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My most painful memory of being a Peace Corps Volunteer in India is the cholera epidemic that raced through the village two or three months before I left.. It was probably more widespread than just my village, but my village is what I remember. What kills people is the diarrhea. Especially children, I think. Anyway, it was the children I remember the most.

I pleaded with mothers to bring me their children at the first sign of disease. I had gotten some water with electrolytes and I had contacts in the hospital nearest our village if the person needed it IV. Often children can survive with proper supportive hydration, and many did.

It broke my heart when mothers would bring me their babies and they were already dead or moribund.

The vaccine finally arrived from wherever it came from, and we vaccinated as many as we could. For many it was too late; I think every family lost at least one person. It broke my heart to see their grief and be unable to do anything about it.

Speaking of cholera, one of the doctors from the hospital offered to give me a cholera booster. I watched him take the syringe out of the sterilizer and affix the resharpened needle onto it. Then, without gloves, he ran the needle between his thumb and forefinger to wipe off the liquid drops. At that point I said, no thanks, I’ve had cholera shots and I’ll take my chances. Talk about septic. I still shudder. How well is the germ theory understood? Not very.

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