[Guest Post] Medical Advice for Missionaries from a Real Doctor

I am not qualified to give medical advice for missionaries.  So, I sought the help of a professional.  Dr. John Oglesbee, M.D., is a good friend of mine from my home town of San Augustine, Texas.  He is our family doctor, and he has been a big blessing to us as missionaries.  I know that if I get in a tight spot medically here in West Afirca, I can call on Dr. Oglesbee, and he will give me a straight answer.  I am so thankful that he has taken his time to give us some great actionable advice in this article.  
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First-time missionaries outside the continental United States frequently have questions they ask about what medical issues they may face in other countries and what they may need to do to prepare for missions trips to other countries.  In the United States of America and other developed nations, good quality, prompt healthcare is something that everybody expects.  If an emergency arises, we expect to be taken care of in a quick and competent fashion.  That is not necessarily the way it is in the developing world.
Questions to ask yourself as a missionary, whether short-term or long-term are as follows:
1.    Have you considered what it is like not to have the best medical care available?
2.    Are you ready to accept less than the best medical care?
3.    Are you prepared to travel great distances to receive care?
4.    Are you prepared to accept the fact that some medical conditions cannot be treated where you serve?
5.    Are you prepared to pay cash up front for your medical care?

I know God is in control of all things, but at the same time He expects us to be wise stewards of our situations in the world.

Often a good medical outcome is related to careful preparation; so any missionary should be prepared as they go overseas.  One thing to consider strongly is health insurance that you can use in the country of your destination.

If at all possible before you go, find out as well who the best providers are in the area that you are visiting and what hospitals are trustworthy hospitals.  It is important to know where you are going to go before the emergency situation arises.

One other possibility is to have a lifeline back to the States where you can talk to a trusted healthcare provider.  It needs to be someone with at least some experience in third-world medicine that has a fairly broad range of medical skills.  They possibly can direct you in care that will not require hospital visits.  There is also a resource that is in book form called Where There Is No Doctor by David D. Warner that I feel every foreign missionary should have on their shelves.

It is also a good idea to have a medical kit with certain medications and medical supplies for more common problems and disorders, including things for fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.  Also a good idea is to have rehydration salts for dysentery in that kit and potentially antibiotics depending on where in the world you are visiting.

It is also important to be prepared before you go with immunizations.  Consult the Centers for Disease Control website for the country that you will be visiting for recommended immunizations.  Also that website has a subsite on malaria that goes over malaria prophylaxis if you choose to do that as well. It is a very good idea to have a complete copy of your medical records with you overseas if you have had any significant medical care issues in the past, and enough medication to treat your chronic conditions for whatever period of time it will take you to get back to the United States.

Be sure you carry no medications into a country that are illegal in that country.  One example is some of the Central American countries have a prohibition against Sudafed or Pseudoephedrine, and you can be jailed for having that in your possession.

Remember you are God’s child, and He is really the Great Physician. Health issues can cause a lot of anxiety, but do not panic; you are in good hands!
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This is some great advice for missionaries, new and old alike!

Have you ever found yourself in a life-threatening medical situation in a foreign land?    I would love to hear from you on this subject.  Leave your comments in the comments section and join in on the conversation.