“I will bleed you now”

So a couple weeks ago I hit the six weeks in Rwanda marker. I didn’t really think anything about it until I saw a reminder in my calendar that is just the blood needle emoji signifying that it was time for me to get my blood tested for my valporic acid levels and other basic tests. Now, having been stable for so long, I typically only have to do these twice a year. However, we wanted to just do a quick test a few weeks into my Rwanda experience to ensure that the malarian wasn’t interacting with anything, and to make sure that if I had lost weight (which I already have quite a bit) that my dose wasn’t too high to be at a healthy, therapeutic level. 

I’ve done this test in several different countries. I’m lucky- Depakote is available around the world, which means that the test for it is as well. So I wasn’t too nervous to try and find a way to get it done in the Rwanda. 

And to be honest, it wasn’t hard. I did have to go to two different clinics which was annoying mostly due to the fact that I had to moto across town twice. But when I finally got to the right clinic, I was met with professional and knowledgable staff. My phlebotomist didn’t speak much English, and when he went to draw my blood he kindly said “I will bleed you now,” in what may have been the most darling English mixup ever. But I felt so comfortable and cared for in a clean and secure environment. Sure, it wasn’t state of the art by US standards. But it was exactly what I needed- they are even going to just email my lab results to me. 

This story isn’t dramatic- and that is the point. It is so crucial to highlight just how much more accessible medical treatment is across the world than Americans like to perceive. I have received quality treatment from doctors in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and now Sub-Saharan Africa. Far too often, we tend to focus on how “behind” these countries are medically/scientifically speaking instead of how strong they are. Even more impressively, several countries such as Rwanda have come so far in just twenty years. In my life time, Rwanda has made magnificent strides in development across all boards.

I will always encourage people to do research before they travel about whether or not their host countries can support their medical needs. However, I will always push people to go beyond just a basic google search when doing this. Reach out to people who live in the country you are trying to visit, look up different laboratories, and familiarize yourself with medical practices and culture. At least in my experience, I have found that my medical needs have been met (or exceeded) in every country I have been to. 

Below: my perfectly satisfactory laboratory 

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