I am an American girl, who tried just a little too hard to be Ukrainian. Today, the pain and itchy spots that have been overtaking my body for the past two weeks proved to be too much for me to handle. I told my volunteer coordinator, in a joking way, that I think the cats are giving me fleas or something. Two weeks ago when my bumps started appearing, I thought I had my usual bad romance with the mosquitoes. They tend to love me, and latch onto me more than anyone I know, but after discovering the fleas on the cats that live in my volunteer foundation’s office, and their tendencies to climb into my lap, I shifted my paranoia to that other group of blood-sucking parasites. Today, I found out it is much worse.
|Why are you so cute and warm, flea-bitten kitty?|
|Just trying to do my job here. Must you hover?|
The women at my foundation are incredibly warm and caring people, as most all Ukrainian I have met are; do not let the stern first impressions fool you. Upon examining my spots, they all immediately insisted I go to the hospital. People, I would never in my wildest dreams conceive of taking myself to a hospital in the United States. I would have to be on the verge of death, and even then, I would use my second to last breathe to make sure the ambulance ride was covered by my insurance company. I hesitated, and ensured them I was fine; I just got one too many mosquito bites! Usually, I am extreme hypochondriac, but a Ukrainian hospital was not on my must-see list of tourist attractions. On the verge of tears, I finally relented and allowed my volunteer coordinator to escort me to the hospital situated about 45 minutes away from our center.
I was embarrassed at first that I allowed my office mates to know my shame: either I was overreacting to my mosquito bites or I had fleas. Neither scenario cast a favorable light on me. As you will soon see, neither parasite was responsible for my swollen red blotches.
|Red spots everywhere!|
The “hospital” was actually a doctor’s office that was located in a large courtyard. I sat nervously waiting to be called into the doctor’s room, fearing more that I would have to go back to my hostel and to notify them, “So, remember when I told you I had mosquito bites? Haha… just kidding! I have fleas.” My worries were soon set aside when I met the professional and extremely friendly doctor. He spoke very quickly in Russian, but I actually understood most everything he was telling me. He explained that I have allergies, but to what I wanted to know. I told him that in the USA, I most definitely do have allergies, to about everything except cats and food.
He basically informed me that my diet is to blame and it is slowly killing me; he prescribed some medication, and told me to stop eating cheese, chocolates, mushrooms, jam, fish, seafood, pickled foods, fruits, juice, coffee, milk, alcoholic beverages and anything red. Really though! What else is there to eat (or drink!) in Ukraine?? Borsht, tomatoes, mushrooms, fish, cheese, jam, nutella, milk and beer…that sounds like my day to day staple diet. Hence, the red spots all over my body. I am now only allowed to eat boiled meat, potatoes, raw cabbage, porridge and drink tea. He said it is good that I came in, and that I own an Epi-pen. Had my allergies gone untreated, my red sores might have traveled up my neck and possibly caused my throat to close up.
Although extremely grateful to now know that I can control this allergic reaction, and I do not have fleas, lime’s disease, plague, shingles or any other communicable disease, today’s revelation does not sedate my eye twitch or my homesickness; I am now on a starvation diet until I come home. Fail.