At one point during my lengthy interview with a Peace Corps Recruiter, he asked me what my biggest concern would be, should I be offered a position. I quickly responded with, "Oh, that's easy. I really, really hate being sick." He simply laughed and said, "Unfortunately, you will definitely be sick, but at least we have a great medical staff!"
Since then, I've continued to learn about the ailments that plague Peace Corps Panama volunteers. Other than the "normal" digestive tract issues, my province of Bocas del Toro is also known for other jungle ailments such as a variety of parasites and bacterial and fungal infections. Sounds great, right?
To add insult to injury, my site was specifically known for being medically tough because our water isn't sanitary. The previous volunteer was sick so often that the very first thing my boss said about my town was, "This is a really neat little town... but you have to promise me you will be very, very, very careful with the water."
After two months with nearly no incidents whatsoever, I thought my iron stomach and I were in the clear... but I obviously spoke too soon. When I noticed that a bunch of my bug bites started to get infected I called our medical unit and got some anti-biotics to clear them up. Two days later, most were gone, but the few that remained acted like Mount Vesuvius and swelled, turned black, and started bleeding all within a few hours.
Obviously, this warranted a trip to the doctor, but thanks to Peace Corps careful regulations the closest approved doctor was in David, the regional capital over 4 hours from my site. As luck would have it, I didn't start the trip until after dinner (as I didn't realize I'd be going so far) and all of the remaining busses to David were full. After a tearful ordeal of being left behind (Their fault, not mine...) some sweet Spanish tourists took pity on me and washed my gruesome arm with some antibiotic perfumed soap before splitting the 3 hour taxi ride to David with me.
Slightly after midnight I finally got to see the Doctor, who gave me antibiotics and some pretty strict directions to stay away from the local water sources.