Sitting on the exam table I squirm a bit as thin white paper crinkles beneath me. A small bead of sweat accumulates in the nape of my neck and works its way down between my shoulder blades. Nervously I fold and unfold my arms, clasp my hands and twiddle my thumbs. I am now alone with my thoughts in this sterile room. The nurse and I have just reviewed all the vaccines, antiviral and antibacterial drugs that are both recommended and needed for my 6 months abroad. No denying it now, I’m about to be her personal pincushion. As I wait, I can’t help but wonder “how did I get myself into this?”
I have tried to live my life with little or no regrets. While an undergraduate at UNC Wilmington I passed on an opportunity to study in Australia. It’s something that bothers me even to this day. To that end I started asking a simple question whenever there is a big decision to make: Would I regret this decision on my deathbed? Unfortunately the answer is usually no, so I end up in all manner of interesting predicaments. I have jumped out of perfectly good airplanes, off of strong sturdy bridges and into freezing shark infested waters. My wife and I have been lucky enough to experience helicopter rides to snow capped peaks, bike rides through lush green vineyards, and plane rides to exotic destinations. So when the opportunity to volunteer through the PULSE program came up, it was a no brainer, although not entirely a sure thing. It’s not enough to want to travel and see the world, you must possess a genuine desire to help and exhibit the drive to make it happen.
It was a long process for me. The first year I wanted to apply was not the right time. With the launch of two major medications looming, I could not leave my professional responsibilities behind. The second year I was able to apply but (unbeknownst to me) was not selected due to a company reorganization. After that I almost gave up. I nearly let doubt and fear of rejection hold me back. I’m sure that would’ve been added to my list of regrets. Luckily I have a very supportive, persuasive wife and wouldn’t you know the third time really is the charm!
Now the real work begins, it’s time to get vaccinated, apply for my visa and make arrangements for arrival. There are going away party’s to plan and family to visit before this adventure begins. When I get to Nepal I will have much to learn and precious little time in which to do it, but through this process the life lessons have already begun.
There is no reward without risk. If I had not stepped out into the void, leaving myself exposed to failure, I would not be sitting here in this office waiting to be stabbed in the arm who knows how many times. I do know one thing for sure, I definitely will not regret receiving these vaccines.