Forget Yellow Fever…I’ve got Kilimanjaro Fever!

Someone went to Africa and all I got was this stinkin' Malaria!

Someone went to Africa and all I got was this stinkin’ Malaria!

With my trek now slightly less than six months away I decided it was time to start getting some of my travel vaccinations. I called around to several different “travel clinics” but all seemed to require an act of Congress to get an appointment. What’s the big deal? I just need a few sticks and some ‘scripts. Thanks to the magic of Google, I’m pretty sure there isn’t much a doctor is going to tell me that I haven’t already discovered through my own research. I finally called a place called Doctor’s Express which bills itself as an urgent care facility. I’ve heard great things about them and they actually returned my phone calls, unlike some other places. Score! They were very helpful over the phone and detailed everything that I would need as well as the prices. Best of all, they told me that they get clever with insurance billing and try to make sure they use codes the insurance companies will accept. Unfortunately, most insurance companies won’t cover travel vaccines and medicines. I found this out recently when I contacted United Healthcare to see if they would cover. They confirmed that they do NOT cover anything of the sort but cheerfully proclaimed they would treat me upon my return should I contract Malaria, Yellow Fever…Ebola, etc. How’s that for logic?

Impressed with Doctor’s Express, I stopped in after work to get the first series of vaccinations. Everyone was quite friendly but I was shocked when no one knew where Tanzania is on a map. Sadly, this included the doctor. I explained that it is in East Africa and he still looked at me with a blank stare. I proceeded to tell him that it is south of Kenya. Bordered by Rwanda and DR of Congo. Still nothing. I found that a tad shocking since I take for granted that educated people are familiar with the world in which they live. Granted, I’m a bit of a geography nut but come on….

The doctor was very nice, despite his geographical shortcomings. He was very happy to prescribe me all the meds I needed and didn’t try to push unnecessary vaccines such as rabies (he told me to not pet any animals haha). He also said I didn’t need to bother with Polio since I had the vaccine as a kid. He said he felt a booter was unnecessary. In total he recommended Hep A, Hep B, and Typhoid. The good news about Typhoid is that instead of getting a shot, I can take a pill known as Vivotif. It contains live Typhoid vaccine (sounds frightening!) and then I’m good for years to come. Yah! When I walked out I had a right arm full of Hep A, a left arm full of Hep B and four ‘scripts. One for Cipro in case I get traveler’s diarrhea, Diamox for altitude, Doxycycline for Malaria, and the Vivotif. I have to return in one month for the second dose of Hep B and then again just before I leave for one more dose of Hep A and Hep B.

The cost of all this: It remains to be seen. I should know in a month or two when the insurance statements roll in. Luckily I have secondary insurance so I’m praying between the two insurance companies, someone will cover something. I did get a great deal on the meds though. Insurance covered all of them but the Vivotif. I paid $60 for it. Still, it beats 4 weeks of pea soup diarrhea or worse, death.

Typhoid vaccine

Typhoid vaccine

Yellow Fever- the doctor told me that according to the CDC I didn’t need Yellow Fever since I come from a country where it’s not endemic. Still, I have concerns about the fact I have a layover in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Will the fact I stop in a country where it is endemic be cause for the officials to ask for a Yellow Fever card? I’ve heard rumors on Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet that the Tanzanians will ask for proof of Yellow Fever at JRO, regardless of nationality or where you originate.  If you are unable to produce it, they take you to a separate area, vaccinate you on the spot and charge $50 for it. The thought of having a syringe anywhere near me whilst in Africa makes me shudder and the reason is simple: HIV.  😦

So with the fear of a dirty airport syringe full of HIV looming in my mind, I decided to write to the Tanzanian embassy in Washington, D.C. to find out first hand. They wrote back and said I don’t need a Yellow Fever vaccine. Whew! I plan to print that and take it with me in case I am chased around JRO by a Tanzanian with a needle!

In other news, I am still slow going on my workout. I’m so fearful of what’s going on with my knee. While I know it’s nothing TOO serious, my fear is pushing myself too hard with running or weights and causing serious damage. Today I went to the gym and had a good but pretty laid back workout that included lunges, squats with no weight, leg press, adductor/abductor machine, lower back exercises, and aqua jogging. The last one sounds silly but it really was a good workout. I did ten laps around the family pool and it was pretty tiring towards the end. My reward as a nice soak in the hot tub.

Finally, I’ve been reading as much as I can about Kilimanjaro. One book I recently read was Kilimanjaro: One Woman’s Journey to the Roof Top of Africa. Frankly, it was just okay. I was surprised it got such glowing reviews. The author provided some good info but I just didn’t really appreciate her “voice”. She didn’t have much of a sense of humor about anything and I thought she often seemed grumpy. Also, some of the book was just a little too “zen” for me. I much preferred Kissing Kibo and A Walk in the Park. Right now I am reading some blogs. I found a really good one:  It’s very detailed and very interesting and I am learning a lot from her. One of the videos she has posted to her blog is one in which the porters are singing the arrival of the climbers at the Mweka Gate. I get chills when I see it! How awesome would it be to arrive, victorious in reaching the summit, and to be greated by this sound? I hope I get the same treatment! It would be a dream come true (I seriously have tears just thinking about it!) Also, is it weird that I’m already sad at the thought of saying goodbye to the porters, the guides, and the mountain? I’ve not even arrived and yet I already dread the thought of forging relationships with people and a mountain that I will be forced to leave behind? I’m ruled by my heart, not by my head. A hopeless romantic…in love with the world!

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