Part of preparing to go to lands far away is to get immunization shots. Going to Kenya is no exception! Especially when you are traveling there for the first time. I had no idea what “You’ll need a few shots” entailed until I visited the travel clinic for the first time the end of May. The nurse asked where I would be going, when, and for how long, and then reviewed with me my immunization history and what I would need for traveling to Kenya. The list grew from what I thought may be one or two shots to a total of 8! (I was also totaling the cost in my head… also not what originally expected. Warning: you have to look at this as an investment and hope you will be doing a bit of overseas travel in the future to get your money’s worth out of being so well vaccinated.) I had 5 shots that first visit. 3 in one arm, two in the other. I asked for the worst of them to be in my left arm so I could still write the next few days. I headed home with two sore arms plastered with bandaids and immediately made a beeline for the Tylenol. Fortunately, I did not have any adverse side effects from the shots other than sore arms and a mild headache. I went back one week later for the second of my Hepatitis A & B shots. After 5 shots the first visit, having only 1 this time was a piece of cake.
This particular travel clinic was out of the Yellow Fever vaccine, so I called around to other county health departments with a travel clinic to inquire if they had it. I found one and decided to wait until Carina returned from D.C. and Chicago so we could go together for her to get the shots she would need and to get the Yellow Fever shot. I tried to make light of all this shots stuff not wanting Carina to totally freak out, knowing she was not fond of needles, and emphasize how well protected we will be in Kenya!
When we arrived at this travel clinic they first showed us a video about traveling to other countries, precautions, and preparations needed. It didn’t really ease any uncertainties already there, warning us not to let a drop of water make it’s way into your mouth if it’s not from a sealed bottle of water, and even then you don’t always know, don’t eat anything you can’t peel or that isn’t cooked, spray yourself with highly toxic bug repellent and try your best not to get bit by anything, don’t pet any animals, stay away from anyone with rashes, take antibacterial wipes and lotion, plenty of anti diarrhea medicine with you, and keep your passport and money glued to your body at all times.
After all this good news we headed to the nurses station to find out how many shots Carina would need and for me to get my Yellow Fever shot. Good news for Carina, she only needed 4 shots and could take her Typhoid vaccine via pills. Before we could receive the shots we had to go down the hall and pay for them first. I’m not sure which hurt most… the cost or the shots themselves. We returned to the nurse, rolled up our sleeves, and prepared for the pain. I tried distracting Carina by talking about all the fun we had on our Philippines trip 4 years ago and how much fun we were going to have on this trip, and reminding her that God could now send us anywhere in the world since we would be vaccinated to the max! It helped slightly in between grimaces and ‘OUCHes’. The Yellow Fever shot definitely had a ‘bite’ to it.
We got our ‘Yellow Card’ listing all our vaccinations we would need to get in and out of Kenya (and back in to the States on return), some malaria and anti diarrhea medication, a folder with various travel tips and information, and were on our way. We stopped for Chic-fil-A ice cream on the way home because ice cream makes anything feel better.
The following week I went in for my final Hepatitis A & B shot. I don’t know if it was because I had been a pin cushion the previous 2 weeks, but it seemed this one hurt the most of all. I breathed a sigh of relief though, knowing this was the last shot needed. The only thing left to do was visit our primary care physician to sign a medical release form that we are fit to travel. Only problem was, we didn’t have a primary care physician. I called around and found one we could to go to that would not require a full physical first.
We went to the Doctor and he was happy to help us and even had his own missions trip story to tell. Before we left he asked us if anyone had told us about the Bot and Screw Worm flies, which can bite and deposit eggs under your skin? Carina and I looked at one another shaking our heads and wondering what other encouraging news we could possibly hear before leaving on this trip. The Dr. told us about a patient who had been bit and the really creepy, gross results, but not to worry because we would probably be fine. He signed our papers and wished us a grand trip and we were on our way reminding one another that we go in God and if we thought about all the terrible things that could happen to us we would never venture past our own borders and experience all the wonderful things He has waiting for us beyond our comfort zones!