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Monday, June 29, 2009

Africa Pre-Show

The countdown has begun. One week until Africa.
Oh, have I mentioned that I’m going to Africa?
On Monday, I will be traveling to Northern Uganda.
Here is a picture for you geographically challenged:


While there, we will be helping in any way we can, which is basically EVERY way. Hospitals, orphanages, refugee camps, you name the need, Africa's got it. In lay men's terms, it sucks in Northern Africa. Often I wonder if our help is just scratching the surface and prolonging the problem rather than starting to fix it. Africa needs a good climbing into the heart of it and doing some major reconstructive surgery... not just offering it a band-aid. But I'm no "nation surgeon", so band-aids it is!

Today was Immunization Day for me, and true to my procrastinating nature, I received my yellow fever shot eight days before touching ground in Gulu and ten days before my vaccine is considered effective. Minor detail...

Five vaccines! Meningitis. Hepatitis B. Typhoid. Yellow Fever. Polio (because who gets Polio nowadays? Africa, that's who.)

Five vaccines. Five minutes. $550. On a good day, this man could make $6600 an hour:


Doesn't he look like he should be wearing birkenstocks with a guitar on his back? He was such a nice gentle soul. He had mastered the art of speedy injections the way an overachieving third grader masters times-table competitions. Before I could say "Ow" about Hepatitis, he was sticking me with yellow fever.


Also, while we're on the subject of yellow fever, the doctor/musician might have warned me, "Hey there, I'm about to inject FIRE under your skin." Yowza. It literally felt like he shoved a sparkler in me. Happy Fourth! Pre-party! Wooooo! I told him of the fire, and he said, "Oh yes, that is because it is the only live one that we give you"

LIVE? It's ALIVE? What the heck does that mean? I know you've waited your whole life to know too, and maybe it was taught to me in some science class, but honestly who ever paid attention in chemistry class? Yeah, not if you had my teacher, who looked like an uncanny replica of Miss Piggy. Oh, if you only knew that I am not trying to be funny when I say that she silenced me into captivated awe each day with her piggy nose and her blond hair that would swish-swish over her pink ears. How could you memorize the periodic table when you had Jim Henson's inspiration doing laps around the desks every day? Slow laps.

This is the lady who once woke me up from my 3rd period nap by slamming her hand violently on my desk, which in turn bounced my jaw against the wood, and ultimately proved my suspicions of a bad break-up with the puppeteer.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.” -Miss Piggy

Tell me you don't see the resemblance! They totally dated.

Okay, how did we get from yellow fever to The Muppets Take Manhattan?

First, what is a "live" vaccine?
According to the online medical dictionary, a live vaccine is one prepared from live microorganisms that have been attenuated but that retain their immunogenic properties.

Don't you love when dictionaries throw "microorganism", "attenuate", "retention", and "immunogenic" all in the same sentence in an effort to make things more simple? Ahh, thank you, dictionary. You have truly done your job. What the heck!

Simply put: you get a small dose of that little yellow mosquito's venom but just barely enough to kick in your natural army of disease fighters in your body to raise up and rally the troops. Once they've been trained, they're warriors for life... at least against the yellow fever enemy camp. So what is this fireball of watered-down death that was injected into me? And for $100, I might add. Is it really so bad if I skip the vaccine and purchase a new pair of Uggs right as they're going out of style (which would be a travesty because nothing that comfortable should ever go out of style).

Yellow Fever is caused by a mosquito bite. Here is the yellow fever mosquito:


In un-vaccinated countries, that ugly little bugger accounts for 200,000 people praying to the porcelain god and 30,000 people meeting the porcelain god. If you can't follow that analogy, I've got no help for you. I know that 30,000 people doesn't seem like that much, but that's like having all of Manhattan Beach die. Or all of Dartmouth. Or everyone who reads this blog, plus 29,995 of your closest friends.

It's a really fun disease that starts off with you saying, "Ow! Darn mosquito." That night, you have a headache, and curse yourself for cutting back on the caffeine. Then if you're in the 15% of the lovely winner's circle, you get to enter the next phase, more commonly known as the "toxic phase." In your gift bag, you get the flu (It's hot! No wait, it's freezing!), and "bleeding into the skin". And why not slow down your heartbeat while we're at it? You can't go the bathroom either, but what doesn't go down definitely comes up. Two or three days later, you get jaundiced, and I do not mean that as in your view of the world. Then, this clever little girl takes away all her symptoms for a few days. "I'm cured!" you think. But oh no! She comes back in full force where you hemorrhage internally and produce something known as "coffee ground vomitus", which contains no coffee grounds but plenty of bile and blood. Then you slip into delirium, followed by coma, followed by "Hiya, Jesus." Lovely way to go, wouldn't you agree?

Suffice it to say, no Uggs today. Now who's ready for dinner?

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