Friday, May 10, 2019 was my last day at my job that I had spent almost seven years. In fact, it was the first job I had when I moved to the Seattle area in 2012. I had given my boss almost three months’ notice, giving myself plenty of time to train my replacement and maybe plan a fun trip to take before my new job started – which was starting on May 13! Talk about no break!
I had it all planned in my head – trip to Kauai and visit a friend of mine who moved there not too long ago and visit the island Jurassic Park was filmed on. I had never been to any of the Hawaiian Islands, so the timing was great, and I thought a week long break between my old life and my soon-to-be new life would be perfect.
I asked some friends if they wanted to go with me and many were enthusiastic about the whole idea but couldn’t commit. I was about ready to go by myself and just wing it as a solo adventure, when I texted my friend Susan about coming with me to Hawaii. Her response changed the course of my year.
“I won’t be able to go to Hawaii, but do you want to go to Peru in September with a bunch of ladies?”
A bucket list country. Lima. Cusco. Urabamba Valley. The Amazon. And of course, Machu Picchu – just to name a few of the most beautiful places to visit in South America. In a matter of about thirty minutes, Susan connected me with Matilde who runs Conquer Peru and I gave her my $500 deposit to book the trip of a lifetime. And now I’m going to Peru with a group of women from the Seattle area to not only visit the most spectacular and breathtaking sights the world has to offer, but visit a non-profit that provides free housing and food for children with cancer, stay three nights in the Amazon rain forest, visit a non-profit that empowers young women and see the sunrise over Machu Picchu?
Over the last month or so, I scoured information on Peru from the State Department, Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. The list of vaccinations and medications that were recommended were lengthy and I sadly discovered that my primary care provider did not offer what I was looking for and I was told to look elsewhere.
No sooner than a day later (I am NOT joking), I received an email from a PR firm asking me if I was planning any summer travel adventures and if I would be interested in having a medical consultation with one of Pacific Medical Center’s Travel Clinics. And what does a PacMed Travel Clinic offer? Oh, I don’t know – every single thing I was looking for?!?
- Complete pre-travel exams
- Malaria prevention tips and medications
- Jet lag and sleeping adjustments
- Country-specific advice:
- Safe food and water suggestions
- Injury prevention and what to do when you’re away from home
- Medication suggestions
Can you talk about perfect timing?
I set up an appointment with Dr. Ari Gilmore at their Beacon Hill location (you can’t miss it, it’s in that old Amazon building on the hill!) and was ready for my appointment.
The staff at PacMed made scheduling an appointment very easy. They worked with my schedule and sent me text reminders about my appointment day and time. I was not nervous at all and was very eager to hear what all I needed from Dr. Gilmore.
Dr. Gilmore was incredibly friendly and explained everything I needed very thoroughly – and all of it matched up with what I had done my previous research on.
We began with a discussion on Hepatitis A and B and how the two liver diseases are present in Peru (and in the States and many other countries as well). The Hepatitis A vaccination requires a two-dose vaccination, given at least 6 months apart for long-lasting protection. The Hepatitis B vaccination is usually given as a 2, 3, or 4 shots over 1 to 6 months. I received both my initial shots at this appointment and did not feel a thing (also, I’m really good with the whole needle thing, so if you are scared of them, then just grit your teeth as best you can while it’s administered). One shot was delivered in each arm, and minus a few hours of feeling a little sore, I had no side effects. I will be going back right before my September trip to receive my second Hepatitis B shot.
One of my bigger worries about traveling to Peru was Malaria and Zika. While I have no children and have no plans to become pregnant, it’s always worrisome when you are going to be in the jungles of a country with mosquitoes everywhere. I have also heard horror stories about my friends who have taken Malaria pills and had horrendous nightmares. He explained to me that the cheaper medication, Mefloquine was known to cause the hallucinations, delirium and nightmares, but Malarone – also the more expensive one, did not have the same side effects. I would gladly pay the extra money for that peace of mind (literally). Looking careful at my Peru itinerary, Dr. Gilmore explained (and even added it to my prescription) to start taking the Malarone two days prior to visiting Puerto Maldonado, and then daily until 7 days after leaving the malaria area.
Another concern I had was altitude sickness. Cusco and Machu Picchu are an 11, 152-foot trek and I live about 100 feet above Alki Beach at sea level. Acetazolamide to the rescue! This medication is used to help reduce the severity that comes with altitude sickness including headaches, nausea and dizziness, fatigue, severely disturbed sleep, among other things. I really want to be able to enjoy the views of one of these Seven Wonders of the World, so I will be taking acetazolamide exactly as prescribed (at the time of this writing, I have yet to pick up my prescription).
Another fun disease I could potentially contract in Peru? Typhoid! That’s where Vivotif comes in – no shot needed – just four capsules taken orally. I was also prescribed Azithromycin and Lomotil to combat and fight traveler’s diarrhea. Lucky for me, my Tetanus vaccination is up to date, and I don’t have to get that dead-arm vaccine again until 2024!
Last but not least, I received a crash course in supply and demand. Did you know that yellow fever vaccinations are few and far between and only two pharmacies in the greater Seattle area carry the vaccine? The only two are the Costco Pharmacy in Redmond and Katterman’s Pharmacy off Sand Point Way in Seattle. As of this writing, I have yet to get my vaccine, but I will and will update this accordingly. “Yellow Fever is found in Peru, among other places,” said Dr. Gilmore. “It is a bad illness with 1 out of 5000 deaths if contracted, and there are several areas in the world where there are some increased cases.”
Dr. Gilmore was very excited for my trip to Peru and said most people that travel don’t end up getting sick, but they do end up getting hurt from trips and falls, and he emphasized proper shoes, sunblock, and being aware of my surroundings. No Darwinism awards for me in Peru, don’t try to get that blogger selfie and fall down to my death off a cliff!
All in all, I’m so excited for my upcoming once-in-a-lifetime vacation with my favorite Seattle ladies, and I cannot recommend Dr. Gilmore and PacMed Travel Clinic more. I left feeling even more confident about my trip, including my safety, my well-being and my health!
Pacific Medical Centers Travel Clinics have three locations to serve you including at Beacon Hill, Canyon Park and Renton!
As part of documenting my appointment at PacMed, I gave my consent to be photographed and for PacMed to utilize my story in their marketing.