Archive for the ‘medical’ Category

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Protected: 10/3/2012 – COS Medical (AKA PCMOs Rule)

October 25, 2012

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Protected: 2/11/2012 – Mid-Service Medical and FSOT

February 23, 2012

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Protected: 12/25/2011 – Link: No Going Back. There Is Only Forward.

February 21, 2012

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The Application Process Part 3: Medical cont.

May 23, 2010

After sending in my medical packet, the Peace Corps informed me that, due to a slight blip on my lab results, I needed to go to an endocrinologist (henceforth called an ‘endo’) to have my thyroid checked out. And let me tell you, getting the thyroid thing taken care of was one of the greatest trials of my patience and perseverance. It felt like everything that could go wrong, did. Including an island exploding. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I received the letter that I needed to see an endo in early February 2010 (on my birthday actually – talk about a bit of a downer). Being in England, without a clue on how to find a doctor or how I was supposed to pay for it (will it be covered by NHS? will I have to pay out of pocket? the exchange rate is at WHAT?!), I did what any other person born and raised with technology would do: I turned to the Internet! And God bless the Internet.

I was able to find an endo and called his office, being told I needed a referral from a GP. No problem, Super Dad back home went to my doctor’s office and they wrote me out one. Referral in hand, I set up an appointment with the endo. I had to run to it because the only appointment they had open for the month was right between two of my classes (Old English and Study of Heroic Culture – I love what I do!), but thankfully the hospital he works at is within walking distance.

The appointment went well.  He reviewed my lab results, checked my reflexes, and asked me some pretty random sounding questions that he assured me were pertinent. At the end of it, we sat across his desk and he told me I seemed like a perfectly healthy young woman. There was nothing to indicate that anything was wrong, and to be honest, the little over activity of my thyroid seen on my lab report was so minimal that it was absolutely nothing to worry about. However (my growing happiness that this would be easier than I thought fell as he continued), he wanted to get some more tests done anyways, just to make sure nothing was up. Once he had my results, he would write me a letter for the Peace Corps if everything looked good so I wouldn’t have to return, or we would schedule another appointment if things looked off. I felt annoyance prick at me. If the over activity was truly that minimal and that meaningless, why couldn’t he just write me a letter then and let me move on with my life? But he was insistent, and I left his office with a blood request.

Now, this is when I learned some very interesting things about the English health system. They have public health doctors, covered by NHS, and private doctors, which have to be covered by personal insurance or out of pocket. Well, as far as I could tell from my research on the Internet, it’s difficult to see an endo under NHS, if it’s possible at all. So my endo had been a private doctor. Let’s just say when I, a very poor grad student, got his bill, I staggered. And then the nurse came and told me that to have the blood work done at the hospital would cost £300. About $500. Ouch.

Then she told me, if I went to a GP here in England, they could get my blood work done and it would be covered by NHS. It was at this point that I began to wonder: would NHS have covered the visit to the endo if I had been referred by a GP here in England? I immediately decided it wasn’t worth wondering, it was over and done with now, and I banished the question.

It took weeks for me to get signed up for NHS, get a GP, have an initial meeting with the GP, and have blood taken. It was amazingly frustrating, including a lot of phone calls, walking to the clinic, and long waits for incredibly short visits. The initial meeting with the GP had to have been my favourite: I wasn’t able to get in to see the GP for a couple of weeks, and I was already frustrated because all I needed was blood work done, I didn’t need to actually see the GP, can I just make an appointment to get blood drawn? No? Well then can I go ahead and make an appointment to have blood drawn for after the meeting with the GP so I can get it taken care of quickly? No? WHY NOT?! But I waited, went in to the clinic, waited longer, and finally saw the doctor. It literally took her five minutes to look at my lab reports, look at the blood request, and send me out with the clinic’s request. What in the world was the point of that? Ah, bureaucracy, you suck. My frustration was complete when they told me I would have to wait a couple of weeks for an appointment to have blood drawn. Argh!

Finally, blood was drawn and sent off to the lab with results to return in a couple of weeks, Spring Break had started at my school, and my sister had come over from the States to go to Greece with me. We spent three incredible weeks wandering that beautiful country, and it was so nice knowing that when I got back, a letter from my endo should be waiting for me and this could all be over. Imagine my surprise and annoyance when there was nothing in my mailbox when I got back.

I called my GP to ask if the results had been sent to my endo and called my endo to see what the hold up was. Both doctors were out of the country and wouldn’t be returning for a week.  Right. Of course. I went ahead and set up an appointment to see my GP to talk to her directly about my results, waited a week, and went in. She told me there had been some significant delays in my tests being processed, but the results had just come in, and was told that everything came back negative except one little blip of activity, but she couldn’t tell me what it meant. She was actually really nice, saying they had sent the results to my endo, but if things didn’t move fast enough, she was willing to write a letter for me since she knew the time restraints I was under.

I called my endo when I got back home, thinking he should be back in the country and could write me that letter, since the results had come in fine. Well, turns out, he wasn’t back yet. And, actually, he couldn’t get back. You see, this volcano up in Iceland had exploded, covering England in an ash cloud and grounding all flights. He couldn’t get back. Because of an island exploding. Seriously? SERIOUSLY?!  ARGH!

So I waited. And waited. I was tempted to call again every day, but I waited, giving him a couple of weeks. I’m sure my friends here were sick of hearing me complain about it, I just couldn’t believe that I had seen the doctors in February and here we were in early May with nothing to show for it, especially since I had been told the blood results would be given to me in mid March. Then one day, I randomly checked my mail, and there is was: the letter. The beautiful letter saying that I was perfectly, 100% healthy. My thyroid is slightly under active (despite the initial test saying it might be overactive – yeah, I don’t get it either, something about how I probably had a bit of an infection at the time of the initial test which made it appear overactive when it’s actually under active), and though it is something I should keep my eye on as I get older, there is nothing to stop me from being able to go off into the Peace Corps.

More than once during this process, when yet another thing went wrong or another hurdle had to be jumped, some of which I didn’t recount here, I wanted to say forget it. Throw my hands up in the air in exacerbation and say ‘This just isn’t worth it, it is way too much of a hassle.’ But then I remembered why I started this journey in the first place, why I want to do this so badly. And with that in mind, I kept on going, kept on calling the doctors, kept making appointments, and faced the challenges. And I conquered them.

The day Super Dad faxed in that beautiful letter from my endocrinologist to the Peace Corps medical office was the day my medical was cleared. Again, I felt special and wanted because things had moved so quickly on their end.

So that’s where I’m at now in this application process. Now all there is left to do is wait. And hope.

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The Application Process Part 2: Medical

May 22, 2010

Medical: the bane of almost every Peace Corps applicant’s life. It’s complicated, frustrating, and drawn out. And according to the infamous Out of 100, it’s where most applicants trip. I honestly can’t blame them.

My medical packet arrived in September 2009, but by that time I had already moved to England to begin my year long Masters degree in Medieval Studies. I am covered by the national insurance over here (called NHS), but I decided that I didn’t want to try to find and go to doctors and dentists over here. It would be way too much of a hassle, I didn’t know how much NHS would cover (especially when it came to the shots), the pound to dollar conversion was less than inspiring if I had to pay out of pocket, and I had plenty of time. So I set my medical aside for when I returned to the States for Christmas break, focusing on school and adjusting to life in a new country.

Oh, did I mention I was only going to be in the States for two weeks over Christmas break?

Those were the most medically intense two weeks of my life. The day after I walked off the plane I had my first appointment, jet lagged and exhausted. Basically anytime I wasn’t baking, decorating the tree, or shopping for presents was spent in various waiting rooms. The doctor poked and prodded me, tested me for everything under the sun, took out five vials of blood and replaced it with four types of vaccines which left my arm sore for a week. The dentist jabbed at every single tooth, and I actually had to go to the dentist three separate times to have fillings done. Considering I hadn’t been to the dentist in at least five years before this…well, let’s just say I was pleasantly pleased I didn’t need more work done.

Fun side story: Novocaine doesn’t really work on me. I’ve known this for years and always tell my dentist because one shot of the stuff just isn’t going to cut it. Turns out, neither does three. Or four. After waiting an hour for the drugs to kick in and poking my jaw asking if I could feel it and me giving him the affirmative, he became really frustrated and busted out The Big Guns, shooting some sort of extra strength numbing stuff straight into the nerve in my jaw, which still wore off much faster than it usually does for other people. So you would think, after doing this on one side of my mouth, they would just start with The Big Guns when I returned for the other half of my fillings. Nope. After my last appointment I tried to count how many times I was pricked by needles between the doctor and the dentist, and I figure that I had at least 17 separate shots. My jaw was still sore when I went back to England.

The eye doctor was actually the easiest. Just handed him the prescription I had gotten this past summer and he filled it out and that was that. Took 5 minutes, tops. So I had everything, all the lab results came in before I had to head back to England, and everything was normal, except that some of my thyroid activity was a little high, but even though my doctor noted I might want to see an endocrinologist someday, it wasn’t necessary to do so. But when I was looking through the papers, I realised the doctor hadn’t filled out my vaccinations and forgot to sign one of the pages. I went back to the office, vaccine record in hand, and told the nurse what was missing. Turns out, the doctor was out of town and wouldn’t be returning until the following week when she would be glad to sign it. Too bad I was leaving for England the following day.

How was I supposed to get the papers signed? I knew I had to have that part filled in, but I was leaving the next day, what was I going to do? In swoops Super Dad! He very kindly offered to hold on to the papers and take them in when the doctor had returned and mail everything once it was done. I breathed a sigh of relief, though I must admit I was reluctant to hand the papers over to anyone. Heck, I was reluctant to leave the papers with my doctor’s nurse as things were filled in and checked over. Paranoia is a common side effect found in Peace Corps applicants during the medical evaluation, worrying about every tiny thing not being perfectly filled in, and petrified something will go missing, extending the torture that is medical even further. Of course I had nothing to worry about, the week after returning to England I received the e-mail from my dad saying everything was sent off and all good. The hurdle had been cleared. I was so happy that there had only been one hiccup, and even that had easily been taken care of. So what if all of those visits crammed into a single week had been hard, everything was done and it should be smooth sailing from there to Invite.

Time passed. I didn’t even really notice it flying by as I wrote essays, studied for finals, took said finals, hung out with friends, and began the new term. I wasn’t expecting to hear from the Peace Corps because my leaving date was for September, 9 whole months away, so I just didn’t worry about it. Why would they be looking at my stuff this far in advance? Then I get an e-mail in February 2010 from my dad: I had a letter from the Peace Corps and he had sent it to me. Holy crap, really? My stuff was under review already? Why in the world would they be reviewing my stuff already? Who knows and who cares, I thought, dancing on air with how utterly special I felt. Very excitedly, I waited for the letter to cross The Pond, and when I checked my mail and found the parcel, I ripped into it, pulling the letter out.

And in bold were those dreaded words: ‘During the review of your medical kit, we find the submitted information to be incomplete.’ Oh, no. They needed a copy of a laboratory report and a current evaluation from an endocrinologist due to that tiny blip of abnormal thyroid activity my doctor said wasn’t necessary to worry about. Oh, God, please no. The lab report was easy, a call to my doctor and it was sent in the next day. But how was I supposed to do the rest from across The Pond, all the way in England? I had no endocrinologist, I didn’t even have a general practitioner yet, and on top of that I didn’t have a clue how the medical procedures or insurance works over here!  What in the world was I going to do? I couldn’t wait until I got back to the States like I had when I first received the medical kit because I’m not returning again until August; time was running out. I stared at that letter for a long, long time.

Then I turned to my computer, opened up Internet Explorer, and typed in a search query: endocrinologists in Leeds. And so it continued.