Has anyone ever went away volunteering while having crohns?

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hipsydipsy
Regular Member


Date Joined Mar 2007
Total Posts : 58
   Posted 11/15/2007 6:28 AM (GMT -7)   
I'm (hopefully) spending next summer volunteering for 6 weeks in Haiti, mainly working with children. I was wondering if anyone has spent time in a developing country while they had crohn's and how did they cope/ what was your experience??
Thanks!

Driver37
Regular Member


Date Joined Jun 2007
Total Posts : 93
   Posted 11/15/2007 9:35 AM (GMT -7)   
I have been to the Phillipines, India (humanitarian work), and Iraq (contractor) with Crohn's. My symptoms were not severe at the time but it was difficult in other regards, especially, in India trying to maintain good hygiene practices. In India, most people eat with their hands, the right hand that is, and they don't use toilet paper. They're supposed to wipe with their left hand and then wash in a basin afterwards without hot water or soap. I was always concerned about that. I didn't get sick while I was there for two weeks but I did have diarrhea a lot of the time. It was uncomfortable and inconvenient but it didn't stop me from doing the work I was there to do. In Iraq I lived on U.S. base and there were porta-potties everywhere so that was a plus and the food was American style. However, I did get a bad flare and came home after only 8 months when my intention was to stay for an entire year.

I had a friend who went to Haiti on a medical mission and the conditions there are very bad but they stayed on a base that was wired off from everything else. If you stay on a base, or in a UN controlled area, there will probably be plenty of porta-potties if that's what you're worried about it. If your symptoms are severe, I wouldn't do it, though, because if you get really sick and need a blood transfusion you run the risk of getting aids.

hipsydipsy
Regular Member


Date Joined Mar 2007
Total Posts : 58
   Posted 11/15/2007 11:14 AM (GMT -7)   
Wow, you're quite the traveller! Well the place in haiti is Gros Morne, up in the mountains. As far as I know, the UN are mainly in port-au-prince, so I'm pretty sure it's not a UN controlled area and it's definately not a base!! We will be coming back to our place everyday for lunch and dinner, so we will be cooking the food ourselves, so that should minimise potential infection (even with me doing the cooking!!) Also I'm pretty fluent in French, so at least I'll be able to communicate if anything goes wrong.
My crohn's has been pretty much in remission for the last few months since my resection, however it has been flaring a bit the last two week but I'm under a LOT of stress with my college finals coming up, so I'm hoping it'll die down over the xmas when I can relax. Also severity wise, my symptoms are tolerable at the moment. This will be my first humanitarian mission and it's only 6 weeks long, so I think I'll be able to remain in somewhat decent shape healthwise for that period. I'm hoping to do my masters in humanitarian studies or development studies with the view of working in an NGO or IGO such as the UN or the EU so I have to (and want to!!!) get some field experience. Did you take or do anything to pervent the chances of flaring? Also have you encountered any problems with potential reactions from taking vacines with crohn's and crohn's meds??
Also if you don't mind me asking, what type of humanitarian and contractor work did you do? The field I want to break into seems pretty much impossible, so I'm trying to pick the brains of those who are in that sector!

FitzyK23
Veteran Member


Date Joined May 2005
Total Posts : 4219
   Posted 11/15/2007 11:46 AM (GMT -7)   
Hipsy- when my husband went to India from Singapore they brought a kit w/ clean needles in the event that they needed injections or IV's at the hospital. This way they were sure they were new and clean. Im not sure if you can still do this flying but I'm sure if it was in your checked baggage and declared at customs w/ the purpose it wouldn't be a problem. Id make sure first though.
26 Year old married female.  Diagnosed w/ CD 3 years ago, IBS for over 10 years before that, which was probably the CD.  Currently on Pentasa 4 pills/4x day, hysociamine prn, nexium, and ortho evra.  Good times!!!
 
 


hipsydipsy
Regular Member


Date Joined Mar 2007
Total Posts : 58
   Posted 11/15/2007 12:04 PM (GMT -7)   
That's a good idea, I'll ask my doctor about that! I think if I have a medical certificate and declare it, it shouldn't be a problem, but I'd probably make sure I won't encounter any problems with the Haitian authorities by checking with their embassy

Driver37
Regular Member


Date Joined Jun 2007
Total Posts : 93
   Posted 11/15/2007 12:52 PM (GMT -7)   
Hipsy- I didn't have any problems with any of the vaccines but I chose not to take the malaria pills so don't know about that. And I was not taking any Crohn's meds at the time. I was off the reservation, medically speaking and trying to deal with the disease on my own taking probiotics and other supplements.

In India I just tried to avoid the overly spicy foods, as they have a lot of that there, and ate small meals. The biggest problem was when we went to a village and they cooked a big meal for us. It would be an insult not to eat a lot so I did my best. What we did there was Tsunami relief. My friend has a Christian non-profit and we raised money in the U.S. and then purchased small fishing boats and other supplies to those affected.

In Iraq, I drove a truck. So I wasn't on the base the whole time and it was intense. May have actually been a mistake. I began flaring real bad in the eighth month but then went and lived in Buenos Aires for the next four months to avoid paying taxes on the money I earned in Iraq. I got back to the U.S. last January and ended up in the hospital over the summer with a fistula and abscess. I just had a resection surgery two weeks ago. I don't know if all the travel and excitement contributed to this, or if it was because I had gone off my meds a few years before.

That's a good idea about taking clean needles if you were to need any injections. I relied on Immodium a lot, probiotics, and aloe mucaligenous pollysacharride molecules. Also tried to eat small meals. If you're planning on going into humanitarian work, it can be very intense and take you to some of the worst places on earth. Are you planning on being in the field when you get your degree? I wouldn't want to discourage you, but it may not be the best thing for someone with Crohn's. But it's you and your doctor's call. If you're in remission most of the time, it may not be that bad.
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