>> Sunday, January 14, 2007
Well, the short version of our most recent news is that we're both medically cleared! However, we had quite a few more things go "not quite right" before things started going our way and we received that coveted Application Status Update.
Our dental packets did eventually make it to DC and the tracking number worked. Miraculously, Paul was then dentally cleared a day later. I knew since I wasn't cleared at the same time, something was the matter. A few days later I received my entire dental packet back along with a letter saying that (1) I needed to submit a panorex that was less than a year old. I did submit a panorex from about 6 months ago, but it was a copy and the label on the copy was difficult to read; and (2) that they were able to tell from my x-rays that I have bruxism, meaning that I grind my teeth at night, and that I needed a night guard for that. I was already aware that I have bruxism and also already have a night guard... for some reason, my dentist just didn't mark the bruxism box and didn't write in that I have a night guard; I think he figured that he was doing me a favor by not admitting that I ever had a problem. To solve these problems, I had to get another copy of the x-ray that had a label that was clearer and have my dentist write a letter saying that he knows I do have bruxism but that I have a night guard and no further treatment will be needed. The PC sent an overnight Fed Ex envelope for me to mail my packet back, so I mailed that ASAP and was then also cleared a day later.
We did eventually receive our medical packets back from Fort Leonard Wood and they were completely and correctly filled out and signed! It took 19 days for the packet to travel about 120 miles round trip and get a signature, but we were so thrilled to have it that we temporarily forgot how irritated we were. We got those packets on December 7, overnighted them the next day (we were tired of messing around with slow mail!) and our toolkits were updated on December 12 to state that they received the medical packets.
Then on January 4, Paul received a letter stating that he needed to have a Hepatitis B Core Antibody test done and that he needed to document his use of Alavert, the over-the-counter allergy medication that he wrote he takes approximately once or twice a week.
First, the Hep B: after looking more closely over our copies of the lab work, we discovered that we had both had Hep B Surface Antibody tests (The PC requires a Hep B Core Antibody and Hep B Surface Antigen). I called our screening nurse after I had called around to some clinics in town to make sure that Paul was going to have the correct test done. I was also curious why I hadn't received a letter since we had the exact same lab work done. The screening nurse was really nice and double checked our files and said that the (incorrect) Surface Antibody test was okay for me because I have had my Hep B immunizations. Because of this, the Hep B antibodies showed up on the surface test (which I guess is a good thing) and so I wouldn't need to have the Core test done. So, Paul went to a walk-in clinic in town and had his new Hep B Core test... surprisingly, only $26!
Second, the allergy medicine: we learned yet another lesson the hard way after Paul admitted that he sometimes takes Alavert to stop a sniffly nose. The letter required our doctor to fill out a form stating what Paul is allergic to (pollen? ragweed?), the severity of his reactions (sneezing and sniffling?), if any emergency room or other treatment has been necessary (uh, no), and the date of last reaction (who knows). I can see how a form would be important if Paul took an important, prescription medicine, but it was a little unnecessary for his allergy medication. We decided to fax that form back to Fort Leonard Wood (it would have been at least $170 for an office visit here, and the PC letter said they wouldn't reimburse for this information)... we were worried it would again take weeks to make progress through the military bureaucracy, but we actually received the fax back a mere 48 hours later and then immediately faxed the Hep B labs and the Alavert form back to the PC medical office.
On January 11, we both had the application status update e-mails in our inboxes and saw we had both been medically cleared! Needless to say, we were very happy since that is probably the biggest hurdle and since we were always worried that some irregular blood test or some undiscovered illness would make our clearance deferred or denied.
Overall, we learned a few lessons from the whole process: First, don't trust your doctor (however nice or helpful he or she is trying to be) to fill everything out and get everything right. Double and triple check everything and don't leave until you're sure it's all right. Second, although it's important to be honest on the medical forms, volunteering extra information is probably not a wise idea--Paul hasn't even remembered to take Alavert for months now. We were lucky that the doctor in Fort Leonard Wood was willing and able to fill out the form so quickly, or it could have been an even bigger hassle and delay.
Now I think all the hard stuff should be done... we hope to receive contact from our placement officer or just receive another Application Status Update informing us that we're invitees with an invitation in the mail. We still think we're headed for Nicaragua; we've found some other Nica PC blogs and I've e-mailed a few of those volunteers and one person confirmed that they know a new TEFL group is coming to Nicaragua in May and someone on the peacecorps2 Yahoo! group already received an invitation for small business development in Nicaragua leaving April 30, 2007, so I'm sure that would be the same group as TEFL.
Obviously, we're still trying to be cautious in our optimism... even though we've cleared the medical hurdle, it's hard to tell what other unexpected things can happen. I'm still hopeful that our next blog update will be a really happy one!