The verdict is in! I have amoebas.
The Good News: I didn't miss out of the biggest/ greatest party of the year for nothing; I had amoebas.
The Bad News: I have amoebas.
Disclaimer: This post contains TMI (too much information) and is not for the faint of heart.
Today, I learned that I joined a very illustrious club of PCVs: PCVs who had/ have amoebas. Katherine and Jackie welcomed me into their ranks with open arms. I actually found out when the Peace Corps medical officer called me to tell me that my stool sample was back from the lab and that amoebas were present, but let's rewind to the beginning of the saga...
The night of the Oceanium party (aka the best night of WAIST) I started to get really cold while I had a fever, my entire body was so sore I couldn't move, and I had gastro issues galore. I had to leave the party and by the time I told Jackie, Katherine, and Tamar about my health issues the next morning Jackie and Katherine thought it was amoebas. Discussions about bodily functions and illness is where the line between normal human beings and Peace Corps Volunteers is drawn. A lot of my friends realized that I had to leave the party and started calling me the next morning and offering condolences, advice, and their own diagnosis. After telling each person my symptoms, they replied with their symptoms when they had amoebas. "Does it feel like a hot poker is going from your back through our uterus?" is how one kind friend put it.
After talking explicitly about my symptoms to half of Peace Corps Senegal, I decided that I had amoebas and started the hunt for a MIF kit. A MIF kit is a stool sample kit. Unfortunately, it was Presidents' Day so the PC office was closed therefore, I decided to call people I knew were staying at the regional house. Let's just say Richard was confused and amused when I accidentally woke him up and sent him on a search of a MIF kit around the house. Exactly the way one wants to ease the pain of a hangover. There were no MIF kits at the regional house so I had to pick one up at the office the next day and then take the test in Thies since I had to immediately return for the artisan formation.
What exactly is a MIF kit/ what does it entail? This may be the portion of the blog that you do not want to read...
A MIF kit is a plastic tube with a little scraper attached filled with a formaldehyde mixture. I wont go into graphic detail about what happens next, but it involves a piece of paper and a bathroom. The next step is one of the great things about Peace Corps. Now that I'm in Thies with a completed MIF kit, the test has to go back to Dakar. What to do? Ask another PCV to carry your MIF kit in a brown paper bag to Dakar for you! There's no sign of disgust, only sympathies for your current plight. Comradery at it's best.
Once the test makes it to Dakar all you have to do is wait until the medical office calls you to tell you that you have amoebas. The funny thing about amoebas is that they're cyclical. I felt terrible during WAIST and the artisan formation, but since then I've felt fine. This also means that they may not present in your MIF kit and that you have try several times before you catch them. I'm happy that I know I have amoebas and I've already started on the meds to obliterate the parasites from my system.
The drugs are intense to say the least. The first three days I have to take a set of four pills all at once. After the first three days, I have to take two pills twice a day for ten days. The best part about this is that the drug boxes are completely in Arabic and I have no idea what they say. The medicine also makes you feel like crap, which is icing on the cake. I don't feel nearly as bad as when the amoebas were having a party in my system, but I don't feel great. My friends had terrible reactions to the meds so I'm hoping my medium level nausea and fatigue are as bad as it gets.
That's the story of amoebas. I have no idea where I got them since they thrive in poorly prepared food and water. And as Tamar pointed out I also live in a barnyard which probably isn't helping the situation. The amoebas are under attack from all the meds I'm taking and I should be amoeba free in 13 days!
Messy, but Warm
10 months ago