The following is an article I pitched to a few of my fellow Volunteers that run “Oiste”, Colombia’s official Peace Corps Newsletter. My idea (which fully outlined what the article would contain) was pre-approved without reservations and submitted before the publication deadline. I was not contacted regarding it’s status until I sent a follow-up message, after which I received two replies (portions of which appear below):

After reading your article, <xxx> and I have decided that, unfortunately, we are unable to publish it in Oíste. We value Volunteers’ stories–both positive and negative–and consider Oíste a medium for sharing those stories. However, we feel that elements of your article amount to accusations, and Oíste is not the appropriate place for that kind of discourse. We want to promote constructive dialogue among Volunteers and between Volunteers and staff, and we have decided that your article would detract from the productive tone that we want Oíste to have.

… I know that you told <xxx> about it, and yes, we should have been more clear about our expectations.

As I mentioned to the editors of “Oiste”, these and other “accusations” I chose to not include in my article came straight from the mouths of trained medical professionals after they carefully reviewed the medical care I received as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia. Please read my original article and let me know if it only amounts “accusations” by leaving a comment below.

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When Your Health Is On The Line, “No” Doesn’t Mean “No”

If you have questions or concerns about your health, don’t hesitate to contact qualitynurse@peacecorps.gov

By Chance Dorland

A photo I took to document my symptoms. My Peace Corps nurse never took a photo of my outbreaks.

A photo I took to document my symptoms. My Peace Corps nurse never took a photo of my outbreaks.

A virus. My headaches, rashes, and dizziness were originally caused by a virus. At least, that’s the best diagnosis my team of doctors in Des Moines, Iowa, can come up with. Despite hours of doctor’s visits, blood cultures, and emails back and forth between my Macbook and medical representative in Washington, D.C., it appears a definite answer may forever be out of reach. Why? Because I’m not sick anymore, and despite my doctors’ best efforts, they haven’t really found anything wrong me. The problem? My blood. There’s nothing in it. Just blood. All the tests (that I’m sure had to be rather expensive) came a little too late.

I landed in Iowa on a Tuesday and saw my doctor the next morning. After a brief examination and back and forth about where in Iowa each of us was from, I was told to report to a lab where I would be poked and prodded in order to find out what was wrong. I remember her next words exactly because of the disappointment they conveyed. “These tests should have been performed in Colombia when you first got sick.” Unfortunately, I had first become ill two months before, back in 2011.

My internist took charge of all my medical care. She was the first, but not the last, to tell me I should have gotten better care in Colombia.

My internist took charge of all my medical care. She was the first, but not the last, to tell me I should have gotten better care in Colombia.

It may come as no surprise to the volunteers and staff of Peace Corps Colombia that I talk a lot. When I don’t find something particularly pleasing, or am asked to provide feedback, I am quite open about voicing my opinion. Probably too open at times, but that’s how I am. However, when I got sick and things didn’t seem like they were going the way they should be, I didn’t want to be “that guy” who always complains. I just wanted to get better. But, it didn’t happen that way. I got worse and worse. Mistakenly, I didn’t reach out for help. I didn’t contact our representative in Washington, D.C., specifically there to deal with these types of problems. And, I got worse again. Unfortunately, my reluctance to continue being “that guy” may have been very costly. Had I said something, had the correct tests been ordered, or the correct medication given, I may have stayed in Barranquilla. Instead, I was medically evacuated, taking me away from my Colombian family, school and community that I had sworn to serve for the next two years.

My doctors had very little information to go on, so every avenue was pursued until I was deemed healthy. Here I am getting a CAT scan to check for a brain tumor.

My doctors had very little information to go on, so every avenue was pursued until I was deemed healthy. Here I am getting a CAT scan to check for a brain tumor.

After speaking with my team of homegrown Iowa doctors, it appears I didn’t receive the level of medical care I should have had as a Peace Corps Volunteer. There’s nothing I can do to change that. But, I really hope it doesn’t happen to you. If you need to see a specialist, require a certain medication, or would like a second opinion, remember that NO doesn’t mean NO when it comes to your health. If you have questions or concerns about your health, don’t hesitate to email qualitynurse@peacecorps.gov.

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Check out the following two podcasts regarding my medical adventures in Iowa:

Meeting my elementary school bus driver while getting a CAT scan - click here

Describing side effects of medicine that made me worse & the tests I should have gotten - click here