Originally written on the 28th of January
I do not want to focus too much on the medical restrictions, but since I could not find a description of how restrictions impact placement within the country I promised to share once the details of my case emerged.
Peace Corps South Africa was very efficient about getting us to the airport and accomplishing tasks right away, including our medical interviews after lunch. I had the chance to talk to one of the medical officers on the way to lunch and felt comfortable having her conduct my interview (although the other two medical officers also seemed lovely and I am ready to approach them if the need arises). Anyways she looked at all of my paper work, asked questions about headquarters’ concerns and the usual set of female reproductive health questions.
Basically due the asthma restriction (even though I corrected her and said that I do not have an asthma diagnosis) or I use an inhaler when dust gets overwhelming (sometimes one puff a year, although Tucson was brutal in that regard…I think I used it at least 10 times last semester), I have to be within 2 hours of a hospital and cannot live in a thatched roof. In my jetlag induced haze, I started to tear up, get slightly defensive. I thought, “if I have one more medical restriction I will not get to serve.” Thankfully, the Peace Corps Medical Officer (PCMO), saw beyond my defensiveness and told me that there was a former volunteer who was diagnosed with my label while in service in South Africa who served for two years without any concerns. Her intent is to support my 2 year commitment. Sounds like a plan to me!
As for the rest of SA 31, they know about my diagnosis. Autism emerged in the group conversation, and I had to address a misconception. I do not regret sharing that information and it is a relief that people know. Not only does it take the pressure off of me to disclose but I have had some really great conversations. This is how the world should work: a place where people are not afraid to share their life experiences.
Finally I just want to share that I know people with bipolar disorder, epilepsy, a congenital heart defect, hypoglycemia, depression, anxiety, and migraines in my cohort. We are all Peace Corps Trainees. The days of medical and mental needs hindering our abilities to serve in an international context are over.
SA 31: Some of the Many Trailblazers for Medical Concerns in the Peace Corps.
All the best,