Thursday, May 21, 2009

Jiggers: Nature's Pain in the Foot

(Pictured Here: A giant earthworm, possibly 12-15 inches long. This picture was taken before going into the jungle. I have included it here because both this picture and this blog entry showcase creepy-crawlers.)

Alrighty...I posted a few more pictures on facebook (Washington to Kigali to Butare to Kigali - part 2). I was also able to get some videos posted too. Yeah, a very productive day.

Why so productive, you ask? Because I have been in Kigali for two straight days and I am enjoying the fast internet connection at PC HQ. I will probably be here for a little while longer too, BUT before I get into that I want to give a 'shout out' to two people that have decided to move on from PC Rwanda and pursue other opportunities. These two people are remarkable individuals; they are great people and good friends. I wish them well on their journeys and I look forward to hearing about their future endeavours.

(...then there were 30...*queue dramatic music*)

These past couple days have been bitter-sweet:
I have seen two friends leave (bitter...our group is smaller by two people);
I have got to hang out with Mupe (sweet...he is such a pleasant person to be around);
I have had to leave my site for a while (bitter...I love Rwamagana);
I get to stay in Kigali (sweet...Kigali is as close to America as I am going to get for the next two years);
I learned that P.C. Rwanda may be receiving a new crop of volunteers before the year is out (sweet...these volunteers may be English educators);
I learned that my house and my feet are infested with Jiggers (BITTER).

Wait! Jiggers?! What?!

I will spare you the details...just google 'Jiggers,' there are plenty of articles about them. I had them pretty bad, but nothing like the horrible pictures that you may find on the web. I had about 50 or so and it took about 8-9 hours over the past two days to pull them out...ah, um, uh let me rephrase that...the better verb to use here is 'to carve'...yes...the past two days I have been in the nurse's office getting them CARVED out of my feet. Yeah, ouch!

Anyway, my feet are okay...a bit tender because of all the poking and prodding, but they are okay...there should be no far, no problem...if I had waited, however, there could have been trouble...big trouble.

I noticed them over this past weekend. I thought they were warts, so I called the PC Medical Officer (PCMO) and told her that I may need some 'Compound W' biggie...I was going to come to Kigali on the weekend of the 23rd to get a package and do some paperwork at PC HQ, so picking up the medication would be no problem. HOWEVER, the next day I noticed more of these 'warts' AND they started to burn and itch. I called the PCMO and asked to come into PC HQ in Kigali and have my feet looked at. She agreed...her diagnosis was 'Jiggers'...big, ol' African-sized 'Jiggers.' Grooooooss! The PCMO called her second in command and together they began the lengthy process of carving them out.

*Side Note: I must take this time to commend the medical staff of PC Rwanda. They have been, and are, working so hard to keep me, as well as the other volunteers, clean and healthy. They are great people.

'Jiggers' are transmittable from animals to humans and from humans to humans. I have been visiting a lot of people, so I caught them from one house/hut or another. Anyway, I have not looked at the feet of my neighbors, so I don't know from which domicile I contracted the little buggers. At any rate, I am glad I caught sight of them when I did; if you check the web, then you can see what long-term damage these things can do to someone...not pretty.

I disclose all of this information willingly...not to scare you (you shouldn't be scared...I am fine and in very high spirits) or to give you a bad impression of Rwanda (not everyone has these bugs). I am giving you all this information because there ARE several people in my village that are burdened with these insects AND these people do not have access to the kind of medical care that I do.

I ask that you pray for those people that are being tortured by these bugs and have little or no medical support. Extracting all these things is a long process and it is a bit painful, trust me. Moreover, getting too many of these suckers over a long period of time can be deadly to body parts. Keep the people that suffer from these insects in your prayers AND thank God that this is not a great medical concern in the states.

ALSO, keep the medical staff in your prayers too...the PCMO and her assistant spent hours working on me. People with a medical background, let alone doctors, are few and far between in Rwanda. They work hard to save limbs and lives every day. Keep them in your prayers.

Finally, if you are considering Peace Corps service, learn from my experience. If I have learned anything thus far, it is that keeping yourself as healthy as possible is KEY...especially your teeth, hands, 'special areas', and FEET.

In a country where traveling on foot is unavoidable, having strong, healthy feet is important. Contracting 'jiggers' can be prevented: wear closed-toed shoes; keep your feet clean (and I mean CLEAN, people...spend three times as much time cleaning them as you would any other part of your body); and inspect your feet at least daily. I was doing these things and I STILL caught these little terrors, BUT I acted fast and that has made all the difference.

I am going to spoil the surprise for all 'Peace Corps Hopefuls' out there; if you are in the Peace Corps, you will catch something...some kind of bug or flu or something...regardless of the precautions you take, you will be sick at least once...I promise you...BUT you need to be ever vigilant and take all the preventative measures that you can...AND once you are sick, get treated as early as possible, otherwise the consequences may be dire.

Anywaaaaaay, that's what's new with me. I am in Kigali for a little while and I should return to Rwamagana soon. When I get back I get to bleach my ENTIRE house, wash all my cloths, and begin recovery, fun, fun.

I'm sorry this entry was such a downer, but I hope it was educational and/or helpful to someone. I promise my next blog entry will have only good news. Hahahaha! So long, all. Amahoro!

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