In which Emily gets medevaced

Medevac is short for Medical Evacuation. I am currently on medevac due to bilateral pulmonary emboli. For those of you who aren’t doctors, a CT-scan found a couple of blood clots in my lungs. After getting pneumonia twice in a row the astute Peace Corps Medical Officers who act as our in-service doctors ordered a scan of my lungs to see what was up. Lo, blood clots. After a strange week of being hospitalized in Bloemfontein, then Maseru, I was informed that pulmonary embolism requires medevac and that I would be taking an unexpected journey back home. After returning to site for a few days to pack up my things (and attend a delightful Halloween soiree with some PCVs), I hopped on a 17-hour flight direct from Joburg to Atlanta, then on home to La Guardia. Since I’m from an area with sufficiently close medical care, PC allowed me to medevac to my “home of record” in good ol’ Essex, CT. The past few weeks have been spent visiting a variety of specialists to understand why exactly I got these blood clots, as a 23-year old non-smoker with no family history of heart disease or blood disorders. The American doctors came to the same conclusion that the Bloem doctor did, which is that I am more sensitive to estrogen than most women, so the combination of taking birth control pills with the long flight over to Lesotho in June caused clots to form in my legs which over time floated into my lungs, subsequently making them vulnerable to infection like pneumonia. What is strange is that being in Lesotho really had nothing to do with my illness, it was just a converging of circumstances that ended in me being sent home.

The only symptoms I experienced other than a slight decrease in lung capacity were from the bouts of pneumonia, so I was not in any pain or discomfort throughout the hospitalizations or medevac.  The treatment is to a) permanently avoid clotting risk-factors like smoking, taking any form of hormones, or sitting down for extended car trips or plane rides (inconvenient but simple enough) and b) after having a blood clot one has to take blood thinning medication (anticoagulants) for an extended period of time in order to assure that it does not happen again. I have been prescribed a fairly new drug that as I understand is much easier to be on than the traditional stuff and will be taking it for a total of six months. So what next? The kicker is that convenient as this new drug is, and healthy as I feel, PC will not be able to clear me to return until I am off the blood thinner. Blood thinners do just what the name says, so I get to wear a cool Medic-Alert bracelet because I bleed/bruise more easily than I normally would. This means that if I get in a car accident, or some similar scenario, I will bleed quicker than normal and would need emergency care, again, quicker than normal. Unfortunately Lesotho does not have the emergency-response services that I would need as a person on anticoagulants. Medevac lasts maximum 45 days, so in a week and a half I will be Medically Separated. Medical Separation is a form of Early Termination, which in PC-speak means that my service will be ended early. Fortunately my medical status will change in less than a year which is within the time limit to ‘reinstate,’ meaning I can pick up where I left off in Lesotho without reapplying or going through training again. I will have to start my two years of service over, but I am fortunate in that I will most likely get to return to the same site and get going on the projects that my counterpart and I had only just started to work on when I left. If you’re like my mother and wondering a) am I mad at the Peace Corps? b) am I mad at birth control pills? c) am I really going back? d) am I a crazy person? then I can tell you that a) No, I understand the reason for my separation and agree that it would be risky, frustrating as it might be b) No, birth control pills are a wonderful thing and improve the quality of many lives for a variety of reasons, I am just unlucky in my body chemistry in this instance c) Yes, yes, a hundred times yes. If I’ve learned anything from my five months it’s been that Peace Corps is exactly what I’m supposed to do at this stage in my life, and I am not going to let this random hiccup take away what still is an amazing opportunity for me, and d) Ugh probably.

For now I’m looking for jobs, hoping to find something meaningful, productive, and income-earning to do during the next ~5 months. I probably won’t be blogging again until I’m at least on my way back to Lesotho (unless I get a demand of people hankering to hear about my job-search/unemployed life style), probably early May-ish. Thanks for reading thus far, and maybe I’ll see you around!