Health & Fitness

101: Regret the Puppy

“Here we are,” Chandra said as the two women spilled out of the pickup truck that had given them a lift from Mutanda junction.  Their bags tumbled out on top of them.  When the truck door was shut the drive gave a slight nod of his head and pulled away.

“Where are we going?” Chelsi asked filling her arms with reusable grocery bags while trying to balance a box of strawberry plants on her head.

“The path way there by the red sign,” Chandra gestured to pathway on the other side of the tarmac road. The two women waddled across the road under their burdens, towards a neatly swept compound of houses.  About half way up the path a yellow puppy with an excited tail came bounding up to them.  “Oh, Regret, hi how are you?  This is my host brother’s puppy Regret.”

“Oh he’s so cute, he reminds me of Daisy when she was this size.  Just so excited about everything! Aren’t you so excited!” Chelsi cooed to the puppy. “Alright, which house is yours?” she asked starting to feel the weight of the bags in her arms.

“There, that one,” Chandra nodded to a tall house with a thick thatch roof that swooped down over the door, nestled between a standalone storage room and a long laundry line.  They closed the last few meters and Chandra balanced the box she was carrying as she fumbled for her keys.  She slipped the key into the lock, twisted it open and pulled back the bolt.  The door swung open, they stumbled in, opening their arms onto the floor. “Welcome to my home,” Chandra smiled. “Everything is kind of anywhere because I haven’t had the time to make any furniture yet.”  A rainbow of plastic basins was stacked in the far corner.  A myriad of kitchen utensils, pots, pans and mixing bowls were piled around a couple of large black food bins.  Prominently placed in the moderately sized sitting room was a familiar looking futon.

“Where the hell did you get a futon?” Chelsi asked, bewildered, trying to take in her surroundings.

“No, Regret, you stay outside,” she scolded the little puppy, who connected his backend with her door mat. “What do you mean? It’s the futon from the Prov house. We got that new couch from Molly, so Laura said I can have this one.  Haven’t you noticed it’s been missing from the house for like, eight months?” Chandra laughed.

Chelsi and Chandra went about unpacking and organizing their things.  Chelsi only had with her a day pack, the pack she a taken with her when she left Jeremy alone in her house for site visit.  This was the last day of site visit, and Chelsi could have gone home that afternoon.  But I have what? 10 days left in the Kamijiji house?  What difference is a couple of days going to make?  So she decided to go home with her friend Chandra, a health volunteer whose house was another 50 km down the turn off to Chelsi’s house

The rest of the evening passed relatively uneventfully.  When they finished unpacking Chandra introduced Chelsi to her host family.  Her sisters welcomed Chelsi warmly, with hugs and smiles. All the while Regret the puppy was tow, wiggling his body and lapping excitedly at his nose.  Chandra’s host family scolded him when he got too close to the cooking pots, but otherwise treated him gently.

After a dinner of rice and vegetable the two women tucked themselves into bed.

The next morning Chandra started the brazier and Chelsi cooked the eggs.  When their plates were clean Chandra went off to greet her family for the day, let them know about the programs she had going on for the day.  Chelsi hung back to finish washing the dishes from the night before.  When Chandra returned her face was painted with distress. “My host parents said that Regret got hit by a car this morning over by the borehole.  He went with my host sisters to fetch water this morning, and a car that had pulled of the tarmac clipped his back end.”

“Is he okay? Well I mean, obviously not,” Chelsi started to stand up.

“He’s over there, curled up in the bush with my host brother.  They asked if we had any medicine for him.” She hesitated, “I don’t know what to do.”

“Well, let’s go have a look,” Chelsi was nervous that the injury would be gruesome, but walked over to the bushes where the boys were standing around.  They watched as she approached.  One of the smaller boys was making an attempt to catch the puppy, who Chelsi faintly see between the brush was limping about. Well he’s walking for now, so that’s good. 

By the time Chelsi and Chandra closed the space between the house and the bushes the boy had chased the puppy up against a wall of brush.  He was curled up tightly in a ball.  The rear foot on top was starting to swell rapidly.  “Oh baby boy, who’s such a brave puppy,” Chelsi used the voice she used to calm Daisy whenever she needed a shot.  “Are you being such a good a boy,” she continued crouching down. The boys both backed away and leaned closer.  “I know it hurts, but you’re being so brave,” She lifted the top leg gently see the other one.

Where skin had been torn away, dirt, sticks and leave were stuck to exposed muscle. There was a limited about a bleeding around the ends of the torn skin, and this paw wasn’t swelling as fast.  It could have been a lot worse.  “Alright baby boy, let’s get you cleaned up.” Chelsi scooped Regret up gently, cradling him against her chest.

“How is he?” Chandra, who was still standing closer to the house, asked.

“It not as bad as it could have been.  He really needs some stitches and a split, but do you have some gauze, ace bandages, antibiotic cream, some alcohol pads.” Chelsi adjusted her arms around Regret and kneeled to pick up Chandra’s welcome mat.  She crossed the few meters between Chandra’s front door and her chinzanza, shook out the mat and laid the puppy down on top of it. “There you go baby boy,”  He made a lame attempt to stand up and move away but kept him down by scratching behind his ears and placing a kiss on the end of his nose.

Chandra came out of her house with the supplies Chelsi asked for.  She placed them down beside the puppy in the chinzanza. “Iiii, that doesn’t look good.  That kind of stuff really grosses me out.”

Chelsi start picking the large debris out of Regret’s wounds.  She talked to him gently all the while and he eventually let his head rest on the mat, resigned to his fate of being helped.  As she worked, the pile of debris, alcohol pads and gauze wrappers grew high before Chelsi was satisfied with her work.  She finished by securing the gauze with the ace bandage and stroked Regret’s neck.  She would have liked to wrap the other paw to help control the swelling, but there was only one bandage and keeping the open wounds clean was more important she decided.   “Alright baby boy, you’re all set. Tomorrow I’ll change your bandages again.  Now don’t play to rough on it.” She smiled and the puppy looked up as she backed away.  “I’ll ask Chandra for some water for you.”

“How is he?” Chandra asked hearing her name.

“Time will tell.”

Categories: Action, DIY, Drama, Health & Fitness, Horror | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

099: Nearest Neighbor

Chelsi lugged her bike through the doorway and off the step of the porch; the rusted chain grinded against the crank.  Outside, Chelsi gently hoisted the bike’s pink frame onto her dish rack.  The rotting rack shook under the weight, but Chelsi figured, just this one last time.  The chain and gears needed oil, this Chelsi knew, but she had already packed at the bottom of her bag, in anticipation of the move she was to make in a matter of weeks.  Using a rag though, she wiped away dirt from crank and cassette, wrapped the rag around the chain and turned the crank.  The chain slipped though the rag leaving streaks of brown and black.

If only, Chelsi thought. If only I had a nearest neighbor my whole service.  I would have been out here cleaning the bike every other day.  Through her mind pasted the fantasies she had created and collected over the years about what it would have been like; to be able to hop on the bike and in 15 minutes be with another volunteer.  I could have had a partner for Camp TREE, an ally in getting my house fixed, a friend to care for Daisy.  I could have helped them plant trees around their house, build an oven, formulate feed for their ducks.  She shook the images out of her head.  There’s no sense in thinking about how things could have been, when to today we could know how they actually are.

Chelsi lifted the bike back onto the ground after checking the pressure in the tires.  “Daisy! Baby Girl, get up, get up, get up.”  There was a faint thud, thud before the dog appeared in the door way.  She stretched, front feet first, then back. She topped it off with a yawn.  “We’re going to go for a ride today,” Chelsi said walking towards her at the door.

In the house Chelsi grabbed her white plastic helmet, and blue chitenge bag, complete with water bottle and emergency snack.  The process of preparing for a visit to her nearest neighbor felt natural, even though it was her first time.  And the last time, the dark thought floated through the back of her mind.  Lilly, her near neighbor was only here for two days; not even a volunteers yet. A mere trainee.  At the end of the weekend she would go back to Lusaka to finish training.  She wouldn’t return until after Chelsi moved out; site visit they call it.  Chelsi only vaguely remembered her site visit; the three days she spent sitting in the dilapidated shack, Mike a called a shed with a bed.  She shuttered strapping her helmet to her head, and starting towards the road.

Daisy bounded up the path and on to the gravel.  She looked left, then right, then back at Chelsi.  Chelsi pointed to the right and Daisy trotted away.  Mounting the bike, Chelsi set off after her.

Biking down the road Chelsi wasn’t concerned that meeting would be awkward.  She didn’t think about what she would say, or should say.  She didn’t worry that Lilly would rebuff her unarranged arrival.  As a friend of the neighboring village Chelsi was even certain that lunch would be served upon her arrival by Lilly’s host family.  It’ll probably be the last time I eat nshima here.

Chelsi knew, that even though her and Lilly had never met, they were already friends; they were compatriots, Peace Corps volunteers.  Chelsi would do whatever necessary to help out her neighbors and fellows; to brighten their day or support them when the going got rough.  And she was sure, shortly, if not already, Lilly would feel the same pull.

Daisy’s long legs loped around the last curve to the left.  She knew the way.  Lilly’s host family was a good friend of Chelsi’s and she had made many visits to the house in the past.  On the bike, Chelsi swerved around the well to the path that went round a fallen tree to the main compound.  The children had screeched with excitement when they saw Daisy run up, so that the adults knew Chelsi was close behind and had a few moments to prepare themselves accordingly.

“Aaah, Ba Chelsi. Welcome,” Kenny said reaching to take her bike away before she had even dismounted.

“Thank you, thank you,” Chelsi looked past all of the excitement to the volunteer compound that was set off to the back.  “I’ve come to see Lilly.  She made it okay?” Chelsi asked as Kenny walk back to his seat in the shade, after having leaned her bike against the wall of the house.

“Yes, yes, yes. She is there!”

Chelsi peaked around some trees, and sure enough she saw a woman in a chair in the small chinzanza at the front of the volunteer house.  Chelsi could see that the commotion of here arrival to the compound had caught her attention.  Chelsi waved. Lilly waved back. “Naiya,” Chelsi called and started in her direction.

Categories: Adventure, Drama, Health & Fitness | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

097: COS Party

Chelsi threw herself down on to the couch of the back porch of the Prov house.  “Hey Thomas, Janelle. How are you two?” Though they sat in the shade, the mid afternoon sun heated up the air enough, so that without effort small bits of sweat beaded up on the foreheads.

“Where good,” Janelle piped up. “How are you? How’s your site?”

“Well, when I came back from medical last week, my house was flooded, and the back portion of my roof collapsed.”

“Oh no,” Thomas chuckled, taking a swig of his drink. “Have you talked to Paige yet? Something like that happened to her too.  Like her walls broke.  It’s crazy, have her show you the pictures.”

“How is it now? Is it still broken?” Janelle squeaked.

Chelsi sighed, “My house is always broken.  But my host family came a propped the roof up some with sticks.  When it started slumping again, I went back and got another one of my friends to get some more sticks to give it a little more support.  It seems okay now, it not leaking any more than normal. We’ll see how it is when I get back.” Needing a drink, Chelsi stood up an made her way through the side door and into the kitchen.

The kitchen was a buzz with people peeling potatoes and cutting, chopping, shredding coleslaw components.  “Hey Chelsi,” Chelsi’s friend Tyler set down his knife and opened his arms for a hug.

“Hi Tyler, how’s dinner going?”

“Good, good, everything is going alright. When did you get here?”

“Just now, I had a horrible time finding transport so I ended up just calling a taxi. I also thought, ‘maybe I just shouldn’t come.’ But I knew I’d regret missing my own Close of Service party.” Even though Chelsi wasn’t officially closing, or ending, her service for another 15 months, she still felt a kinship to the other fellows in her intake who were leaving, and didn’t want to miss out on the tradition.  “I guess I could have walked, but I really didn’t want to be too tired by the time I got here.” With that she reached up on the cupboard shelf for a cup.  The vast number of people at the house meant her choices were limited.  She decided on a large stainless steel mug.

“No way! You need that energy for the mud pit later!” It was Oliver’s voice, coming up from behind.

“Oh my goodness, you guys really want ME to get in the mud pit? And do what?”

“We’re going to wrestle!” Oliver, cheerful as ever. Tyler laughed.

“Alright, we’ll see.”  Chelsi twisted the spout of a wine box on the counter and filled her cup.

 

The hot day slipped in to cool night.  All the while empty cups were refilled, and bellies were stuffed with fried chicken, mashed potatoes and coleslaw.  Chelsi was relaxing on the front porch with a few of the volunteers from the newest intake, when a ruckus of sounds drifted through the house from the backyard and into her ears.

“What’s that? What in the world are they doing back there?”

“I think that was Maddy defeating Oliver in the mud pit,” Victoria chucked. Chelsi had almost complete forgot about the mud pit. “I think that means I’m next, but I definitely don’t want to wrestle Maddy.” Victoria quickly downed the rest of her drink and stood up.  Curious, Chelsi followed suit.

“Are you going to get in the mud pit, Chelsi?” Jordan asked, remaining cross legged on the floor.

“I don’t know, will go down there, check it out.” Arm in arm Chelsi and Victoria made their way across the front porch, through the house and out in the backyard.  All the while whispering about potential wrestling mates.

In the poorly lit yard only about half of the people could be seen.  The others, covered head to toe in mud were catalogued against the night.

“Victoria, I think your next!” Tyler announced, being the first to notice the two women’s arrival.

“Okay, but I’m only going to go in if Chelsi goes in with me.”

“Fine, I’ve been convinced.” Chelsi smiled.

The two women removed nearly everything. Shirts, shoes, socks, skirts, watches, earing, so that when they were ready they had on nothing but their underclothes.  Holding each other’s hand for support, the two stepped into the pit together.  Chelsi hadn’t anticipated just how slippery it would be.

“Okay, rules,” Tyler announced. “Everything goes, but to win you need to pin both of your opponent’s shoulders for at least three seconds.”

Chelsi, not really sure what she was getting herself into, instinctively crouched down.  Her friend Victory was tall and narrow, so maybe if I get her below her center of gravity?

“On my mark,” Chelsi was aware of the small group that began to gather more closely around. “GO!”

It was harder than Chelsi imagined it would be. The mud was slick and any time either woman made an attempt to grab the other, the other would just slip away. They laughed and squealed some but had to remain mindful in order to keep mud from filling their mouths. It was difficult to say just how long they fumbled around in the pit for, but the two grew tired quickly, And Chelsi, having finally gotten a secure reach around the back of Victoria’s knees, was able to knock her off her feet and on to her bum. Chelsi was surprised by the strength of Victoria’s upper body, when she tried to push her back into the mud.  Chelsi nearly lost her advantage more than once, until Victoria’s arms tired, while Chelsi’s weight didn’t, and Victoria’s back and shoulders slid into the mud.

“ONE, TWO, THREE,” Tyler’s voice rang, and the crowd cheered.

Chelsi stood up, extending a hand to help Victoria, who took it with a smile. “You’re right, that was kind of fun. Thank you.”

“Yeah! Wow you’re good,” Victoria laughed.

The two friends carefully picked their way out of the pit, the crowd backing away to give them a wide berth.

“Alright, who’s next?!”

Categories: Action, Health & Fitness, Thriller | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

067: HIV

Some of the young women of Chelsi’s HIV club crowded around the bench where one of her game participants had just taken a seat.  But Chelsi didn’t notice at first.

“Alright! So our game of the baby elephant and lions, what did the baby elephant represent?” She took a rhetorical pause. “The baby elephant is our body. The Mother elephants protecting the baby elephant is our…?  Immune system! The Lions are,”

“Germs!” One of the secondary school boys shouted before Chelsi finished.

“Very good! And once we’re sick with HIV, what happens to our immune system? Our immune system is weakened.  Remember, we removed some of the mother elephants, then it was very easy for the lions to attack the baby.”

Soon the commotion on the far bench under the tree became great enough that Chelsi couldn’t help but notice.  She took a few steps towards the group of young women. When the group saw her approach the parted ways revealing a young women in a brown dress and bright red knee. Chelsi felt an unexpected surge of adrenaline. “Shit,” one of the other students had been trying to rip up a dirty chitenge into a bandage. “You lions, you are too aggressive.” She turned back towards her bag on the other side of the church yard. Grab some Kleenex, an alcohol pad, gauze, gauze, gauze, where are you? Quickly squirting some hand sanitizer on her hands, she went back over to the bleeding student.  The other woman starting to try and fashion a bandage with the chitenge.  Chelsi politely pushed her aside.

“Here,” Chelsi handed her the clean tissue.  The women rarely spoke during sessions, so it was hard to gauge their level of English, but the young woman seemed to instinctively know what to do with the tissue.  She started blotting around the wound.

Peace Corps had made it abundantly clear that volunteers were not to be giving out medicines, but bandages are pretty benign.  And Chelsi wouldn’t have, except that she felt partially responsible; it was her session and she wanted to help her students.

Chelsi ripped the foil top off the alcohol pad and held it out.  She didn’t want to touch it, but her student just looked at her, not understanding the gesture.  Of course she’s never used an alcohol pad. Reluctantly Chelsi removed and opened the pad holding it up over there wound. She could see where the blood was starting to ooze out of the woman’s skin again.  Come on, she thought.  The woman replaced her fingers with Chelsi’s, but instead of applying it directly to the wound she wiped around it.

“No, you have to wipe the wound itself.” Chelsi said, but her student just looked up at her with a grimace. She knelt down and move the woman’s hands around so the cloth pad was over the wound again. “Alright, this is going to hurt, but it’s good for you.” The young woman let out a shriek when Chelsi pressed the pad on to the wound with its crumpled up wrapper.   As soon as Chelsi stood back up to prep the gauze the young woman removed the pad.  Blood started up again quickly.

Chelsi passed off the fold gauze and fumbled with the tape. “I don’t have any medical tape. But this should work for now.” She stretched out a length of duct tape and snipped it.  She slapped it over the gauze, over the wound of the young woman’s knee.  Not the prettiest, but better than a dirty piece of cloth.  She signed, her students face was still twisted up in pain, but she tested out her knee and everything otherwise seemed to be alright.  Chelsi looked around to the rest of the benches.

Students who hadn’t crowded around to watch were packing up their things.  “Thank you for coming everyone.  Same place next week.  We’ll be talking about transmission.” Chelsi, thinking she was in the clear, suddenly felt her stomach knot up into a ball. Fuck.

A few of the students who hadn’t yet departed returned the benches to the inside of the church. Chelsi gathered up her bag and books and called her dog.  The rest of her students went left down the road, she went right.

“That was really dumb,” she confessed to Daisy.  Chelsi scoured her hands for open cuts and scrapes. Far and away the most common way a volunteer would contract HIV is through unprotected sex.  And Peace Corps had hammered that home. Condoms where spilling out of every crevice of Chelsi’s house. She had no use for them, but Peace Corps just kept sending them. What I could have used was a pair of rubber gloves… HIV is of course transmitted through blood to blood contact.  But even if I had gloves, would I have remembered, or thought to put them on? She felt for her honesty; probably not. 

The knot of anxiety in her stomach loosened slightly. She sighed, content with the condition of her hand.  But you have to be more careful.

Categories: Health & Fitness, Thriller | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

066: Funeral Pyre

Chelsi looked down at the garden bed in front of her feet.  Just yesterday it had been covered in promising little radishes; now all it was filled with was dashed hopes and dreams.  The bed coverings were strewn about, dirt was piled up at the bed edges and claw marks were clear on soft beds center. “Gorged out the by a gardens worst enemy.”

“Cock-a-doodle-doo,” the black bared rooster crowed from Chelsi’s front porch.

“If you could get my hands on you…!” she exclaimed in an empty threat.  But still, the fantasy of the bird, breast up on a roasting pan always calmed her down. Dues owed she thought.

It was the feeling of be burgled. To come home after a long day’s work and find that all your prized possessions had been stolen and the window smashed; you’re angry for a moment and then overwhelmingly sad.  Only Chelsi knew who to be angry with, her host family, the Kalulu’s. It was their chickens and goats that were always destroying her garden. “And then! When and if things do grow they’ll have the audacity to come over and tell me to give them some,” steam poured out her ears. ‘No’ she practiced over and over in her head, ‘you’re chickens already ate your portion. Go eat them!

The whole purpose was it improve child and family nutrition. The whole purpose of my garden is to improve my nutrition. Some of the mothers in Kamijiji had asked for nutrition traing, they know their first graders look like toddlers and the toddlers look like infants. Others in the village just didn’t know or seemed to care. Chelsi hating seeing some of her favorite children eating nothing but packaged cookies and nshima, the local staple of maize mush.

Ahh, but the chickens aren’t for eating’ she was told.

Then why don’t you come to the gardening workshop. We can have some small gardens, they’ll be easy to take care of all year round, improve nutrition that way.

Ah, but there are no vegetable seeds.

If you dig a garden I will give you seeds to start.

Ah, but the chickens, they will just dig up the garden.

Build a fence.

Ah, but it’s a lot of work.

So lock up the chickens in a chicken house and tie up the goats.

Ah…

‘Fine then let your children starve.

But look, they are fat!’

They’re not fat! They are swollen with fluid because their kidneys are shutting down.

Chelsi sighed. Her fence did help. The number of chickens rolling through was greatly reduced, but only one was needed to undue weeks of watering and care. Fuck it, when I go to town next I’m getting fifty meters of chicken wire. She no longer cared that it would cost her an entire pay check. She then had a thought about how well scare crow actually worked.  She took a few deep breaths, started to feel better.  “Because do you really want to be that one?” She asked herself. “The volunteer who totally loses it and acts out rashly?” She had been voted most likely to, for swear-in superlatives last year.  “Most likely to: burn a goat in a funeral pyre.” She had been downgraded, from ‘Most likely to:’ make their house sustainable, after a conversation with PC Zambia’s then CFO, from which the designation was born.

The CFO Jason, Chelsi and three other soon to be volunteers sat in a small office, more than a year ago now, discussing proper volunteer conduct. ‘Don’t take drugs, don’t steal, take only certified taxi’s unless you have no other options. Try not to travel alone, don’t burn down your house, don’t burn down anyone else’s house. Just try not to do anything that would ostracize you from your communities, like killing your neighbor’s goat and burning it in a funeral pyre.

The comment had been presented to off handedly; don’t kill your neighbor’s goat and burn it in a funeral pyre. Chelsi had to ask.

We had a volunteer, who had a garden,’ Jason had stated calmly, ‘not unlike a lot of volunteers. But there was this goat, this one goat, which I guess was always breaking down the volunteers fence and destroying their garden.  So apparently what had happened, is they came home one day, to find their garden again, completely destroyed and the goat just standing there. And the volunteer lost it, killed the goat and built a giant pyre and burn the body.

Chelsi now knew what that murderous passion must have felt like for that volunteer, but Jason had never described how that volunteer had committed that act.  In Chelsi’s imagination it was a knife, they just stabbed it over and over, until it was dead.

So we had to send that volunteer home, because there was no way to reconcile with the community.

And the proper way to handle the situation, would have been….?

You make arrangements with the owner of the offending goat, to purchase the animal. Then, you may kill the animal if you wish, and if there is too much meat for you alone, you share it with the community. You don’t burn it front of them.

That’s how the story played in Chelsi’s head every morning, when she went out to water her garden, to mentally prepare herself.  She would take Jason’s advice if she thought it would make a difference.  But if she bought all of her family’s chickens, they would just go out and buy more chickens.  And all chickens are offenders. So instead she figured she would keep buying identical copies of her family’s chickens the market, and roasting them, while secretly hoping all the chicken at home would catch New Castle Disease and die.

Categories: Drama, Food & Recipes, Gardening, Health & Fitness, Horror, Law, Justice and Order | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

064: Lancet

​Chelsi stared at the little, blue handled needle she held in her right hand. Then glanced over to her red and swollen index finger on her left hand. After a few moments she was looking back at the lancet. Then finger, then lancet. Finger, lancet. Finger, lancet. Finger, and lancet. She squirmed a bit on the red cushioned, dinning chair. You probably don’t even have malaria anyway, her left index finger told her.  But in all reality you could, the lancet wielding right hand argued. 

But you feel so much better now, now you’re just coughing and wheezing, not feeling too feverish, the left hand retaliated.

Maybe so, but just twelve hours ago you were shaking and shivering in bed with the sweats. The right hand was reasoning well, the most notable symptom of malaria is the oscillating cycle of feeling sick then well.  

Yeah, but the other most notable symptoms of malaria; vomiting. You might be nauseous, but you haven’t vomited. 

And if you have malaria you could die. But you won’t know until you take the test.

“Maybe if I just shut my eyes,” Chelsi knew her right side was correct, but the left side just screamed so loud. “It’s just a couple drops,” she reasoned with it.  

Chelsi brought her left index finger and the tip of the lancet together.  Maybe if I just push slowly, but her actions were broken up by a fit of coughing.  The pain in her chest was sharp, and the sudden rush of blood to her head made it pound.  Quickly, before each of her sides could gather themselves, she stabbed her left index finger. 

But nothing seemed to happen.  She checked to see that yes indeed the point of the needle was buried under my skin, yet blood was not welling around the intrusion as she had expected.  Maybe, she pushed the little needle a little farther in.  But still nothing. 

“All that grief, for nothing,” she said aloud pulling the lancet out of her finger.  Then the blood started welling up. “Shit,” it came quickly at first.  She fumbled with her free hand for the little plastic applicator cup to collect the blood.  “It’s bigger than it looks,” she said of the collection cup, having to message more blood out of the tip of her finger.  

After more moments that Chelsi would have liked, the applicator cup was full and she waded tissues around her bleeding finger.  Carefully, she emptied the cup of blood in the receiving well of the plastic incased malaria test.  “Five drops of buffer it says,” she applied them appropriately.  “Now, if there’s anything worse than waiting!” She set a timer for fifteen minutes, for which she would spend the entire time starting at the maturing test.  

The control strip was quick to light up, as soon as her blood was forced across the test by the buffer.  The second strip never revealed itself.  

Negative, her right side said contently.

Negative, her left side said contemptly.

“Negative.”

Categories: Health & Fitness, Horror | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

051: Livingston General

This is not unusual Chelsi thought to herself. I’ve suffered from motion sickness most of my life. She was scrunch up in the window seat, her new friend Kate, a volunteer from Northern Provence, was seated next to her along the aisle.  “I wish these windows opened.”

“Yeah, but at least the air conditioning is working.  How many buses in Zambia have you been on where the air condition worked!”

“Ahh, none,” Chelsi let out a weak smile. Kate had a bag filled with small sandwiches on her lap.  She removed two. Mmm, breakfast. Chelsi thought of her own bag of snacks, when the bus rumbled causing her stomach to seize with nausea.  She rested her forehead against the back of the seat in front of her.  “I do want to let you know though, I’m not feeling to well and I have been known to vomit from motions sickness before.”

Kate chewed through the last bit of her second sandwich.  “Okay, do you need a bag or anything? Maybe a Dramamine? I can try and find mine.”

“I think I’m alright for now. I took a motion sickness pill when we got on a couple hours ago.” Chelsi closed her eyes and felt inside herself. “I think maybe it’s just a combination of long bus ride from Solwezi yesterday, and then not sleeping enough last night. Maybe I drank more than I thought at Sara’s birthday party, too. I’m just gonna try to sleep through it for now.” The early morning light was still dim and she was exhausted. Over the past few days Chelsi had attended functions to say good bye to the COS-ing, or leaving, intake, settled back in the boys she had brought to a leadership training the week before, and exhausting week in and of itself, cleaned and prepped her house for a long stay away, packed for vacation and the following week of Mid Service Training, refinished the floor of her house, biked to town, celebrated her friend’s 30th birthday, then at 4:30 in the morning got on the 14 hour bus to Lusaka.  Just 33 hours to go and we’ll be there.  We’ll be Namibia and I’m sure I’ll feel much better.

It couldn’t have been much more than an hour when Chelsi was jostled wake, no, not by the bus.  She reached for the plastic bag she had tucked in the pocket in front of her.

When she was finished she was surprised by the heaviness of plastic bag.  Had I really eaten all that? She thought about the chicken she had eaten the previous night for dinner.  It was delicious. And though her cheeks were flush and sweat beaded a bit on her brow, she did feel a bit better.  She tied closed the bag containing the thick brown mass and tucked it under the seat in front of her.  I’ll throw it out at the next stop. Glancing towards Kate she was thankful to find that her eyes were closed and her headphones were in.

It wasn’t soon after though that Chelsi felt it again.  First a rumble in her belly and a burp, followed quickly by a heave.  She searched quickly for a second bag.  She knew she had one somewhere. Just as it was coming up she found the bag and spread it open.  This mass was smaller, a little looser than the first but still she was shocked by the amount. Images of her insides as a black hole flashed through her mind, but were quickly collapsed by another heave.  This time mostly liquid.  Well, at least it’ll be over now.  She took a swig from her water bottle.  The iodine she had used to treat the tap water in Lusaka covered any bad taste left in her mouth.

“Aubrey! AUBREY!” Chelsi shouted from the cramped bathroom stall. “Can you also bring me a couple of kwatch to pay the toilet fee! And PLEASE don’t let the bus leave without me! THANK YOU!” She leaned over the toilet, still unsure which urge remained strong: the one vomit or the one to poop. Poop, at least if I get all the poop out of me now I’ll probably be able to hold it again till the next stop.  So, she turned back around to squat.  After a few moments of nothing, she boldly decided that this time she really must be empty. How much can one person hold afterall? For that last couple hours she had vomited a handful of time every 15 minutes and about half way between this rest stop and the last her body had started to insist that she also begin to void her bowl.  Now she stood up, straightened her skirt.  She would have loved to wash her hands, but alas the water in bathroom facets never ran in Zambia.

Aubrey met her halfway back to the bus and quickly paid off the bathroom bamaama.  “How are you? Are you okay?” There was strained worry in her voice.

“I am for now.”

“Okay, then lets hurry.  I had to yell at the bus driver to not leave you.”

They settled back into their seats.  This time though Aubrey was situated in the aisle seat beside Chelsi.  Kate had relegated it to Aubrey after Chelsi had snatched her sandwich bag almost before she could save her last sandwich.

“What was it that PCMO said when you talked to them last?” Aubrey asked.

Oh, the Peace Corps Medical Office, “well, Dr. Kim is great, for one. I’m really glad he’s the one answering the duty phone.  He said I need to be drinking ORS, Oral Rehydration Salts, to take Phenagen, the anti-nausea, again if I vomit within 20 minutes of taking it.  Also that I could try taking some Peptobismol and to keep him up dated.”

“Okay,” Aubrey began to dig through her bag of medications.  “Did he say anything about starting Cipro?”

“No, not yet.  I also asked him if this could be related to that cloud of tear gas we walked into at the bus station in Lusaka this morning.  He said no.”

“That’s strange, cause whenever I see videos of people being tear gassed they’re usually vomiting.” They sat quietly for a while. Chelsi thought that maybe, if she just kept her mouth shut everything would stay in.  But no such luck.

Within minutes she was frantically searching for another bag. Her abdomen cramped with pain as she tried to hold everything in. But, yellowy bile spilled from her mouth in three great heaves.  I’m running out of bags.

Aubrey looked at her, her face lined with concern. “You’re probably just really dehydrated. You really need to just pound water.” Every sip of water Chelsi took left her crippled in pain and vomiting. More than exhausted now, she was weak. Her skin tingled, lips cracked, eyes heavy.  All she could muster in response was a furrowed brow in Aubrey’s direction.  “And when we get to Namibia we can go to the apothecary and find you some better drugs.  Maybe call PCMO Namibia.”

Chelsi looked at her watch; 29 more hours to Windhoek… She took a deep breath through her nose, held it for a moment, making sure she had all her words lined up, and only words. “I’m not going to make to it.  I have to get off the bus. I have to get to the hospital… What’s are next stop?”

“Ummm, are last stop was Choma, so next is Livingston.  We should be there in ummm, 45 minutes.  I’m going to go talk to Chad, and the rest of the group, let them know what’s going on and that we’ll probably have to get off at Livingston.  Are you okay here for a few minutes?”

“Yeah,” Chelsi fumbled for her phone, texted Dr. Kim about hospitals in Livingston.  When Aubrey returned Chelsi pushed her phone towards her.  “We should be getting hospital and some treatment information soon.  But I can’t focus on it.”

“That’s okay, I’ll take care of it.  Okay, so Chad is going to get off the bus with us in Livingston.  The rest of the group is going to go onto Windhoek.  He’s going to call the car rental agency and change our reservation.  Let them know we’re going to be late.  Do you think you still want to go on to Namibia after we get you fixed up at the hospital?”

“Yes!” the word came out of Chelsi with more force that expected. I’m not going to totally cancel my first vacation in nearly a year, just because I might be dying.

“Okay, we’ll look in to when the next bus to Windhoek comes.  Chad thinks its Wednesday. And he’ll look into getting us a refund for the last part of this trip.”

Still on their way to Livingston Chelsi began to lose control over her bowl.  When it cramped with pain, Chelsi let out a few whimpers.  Aubrey shouted at the bus driver until he pulled over for them.

Climbing back on the bus Chelsi asked, “How much longer? Until we’re in Livingstone?” If I have to make the bus pull over all the time, we’re never going to make.

“The bus driver said we were only five kilometers away. That’s why he was reluctant to stop.”

And sure enough ten minutes later they were rolling on to the platform of the Livingstone bus station.  There was a buzz of commotion on the platform.  People pawed at them, the conductor ignored their pleas for their luggage and the taxi driver kept urging ‘let’s go, let’s go.’

Chelsi began to feel a great force grow within her, one which would have worried her a few moments ago on the bus but now she realized was a power.  The people around her first took note when she squatted down. Just as she hiked up her skirt around her hips and she stopped fighting the belly cramps, her bowl voided.  A few papery brown chunks were carried with her liquid runs.  It touch no fewer than two other people’s shoes. Everyone took three steps back.

“Now! Get our bags, so we can go to the hospital!”

The taxi dropped them off at the building with the sign High Cost Care Clinic, all the words PCMO used to describe what their final destination should be. But they were given the run around at every turn.  They were told ‘This clinic isn’t open on Sunday.’ ‘It’s open, but only for pediatrics.’ ‘NO, we refuse to give her fluids.’ ‘Adults won’t be seen on Sundays. Go to the General Hospital up the hill.’  But their luck there wasn’t much better.

Where are you going?’ they were asked upon walking through the doors. ‘There is no High Cost Care Clinic here, you have to go back down the hill.’ ‘The Emergency room isn’t open on Sundays.’ ‘You can’t be seen unless you register. But we can’t do that.’

“The sign right above your desk SAYS REGISTRATION!” Aubrey roared.  “DO YOUR GOD DAMN JOB!”

“Ahhhh,” the man sighed.  But Chelsi had already left, following the signs that said Emergency.  A large women, dressed in a nurse’s uniform, circa 1910, sat behind a small table and stopped her from venturing further.  The woman’s tone was harsh in tell Chelsi that she would need to process her registration papers before she could be seen.  Then she would have to wait. Chelsi looked around the room.  Chairs sat in neat rows, empty of occupants.  Wait for what?

She was done with words.  Chelsi took a gulp of water, knowing what would follow.  Moving a small bowl she found sitting on the floor up on to the table.  As Chelsi heaved thick yellow bile into the bowl the woman cringe and pushed away.

“You can come in,” Chelsi heard a voice from behind her.  A man in bright red scrubs motioned to her from a doorway around the corner.  Chelsi followed him into the small room and immediately lied down on the exam table.  “These people, I tell you…” He pulled on a pair of rubber gloves. “What seems to be the problem? Tell me your symptoms.”

After defecating on the exam table a couple of times and shelling out 1,200 kwacha, Chelsi was moved up to the ‘High Cost Care Ward.’  A private room not unlike a small motel room, with a much nicer shower head.  From her window they could see into the ‘General Ward.’ Admission there was 45 kwacha.

“If you weren’t sick when you admitted there you will be by the time you leave.” Aubrey said turning away from the window, just in time to see Chelsi pushing up the flow on her IV again.  She turned it down. “If it goes to fast you could end up getting to much fluid and over hydrate. This is already your third bag.”

“What would happen if I get too much?”

“Well, you’re young, so you would probably be fine.  But you will swell up. Okay I’m going to tell the doctor to bring you that anti-nausea that PCMO suggested.  It’s going to come in the form of a shot that goes in your butt.  Then Chad and I are going to go find somewhere to spend the night. And I’ll call you later.”

“Thank you Aubrey, for helping me so much.”

“No problem friend.  I miss doing nursing stuff and patient advocacy. So thank you for letting me help you.  And don’t worry about Namibia, Chad and I will figure it out. You just get better.” She gathered her sweater and purse heading towards the door. “And think of it this way; No Peace Corps experience is complete without at least one trip to the hospital.”

Categories: Action, Adventure, Drama, Health & Fitness | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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