Sick Days

Ever since I’ve gotten to India, I’ve been sick a lot. The humidity, questionable food sources, and changing weather patterns work together to knock me out for a couple days at a time. I mentioned earlier that I had food poisoning for over a week. Thankfully, I was able to get some medication and end my misery on that front. Well, the last couple days, I’ve been battling a cold with some very strange side symptoms (dry heaving, throat constrictions, etc.) I’ve spent the last two days essentially in bed, waking up to drink hot liquids and check in with my host mom (who is incredibly sweet and keeps offering me different remedies).

On any average day as well, I don’t feel as healthy as I would in the U.S. Being completely soaked by the 98% humidity is bad enough–but once I walk indoors, I’m usually subject to an AC on full-blast: the switch from intense humidity to freezing cold is physically jarring.

Being sick abroad is something that I’m used to. In Oxford, I had a cough that lasted for over a month. In Mongolia, I was notably sick over a weekend–Oyumaa’s mom took me to buy medicines and then dropped me home in a cab during a snowstorm (it was mid-April). In Hungary, while traveling with Ale and Oyumaa, all of us felt the onset of sickness and took vitamins and drank hot teas together one evening instead of going out. And of course, after my trip to Guatemala, I was sick for over a month with a viral infection (luckily I didn’t get sick until I got back onto American soil).

I miss my well-being. I hardly ever get sick in the U.S. In my adopted hometown of Portland, the air is fresh, I’m able to spend lots of time outdoors, and the weather is perfectly suited for a healthful lifestyle. Even in Lexington, I have maybe been to the health center a handful of times–rarely for illness, usually just for sports-related injuries.

Because I’ve been sick so often, I decided to do some research on healthcare in India. Actually–in terms of pure access, it might appear as a successful model. All persons living under the poverty line are covered by national healthcare. Unfortunately, access is not enough: these government clinics have a shortage of medical staff and an excess of patients. While at Calcutta Medical College a few weeks ago, I saw hundreds of patients waiting their turn to see a doctor. People camp out for days outside government hospitals–they can’t afford hotels to stay at overnight. Inside these hospitals, there is a dearth of facilities: patients share beds and even lay on the floor while recovering. Healthcare in rural areas is especially lacking–though 68% of the population lives in villages, only 2% of doctors are stationed in rural areas. Though there might be a clinic in your village, chances are you won’t get sufficient care there (especially if a doctor isn’t even stationed there!) Because of these factors, most people choose to rely on private healthcare providers instead. There is no real concept of health insurance as we know in the U.S., which means that costs are paid out-of-pocket and can really add up fast. This article was just published last week about India’s abysmal healthcare system.

Considering that the U.S. still has a far way to go with universal healthcare, I have no such hopes for India in the short-term. I just hope to recover my well-being as soon as possible. Once my body acclimates to the climate, hopefully I won’t have to rely on the healthcare system at all.


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