Thursday, November 13, 2014

i'm not from around here

Every now and then I am reminded that I was not born in this country and that I lived a short but significant part of my life in a developing nation. Recalling illnesses you got as a kid that no American-born person my age ever got is possibly the best way to remember exactly where you came from (aww I'm feeling nostalgic):

Worms that you pooped out. I don’t exactly know what kind of worms they were but a quick internet search tells me it was probably tape worms—that’s right—the kind of worms that even cats and dogs rarely get. This worm is present in countries with poor sewage system and people who aren’t very clean. It’s contagious so, according to my brother, everyone got them. I have terrible long-term memory but pooping out worms is something I remember vividly but the memory is so bizarre I almost thought I might have made it up. My family and I were doing our usual evening ritual of watching television except I had been sick for a few days. I needed to use the bathroom, so like any normal kid with a contagious infection of worms, I went out to our back patio and pooped in a “tinola” which is essentially a bedpan. I remember the worms exiting my body, slightly burning, thin and slimy. Just like that they were out and I went about my night like I didn’t just sh*t worms. TOTALLY NORMAL.

Measles. I remember looking at my skin and thinking it looked weird blotchy but lots of kids got the measles so it was a totally normal thing in the late 1980s right? The measles vaccine was invented in 1963 and in the US in 1987, there were only about 1,400 cases of measles reported.

A polio vaccine scar. Technically not an illness but no one my age born in the US has a polio vaccine scar. I did not know I was “unusual” up until two years ago when my former boss and I had a conversation about vaccines. She mentioned something about the scar and her dad having one and I thought, hey I have that scar! Her dad is 70 years old.