 27 months in Moldova as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
Yep, you heard me right. I have been deemed medically fit to serve abroad for a full Peace Corps service and will be leaving My Old Kentucky Home on May 29th. All the major hoops have been jumped through and it’s actually, finally real. Cue the monthly Type-A induced panic attacks that I am sure to have up until I leave.