Today marks 3 weeks since I originally broke my ankle, making this technically day 21 of medical separation. Some people have been asking me why I can’t just come back to Zambia right now, so I thought I’d explain what is going on in more depth.
What is Medical Separation/Evacuation: Generally this happens if a volunteer has or develops a medical condition that Peace Corps cannot medically accommodate or resolved within forty-five (45) days or less (such as a triple fractured ankle). After the 45 days the Volunteer will be medically separated. Volunteers in Africa typically are sent to South Africa for any major surgeries or illnesses. In extreme cases some are sent straight to Washington DC for the 45 days. If a volunteer manages to heal in the 45 days they can just return back to site and their service is not affected. In the case of separation the volunteer is sent back to America and no longer a part of Peace Corps. Depending on the condition the volunteer can reapply after they heal, depending on the staffs’ decision. In some cases the PCV can be sent back to their original country and possibly site, but more often they have to restart their service going to a different country and going through PST all over again.
Why will it take over 45 days to get better: Unfortunately I messed up my ankle really badly. One fracture is rough but I have 3, and had to have screws/plates put in so the healing time is even longer. It should take about 3 to 4 months for the ankle to bear weight again. The real healing time is going to be after I can put weight on my foot, because of the damage I have to retrain the muscles to walk and do any exercise.
What I’m doing now: I’m currently still in South Africa, waiting until my ankle is healed enough for me to fly back to America. In the mean time I have been to physical therapy a few times which has been interesting. To reduce swelling and to encourage the nerves re-growth the doctors do a variety of weird things to my ankle. This includes using an ultra sound machine and zapping my foot with electrodes for 10 mins at the time. Right now I’m still mostly stuck in bed with my ankle elevated, but I’m slowly hobbling along on crutches for short adventures.
How do I feel about all this: I have to say being bedridden for 3 weeks is one of the most boring and depressing things I have ever dealt with. I’m honestly heartbroken about leaving my village at this point in my service, I had finally been making big progress in my village and felt like I was really doing good work. Unlike a normal RPCV I don’t get the emotional prep time for leaving, this is more like a death it was sudden, unexpected and untimely; I’m mourning over it. I’m also going nuts about leaving my cat behind and am frantically trying to get him sent to America with me.
What am I doing when I’m healed: I honestly am not totally sure what I am going to do. If I get lucky and I heal quickly, I may try to go back to Peace Corps Zambia. But the more I talk to people the longer the healing is looking. I more likely am just going to go to grad school a few years earlier than I planned.
And just for good measure here are some pictures to give you an idea of what is going on with my leg.
Leg After 3 Weeks of Healing:
Screws and Plates: