Pending my release from being held hostage, I’m only a few months from Africa. Now is the time to start thinking about vaccinations and pre-trip doctor visits. That said, I thought I would dust off a piece from my travel column days and a photo of my brother with Malaria in France after our trip to Honduras. Good times.
An Appendectomy to Go, Please
I’m not hardcore I have an appendix.
Legitimate children of Adventure prepare for their travels and expeditions for months if not years. They look into every possible problem and how to prevent it. The worthless appendix is like a time bomb to these neurotic adventurers, lying in wait to go off at the most inopportune times. In the body, the appendix represents an X factor that can destroy years of planning, but in a glass jar soaking in formaldehyde at their bedside, it is a testament to the lengths they’re willing to go to avoid failure. Illness is not an option, but an appendectomy is.
My appendix sits useless at the bend of my large intestine filled with bubble gum and jaw breakers swallowed from a sugar-coated childhood. To insure healthy travels I am not willing to undergo surgery, but an upcoming trip requires that I visit a doctor.
“Hello, I’m here for a physical”
“Do you have insurance?” I hand her my card. “I’ve never heard of that company before, sorry.”
“I’ll just pay it myself. It’s a physical how much can it cost?”
“Hmm…A self pay physical?” Apparently I am entering uncharted waters. She leaves the room and comes back with a large white binder. She thumbs through the pages with long sighs of annoyance. “That’ll be $275.92. You must pay now.” Her voice is filled with sharp-edged victory.
I hesitate, and then pull out my checkbook. I turn my gaze towards the examination rooms and my thoughts linger. What a wonderful world must exist behind that door. I almost here the soft chamber music, I long for the pre-exam massage, my palate anticipates sweet wines and bubbling champagnes, my back foresees the heavenly support of the Tempur-Pedic examination table, and my skin rises to goose bumps with the thought of silk examination gloves.
“Uh-hmm…excuse me sir. You can make the check out to Ben Dover M.D.”
What am I doing? I’m about to place the decimal on the check when the three digits to the left, once written down, return me to my senses. “Isn’t that price a bit expensive? What is it without the holistic healing benefits of the day spa?”
She looks at me with a fair amount of disdain. I close my checkbook and run for the door, “No thanks.”
Hours later I am sitting in a waiting room watching Montel on a TV older than me. The plastic chair creeks with each movement and occasionally grabs flesh in one of its larger cracks. The room smells like a drunken bum who has doused his body in rubbing alcohol in an attempt to cool his bright red burning skin.
It’s a short wait, and after a few pokes, prods, deep breaths, and coughs, I am written a clean bill of health without so much as a cherry sucker.
“Ok, the price of the exam is $40.00 minus the $15.00 coupon…your total is $25.00.”
I smile, pay, and begin converting my savings of $250.92 into massages, bottles of wine, and cherry suckers.
Although it may be the last way you want to spend the money stashed away for your travels, a visit to a physician for a physical is not a bad idea. It gives you a little one-on-one time with a medical professional who can address any health concerns or problems that you may have.
Before you go research required and recommended vaccinations for the destination(s) you will be visiting, at The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. Discuss these with your physician and lay out a plan for immunization. Some vaccination series may take up to two months to complete so make sure that you plan accordingly.
The possibility of illness and disease when traveling must be kept in perspective. If the CDC had its way the perfect traveler would be covered head to toe to protect against malaria, dengue, filarsis, leishmaniasis, onchocerciasis, and trypanosomiasis. He would never taste the authentic delicacies of street side vendors in order to avoid cholera and typhoid fever, he would never dip a toe in freshwater no matter how perfect the swimming hole for fear of schistosomiasis, he would walk around with a wide-brimmed hat and large dark sunglasses to prevent skin cancer, and he would never play with monkeys in order to avoid rabies and the plague. Add a mask to prevent the inhalation of airborne illnesses, and the perfect traveler is…Michael Jackson (minus the whole not petting monkeys thing).
Get the necessary vaccinations to protect against scary multi-syllabic diseases, but whatever you do, don’t walk away from the doctor’s office with the completely untreatable disease of paranoia. It is bound to take away from the genuine experience of travel.
And if you’re hardcore, or looking to become hardcore, broach the subject of your appendix tactfully with your physician. “Yeah, Doc I want to have my appendix removed.”
He’ll push and prod with latex or silk gloves, depending on your wealth, “Does that hurt? How about this? It looks fine to me. Why do you want it removed?”
“The truth is, Doc, I wanna be hardcore.”