peace corps

What to Know Before Your Medevac

“You’re going on a medevac,” were the last words I expected to hear when I started my Peace Corps journey. By the time I was placed on medevac, I’d been through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Unfortunately, there were some things I’d dealt with that Peace Corps considered serious, and a counselor recommended me for a medevac after talking over the phone.

Medevac is such a stressful process. You’re expected to pack a bag and prepare yourself mentally to go back to America after months in your country of service. And most of the time, you’re expected to do so in 72 hours or less. Yikes. Talk about overwhelming. Here are some things you deserve to know before you go on a medevac with Peace Corps:

Know all your options before agreeing to a medevac.

If you are adamant about staying at your site, Peace Corps may offer six sessions of phone therapy as an alternative to a medevac. Sometimes, this isn’t an option depending on your specific situation, but it’s always worth it to ask. You could also make it clear you aren’t interested in a medevac if you don’t want to leave your community, and offer to check in at a set time later in your service if you’re continuing to have issues.

There are multiple types of leave I had access to in my situation that I didn’t even know about until right before I left. I’m sure I’m not even mentioning them all here. In my opinion, Peace Corps could do a better job of informing volunteers about the different types of leave we can take after suffering hardships. One option is respite leave if you’ve recently experienced something difficult and you need some time in your American support system in order to effectively continue your service.

However, sometimes medevac is the only possibility. Medevac is an option to go either to D.C. or your home of record for medical treatment that Peace Corps can’t provide in your country of service. If your medical issue isn’t resolved in 45 days or less, you’ll likely be med sepped. If it is, then back to service you go.

Bottom line: request all the info you can get from your PCMO at post before agreeing to anything.

The stipend for medevac is $35 per day.

While you’re on medevac, even though you’re in the U.S., you are still considered a Peace Corps volunteer. Peace Corps does provide a per diem of $35 per day for each day you’re on medevac and will send you home with some cash per diem for travel and your first few days at home. You are also eligible for reimbursement for traveling to and from appointments. Obviously, this stipend is very low to live on in the United States, so you deserve to know that before agreeing to go on medevac. I had to rely heavily on my support system in the States financially in order to take that time.

Check your email like a hawk.

I’ll be honest. Dealing with Peace Corps admin was the most stressful part of my medevac. Not readjusting to America, not going to therapy for the first time, not the guilt at being away from my community, and not even my lack of sleep. What almost sent me over the edge was staying on top of emails sent left and right from D.C. and my post, being sent duplicate copies of forms, and responding as quickly as I could but waiting weeks to hear back. Steel yourself for that. If your top priority is being sent back to your community, then make 100% sure that your health provider is sending their notes to your International Health Coordinator, and make it clear that going back is at the forefront of your mind.

You might get med sepped.

This reason alone is why so many volunteers refuse to take a medevac. They know deep down that they’ll probably get med sepped, and they don’t want their service to end over whatever they’re dealing with. I get it. I was there. But I knew that I needed to be removed from my environment for reasons I won’t go into here. Having my support system in America has made all the difference in my healing process.

I guess the question to ask yourself is whether or not the possibility of being med sepped is worth it. It’s comforting to know that you can apply for reinstatement for up to one year after your official med sep date. If you or your doctor realize while on your medevac that going back isn’t possible, then know this up front: no one will make you fill out the clearance paperwork. That power is in your hands.

The stress of readjusting to America is real.

I had been abroad multiple times before Peace Corps, and had very little readjustment issues upon returning. Naturally, I underestimated the readjustment process with Peace Corps. Coming back from Ukraine was much more difficult than anything I’d felt before.

I went from not being able to understand most of the conversations around me to hearing English everywhere. I was so used to tuning out the noise and being inside my own head. When I came back, it was sensory overload. I would avoid going out in public so I wouldn’t have to deal with it. It will eventually go away, but it’s going to take time.

Take it one day at a time.

Your medevac will be over before you know it. The whole point of it is to focus exclusively on your healing process. Do things every day that make you happy. Catch up with friends and family that you haven’t seen in a long time. Allow your days to be slow while you adjust to being back in America. Take these six weeks one appointment, one family dinner, and one get-together with friends at a time. You deserve to rest. And try not to stress about the outcome. If you’re meant to go back, you will. If not, then something else is on your horizon.

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