Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) have the best health care coverage ever. This is solely my opinion based on my own personal experiences, but there is no doubt that the Peace Corps takes its volunteers' health issues very seriously.
There is a group of Peace Corps Medical Officers (PCMOs) assigned to each country where PCVs are serving. All of the PCMOs are highly qualified medical professionals from the host country or the United States. Not only do they educate volunteers on public health and disease prevention techniques, they are on call 24/7 for any medical issues. Even though Cambodia as a whole is not a developed country, Phnom Penh is developed enough to have great medical care. PCMOs directly work with the best health care providers (hospitals, testing centers, dentists, dermatologists, etc) to provide us with the medical care we need. In some cases, they will even fly us out to Bangkok if the required care might exceed the capacity of the health care providers in Cambodia or if the PCMO deems it safer to have the surgery or procedure there. Bangkok's Bumrungrad Hospital is one of the best in the world.
I can personally attest to all of this because I have been in too many incidences since I have arrived here in Cambodia. In the last year, I've had to use all the medical services provided by every health care provider mentioned above. Most recently, I had another incident 9 days ago.
I woke up with some cramps. I've never had cramps before so I knew it wasn't normal, but I went to work and forgot about it as it faded. Around lunch time, it came back again as a stomachache. I took some Tums and Tylenol and went to school to teach my students. At the end of my class, my pain slowly came back again. Once I got home, I told my host mom my stomach hurts so I'm going to shower quickly and eat dinner so that I can take some more pain medication. However, I barely lasted through the shower. The pain spread from my left stomach area to my back, pelvic, and abdominal areas. It felt strangely familiar, which scared me. I called the PCMO on duty right away. I don't even remember who picked up because I was in so much pain. After I explained my situation, they told me to leave the village ASAP even though it was almost dark. Usually, the Peace Corps won't let us travel after dark but they made an exception. Both PCMOs (Dr. Haor and Linda) keeps calling me to check with me as I pack, find someone to take me to Phnom Penh, and help explain my host family why I'm leaving so suddenly. It was such a scary ride to Phnom Penh too because there was no street lights and the cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians do not abide regulations. Thankfully, PCMOs checked in with me the whole time and came to picked me up at the entry bridge to Phnom Penh. I was taken to the Royal Phnom Penh Hospital immediately and was admitted to the Emergency Room.
After CT Scan and a Urine test, the doctors confirmed that I did indeed have a Kidney Stone and UTI, as I feared. I was admitted to the Hospital for 3 days to be monitored, controlled for pain, and received additional testing. While I was on my own in the hospital room, the PCMOs called me every 1-2 hours to constantly check in with me. They also keep in touch with the nurses and doctors who were in charge of me too. At the time of discharge, I was also provided a hotel room, meal budget, and travel allowances to continue resting in Phnom Penh. I was able to relax and recharge comfortable as they keep me checking in with me. After a week, they finally cleared me to come back to my village.
Before coming back, they gave me a full annual medical check up. In addition to getting 3 unexpected tooth fillings, I also received some unexpected news. The PCMO realized that I had a big mole on my neck, which has grown along with me since birth. Even though I've done a biopsy before to ensure it wasn't malignant, the PCMO was very concerned as it was still growing even though I stopped growing. He sent me to the dermatologist right away, who also agreed that it was safer to surgically removed the entire mole. This concern is something I have had my whole life, but I stopped worrying about it because of the previous biopsy. In a way, I feel that I would have never gotten it removed and continue to live with the mole and the possible risk of malignant melanoma. Now, I have an appointment next month for this surgical removal.
This is why I was very impressed by my PCMOs. They went above and beyond to not only care about my current medical needs, they also carefully think about my potential future health problems too. Moreover, they are very warm and kind in the way they treat all of us volunteers. We are so far away from home that we especially feel home sick when we are sick. The PCMOs make sure we don't feel alone and are well taken care of. Most importantly, the Peace Corps takes care of all the medical, transportation, meals, and lodging costs that comes with the medical issue.
I feel truly blessed and immensely thankful to have such a great team of PCMOs and the Peace Corps looking out for me in my times of need.
I also want to give a big shout out to my wonderful friends who came to be with me while I was stuck in Phnom Penh. Thank you, guys! <3