Monday, November 11, 2013

Peru Preparation Part One: In Which Michelle Endures Stabbings for the Sake of Disease Prevention

Waking up this morning to a right arm free of soreness has reminded me that I never wrote about my vaccinations for Peru!

As many of you know, I'll be heading for the sub-equatorial land of Peru at the end of the month.  A good friend of mine served her mission there and invited me to join her on a visit.  I, of course, said yes.  How often do you get the chance to go to Peru? In my case, never.

So the preparations began.  Eleven-hundred dollar plane ticket: check. Passport: check (thanks to an almost cruise my senior year of college; I got my passport...and ended up spending Spring Break at Disneyland - no regrets). Next on the list? Vaccinations.

I didn't foresee needing much, but I figured better safe than deathly ill. I consulted the CDC website without receiving much comfort, so I called the local health department.  They told me I'd have to make an appointment with a nurse. During my work hours. I decided I could take a long lunch and stay late that night.  I made an appointment for the next day and headed to my parents' house after work to locate my immunization card.  Turns out I hadn't had any shots since 1999. Crazy, right? But really, who gets into immunizations after you've reached the age where they're required for public schooling?

The next day, tiny yellow folded card in hand, I sat in a chair resting underneath a counter that didn't jut out far enough for me to appropriately fit my legs. While I waited for the nurse to print out a stack of papers, I studied the poster on the wall to my right.  It displayed various tropical diseases, with their causes, symptoms, and lovely pictures. Oh, and my favorite part: worst case scenarios resulting from catching said diseases. An incredible variety of ways for an exotic trip to go very, very wrong.

We went through roughly one ream of paper.  Various vaccinations recommendations and travel tips. Don't drink the water. Don't trust peeled fruit. Mosquito repellent must be your best friend 24/7; malaria bites at night and dengue fever in the day.  These were interspersed with a healthy "your friend will know this" or "your friend can tell you what's safe".  Apparently the health department has a lot of trust in my friend. Then came the part where I had to select my vaccinations.  The nurse recommended a tetanus booster (mixed with whooping cough vaccine) and a Hepatitis A vaccine. She also recommended a typhoid vaccination, but that could be taken in pill form.

Then there was yellow fever. That vaccine would not be covered by my insurance, since it's a vacation vaccination, so it would be $110.  A look at the yellow fever map, however, told us that I would not be entering the yellow fever area.  Fun fact: you can't even enter a yellow fever area without proof of yellow fever vaccination.

An hour into the appointment, it was finally time for shots.  Hepatitis A on my left arm, and tetanus on my right. I got some awesome neon yellow band-aids. The nurse told me that I'd feel the Hepatitis shot that day, and the tetanus shot for a couple of days after that. I didn't quite realize that "that day" meant minutes after the shot.  My arm started tingling oddly as I walked back to my car. By the time I got back to work, both arms were sore: the left quite a bit, the right arm only a tad.

That night I took my first typhoid vaccine pill. They had to be stored in the fridge, and I had to take it on an empty stomach with as much water as I could drink. The next morning, I rolled over to my right side and groaned. Soreness on shot number two had kicked in. In fact, I could barely move my right arm without feeling incredible soreness that entire day. The next day was a little better, until today came around.  Now it's only sore if I push on the exact area.

And that's the story of my vaccination.  It may not have been entertaining, but I tried to make it witty. Plus it'll be a nice story to print in future volumes of the blog book.

Thanks for reading.