What Getting Typhoid Taught Me

photoI Need to Plan Ahead
I seriously lost my ability to be punctual when I lived overseas, and try as I may, I have never been able to quite get it back to where it probably needs to be to fit in and not make people mad at me in America. At least this time the only person I hurt really was myself. So what did I not do as I prepared to go to India for 9 days in mid October? Just forget to update my outdated typhoid vaccine, that’s all. Thankfully I have friends that are doctors that generously wrote me a prescription just in time. I finished my vaccine the day we left, not a week before we left like you’re supposed to. Mistake #1.
I Need to Change My Attitude
Besides my time insensitivity, why did I put off getting my vaccine? I didn’t think it was such a big deal if I never got around to it. When you have lived in the tropics and had to eliminate the possibility of malaria, typhoid or dengue every time you had a fever, you start to see these 3 as not a big deal, because…well…they’re… so… common! “If I get it, we’ll treat it,” was my really dumb thought process. These tropical diseases actually are a very big deal…yes, they are..Maybe this was my mistake #1, because if I had the right attitude to begin with, that vaccine would have been taken in plenty of time and I wouldn’t be writing this.
I Need to Remember Where I Am
India felt so wonderfully comfortable to me the moment I arrived, like I had been there 100 times. India and my beloved Southeast Asia felt so similar in too many ways I guess. So comfortable was I, so at home did I feel, that I did some dumb things…like brushing my teeth and rinsing my mouth out with tap water, not ensuring that all the water I was drinking was bottled, and forgetting to wash that papaya we bought at the market before I peeled and cut it (Sorry, Beth..) and then eating almost the whole thing because there ain’t nothing like a fresh papaya from asia..and who knows what else. Mistake #3, 4 and 5, and maybe 6, 7 and 8.
I Appreciate Quick and Cheap Access to Prescription Medicine When I Need it
Just like in Southeast Asia, in India you can go to a pharmacy and get prescription medication without a prescription, and for pennies too. That may sound really wrong, but it can be very helpful when you are very sick. And by the way America, I have one serious ‘shame on you’ for you for your unnecessarily high prescription drug prices!! But..back to the point. When you are sick, really really sick, and you have 16 hours of air travel between you and the States, you are really grateful you can get some drugs for the ride home. The first leg of our trip home was a 9 hour flight from Mumbai to London and I never got out of my seat even once..my coach seat, I was that asleep. Thank you India!
When You are Sick, There is No Place Like Home
I live just a few miles from the University of North Carolina Hospital, one of the best in the world, so when it was time to give in and get to the ER, it was a short drive. I realize how easily I could have been hospitalized in India, or, more importantly, I could have been my former teammate who got Typhoid in Southeast Asia. He had no hospital, no IV, and no antibiotics to get him better like I did. Jason, you are my typhoid hero. When you’re sicker than you ever thought possible, some people want their Mom, I just wanted to be in the States. But thankful as I was, as I lay in my hospital bed wondering if, when, and how I would ever feel better, I also thought about all of my friends back in SE Asia, especially my former house helper and dear friend Natalie. Why do I get to be in a private room with round the clock access to top notch medical care but if she were to get typhoid she would simply have to endure the suffering in her un air conditioned tin roof home and hope she would survive with no doctor to care for her and no IV fluids to ward off her dehydration? Why do I get such preferential treatment just because of where I was born? It isn’t fair. I also thought about Adoniram and Ann Judson. They suffered many tropical diseases as they labored for years in Myanmar. They suffered in their beds with mosquitoes swarming around them, in sweltering heat, without IVs, antibiotics, cable TV, a call button, or their family. When their only hope of recovery was leaving the country to convalesce, they didn’t have to board a jet, they had to board a ship. That would not have been a good option for this easily seasick lady.They boarded that ship knowing they would likely not survive the journey. Thinking about them gave me all the perspective I needed on what comparitively speaking didn’t seem like such a bad situation after all.
In the “Avoid the Phoid” Game, I Lose
I’m not the only one who should have taken all of this a lot more seriously. We had a good friend come out to visit us while we lived in SE Asia and he too forgot to get his typhoid vaccine. But unlike me, he was a little hesitant at certain restaurants and with certain foods while he was with us. Did I mention that he is a lot smarter than I am? Since he has a great sense of humor, he confessed that he was just trying to “avoid the phoid,” which became a running joke between us. The latest score in that game is Mike 1, Hilary 0.
My Life is NOT More Valuable Than Another’s
$16,762.96. That is what it cost to treat my typhoid in America. Plus a few rupees to buy the prescription drugs I got without a prescription in India to drug me for the flights back to the States. While I am beyond grateful for health insurance and that I live 10 mins from one of the best hospitals in the world, I can’t help but think about my loved ones in Southeast Asia. My life is NOT more valuable than theirs and yet when they get typhoid, the outcome is not always the same because they don’t have the same access to medical care that I do, nor the resources to pay for it 😦 How many lives could be saved with $16,000?! Wayyy more than just one 😦
Never Google “How Does Someone Get Typhoid?”
It will just make you feel worse.

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