One of the last things on anyone's "to-do" list while abroad is going to the doctor... it's even lower on the list when in a third world country. I guess in reality I had too many trips run way too smooth so I was bound to get sick on the road eventually, and eventually came smack dab in the middle of my time in Madagascar.
Towards the beginning of my stay, I decided to join in on a construction project on the Madagascar mainland. Once my week on the mainland was over it was time to return to camp on Nosy Komba, an island Northwest of the Madagascar mainland. Once I returned to camp, I found myself sick in bed for a solid 6 days during which time I rotated through pretty much any symptom in the book. I laid on my top bunk, under my mosquito net, staring at the ceiling of my hut while nursing a headache. Or a sore throat. Or an achy body. Or a fever. Eventually, I woke up in the middle of the night with excruciating pain going all through my left ear and down the left side of my face. That's when I knew it was time to hop on a boat and go to the doctor.
Necessities for spending 6 days in bed, under a mosquito net: lots of water, a few sweet treats, my journal, a little vitamin C and some cough drops.
After a 40 minute boat ride to the larger, nearby island and a 20 minute tuktuk ride we arrived at the hospital, we being myself and a member of our local staff, Rojo, who came along to translate. We deposited our shoes outside the front door and went inside the building.
When we arrived I was asked to write down a little information about myself on a small sheet of paper. And I mean a little information. The nurses didn't want to see my passport, know of any allergies or even know my last name. So, I wrote down my first name and age on the sheet of scrap paper. The nurse then took my temperature, blood pressure, and weight and added it to my small piece of paper.
My scrap piece of paper with my small amount of personal info and vitals.
Now it was time to see the doctor. We greeted each other in broken English and from there the doctor and I talked only through Rojo's translations. After hearing my symptoms and taking a quick peak in my ear, the doctor confirmed what I had figured, ear infection. She wrote me up a note for antibiotics, amoxicillin in powdered form since there is little to no refrigeration, and ear drops then sent us off. After paying for my transportation, doctor visit, and medications I had paid about $30 for the day.
The prescription I was given for my antibiotics.
I would end up repeating this little journey to the doctor two more times over the next couple of weeks. Once, I returned to have my ear cleaned out and once to check my ear to see if I would be cleared to dive again. Ultimately, I didn't end up getting cleared to continue diving before my trip ended.
Everyones first question when you say you went to the doctor in a third world country is the same. The question is something along the lines of, "How was the care? Was it clean? What was it like?" At first thought my response it that it's defiantly not great, but it was better than I had expected. It wasn't horribly dirty, but I also don't recall ever seeing a doctor or nurse wear gloves. I also had a pretty mild experience in comparison to some of the other volunteers. I was 99% sure that I had an ear infection. I wasn't going in looking for too many answers, just antibiotics. Now, had I had a broken bone, or been more severely sick I may have felt a little less confident about the level of care.
Looking back now, I can say that this was all a good learning experience, something that in a weird way made me a little bit stronger, and is now a pretty good story to tell. The experience wasn't however, exactly how I imagined my trip to go, but not all travels can be smooth, picture perfect experiences and what just life.