First let me preface this post with the fact that we are fine and that the Peace Corps acted quickly and appropriately to help us and literally save Ilana's life. Here's what happened:
Short story version.... Ilana had to be medically evacuated from our remote site because she required emergency surgery to remove her appendix here in Guyana. The doctor said that a few more hours without treatment and it would have erupted (that's the medical term they used), spreading the infection, and making Ilana's situation much more grave.
Thankfully, she is OK now. The surgery was successful, she walked out of the hospital yesterday, and she's sitting next to me right now in our hotel room in Georgetown. She's sore in the area where they did the surgery, but she's in good spirits and already showing improvement.
Long story version.... we had been living with our host family for about a day and a half and things were going great. Even though we were only there a short time we were quickly feeling at home.
Saturday night after dinner Ilana began complaining of a stomach ache. Throughout the night the pain worsened to the point that she could not get relief and it never seemed to subside like a normal gas or constipation pain would. In the morning we let our host parents know and they promptly called the Peace Corps medical team, who dispatched the remote medical team to come check her out. Based on her symptoms, the team decided she needed to be evacuated from the site to do some tests in Georgetown.
Because of heavy rains through the night, our route to Georgetown was more challenging. To get out we had to take a motorized dugout canoe through the forest, Ilana had to walk the better part of a mile to the trail where a truck could pick us up, then our driver had to navigate the sand road that was washed out in several places, then drive another hour into Georgetown. Once in Georgetown, the PC medical team met us to evaluate Ilana. They quickly determined that she likely had appendicitis and needed to be admitted to the hospital.
An ultrasound helped doctors make the official diagnosis of acute appendicitis. The PC medical team was in communication with Washington DC to determine if Ilana should be flown to the states to have the procedure, but the decision was made that there may not be enough time and the operation needed to happen here in Guyana. I'm not able to find the words to express how scary that was.
Hospitals in a developing country like Guyana are... different. No elevators, wards are segregated by gender, they don't provide even ICU patients with food or water, zero bedside manner, and after surgery they ask you to sign to say you've seen what they just cut out of you! Then they give you a DVD of the procedure and survey to ask how you liked their service... adorable. That being said, they saved Ilana's life and I am eternally grateful to the PC medical staff and the staff at the hospital.
We're not sure what happens next.... will we be able to stay? If we stay, will we be able to go remote? If we have to come home, what will we do? Those are big questions and we're just trying to take things a moment at a time and get her to heal as best as possible. The PC med staff, administrators, and other volunteers continue to be super supportive.
I'm sure some parents of other Peace Corps volunteers will read this with a lump in their stomach. I want you to know that the staff here considers the health and safety of the volunteers and trainees to be of paramount priority. Although you can never predict crazy things like acute appendicitis, we are all in good hands.
More updates to follow... until then we'll be watching pirated American TV and getter Ilana healed.
To see a pic of her appendix after it was removed take a deep breath and click here. She's one tough boricua.