Stories from The Infectious Disease Clinic

My shoulder aches like a heavy bruise from the particles they injected into it, making it difficult to pick up the lightest of objects.

Yesterday, I couldn’t help but to think about the seriousness of the title, “Infectious Disease Clinic” as I frantically fought through the maze at the BAMC (Brooks Army Medical Center, a hospital). Do people go there when they have infectious diseases or like me, to prevent them? The feeling was surreal–almost apocalyptic.

When I finally stumbled into the clinic, minutes before my appointment, I threw the door open and when I tried to shut it, it would just open back up again. I thought about leaving it open on the off chance that it would close itself, but decided to go against the laziness and reach for the handle. Once again, the door fought me. I tried a third time, and to my horror, the man at the desk says, “It’ll shut itself”. I blush, giggle, try to break up the awkwardness, which the man appeared to enjoy simmering in. His stoic “I am not in the mood for your ignorance face” was actually more comforting than anything he could have done to make me feel better. I had made it through the maze and trick door into the clinic. One more step to Vietnam.

Three years prior, I had visited my first travel clinic in Colorado Springs, CO. Though that one was much easier to navigate to, it was far more intimidating. The waiting room was stuffy, almost suffocating, increasing every fear I had of the unknown country I was supposed to travel to. My mom and a friend of hers had given me a long list of vaccines I would need to get in order to scare me out of traveling there. Diphtheria; Hepatitis A; Tetanus; Typhoid. Cholera; Hepatitis B; Japanese Encephalitis; Rabies; Yellow Fever. 

Though I hid it well, it did bring me some discomfort. Vaccines are expensive and are truly nasty things to put into your body, AND my body hates the simplest of things I put into it, like food, ibuprofen… you know, anything besides water. Everything made me sick. How was I going to handle all of this?

The doctor at the clinic made me feel worse, as he read through each potential disease from a packet of papers, word-by-word, then asked which vaccinations I would like. I decided on Hep A, Typhoid, and Japanese Encephalitis, and quickly took back the last vaccination request as I realized it was $360 a shot for multiple shots. But, what if I end up with the disease? Would I regret this moment?

The doctor did nothing to make me feel like I was making a good or a bad decision.

vaccination-600x450

(Photo credit: http://www.thesleuthjournal.com/)

This time was different. This time, Vietnam wasn’t so foreign and scary. I knew my Typhoid had expired and I would need that. I considered the rabies vaccine because monkeys are going to do whatever monkeys want to do. I was still considering the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine though, because with my health care I could actually afford it this time. However, this doctor only recommended Typhoid, based on the amount of time I would be in the country. I read that while doing my research, however, having a doctor actually recommend something this time was both unexpected and comforting. She even prescribed me medication and antibiotics to take if I got sick fro the food there (unexpected luxury number two!). This Infectious Disease Clinic gets 5 stars!

I waited for a bit for the nurse who would put the vaccination in my arm. When she arrived, she made small talk, warning me how awful the vaccine would make my arm feel and commenting, “I would never travel anywhere to a place that would require me to get a Typhoid vaccine.” I smirked. Luckily this wasn’t my first round to Vietnam, because if the nurse in Colorado Springs had said that same sentence, I may have been disappointing friends and canceling plane tickets.

This time, I’m ready to explore some new territory in a familiar country. Still, I almost miss conquoring the fear. This experience, these fears of the unknown is what keep many people from traveling. The money is an element, yes, but if someone can afford to make 30 payments on a $750 phone, they can afford a plane ticket across the world. It’s about priorities and fear.

But once you face that fear one time, you grow from it. Get out there into the world. Don’t let the magical Infectious Disease Clinic unclose-able door get the best of you. Let it leave the door open. Trust me, it will stay that way.

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