A Few Minor Adjustments: A Memoir of Healing
Cherie Kephart (Zambia 1994)
Bazi Publishers, 2017
$15.95 (paperback), $24.95 (hardcover), $4.99 (Kindle)
Reviewed by Christine Herbert (Zambia 2004–06)
When the reader first meets the author, Cherie Kephart, we catch a brief glimpse into the life of a vibrant young woman, living independently, with a future full of possibilities. Then an unexpected and unwelcome visitor arrives: sudden and crippling pain. Slowly her health unravels, each new symptom more baffling than the last. She tries one therapy after another, each diagnosis from each new specialist at odds with the last.
In an effort to trace the source of her trauma, the author takes the reader back to the days of her Peace Corps service, ten years earlier. As a member of the very first volunteer cohort to serve in Zambia, she and the Peace Corps/Zambia staff had a steep learning curve. Some of the regional health concerns faced by those early volunteers — such as putzi fly larvae that burrow under the skin — were only known to the medical staff as curiosities, previously only read about in medical journals.
Through trial and error (mostly through error) the Peace Corps medical team attempts to diagnose and heal the various illnesses Cherie contracts through bacterial and parasitic infection. After multiple medevacs and desultory remedies, Cherie is diagnosed with multiple life-threatening conditions, ultimately forcing her to terminate her service and return to the States.
Though the illnesses that Cherie faced as a Peace Corps volunteer and the mystery illness that struck her down ten years later were largely unrelated, the devastating effects were the same: A complete lack of control over one’s physical body, a relinquishment of autonomy, and no idea if the pain and suffering would ever end. There are many moments when she was indeed on death’s doorstep, her survival due solely to the miraculous and timely intervention of friends, family, coworkers and villagers.
This is a survivor’s story. A brave account of plumbing the depths of despair, all the way down, then finding the strength to crawl up and out to stand on solid ground once again, despite all odds. A riveting read!
Reviewer Christine Herbert (Zambia 2004-2006), author of The Color of the Elephant: Memoir of a Muzungu. Christine is a part-time writer, part-time bodyworker, and full-time space cadet living in the Pacific Northwest. She served as a health educator in Peace Corps Zambia, and later as a healthcare professional in the USA and abroad. Christine considers her service in the Peace Corps to be the highlight of both her personal and professional life.