Adventures in Guinean Health Care, Round 2

One of the many things I need to do to get ready to move to Ireland is health paperwork for the cat. Ireland is a rabies-free country and they plan to keep it that way thankyouverymuch, so any pet coming into the country from a place like Guinea, where rabies is endemic, needs to prove that it is rabies-free. You do this by having an approved vet take a blood sample and sending the sample to an approved laboratory in the EU for analysis. Sounds simple enough, right? But this is Guinea, where even simple things can become an adventure.

Per EU regulations, the blood has to be drawn 3 months before traveling. I planned to get it done a week or two ahead of time, as I had a sneaking suspicion this might be a somewhat complicated operation. However, a poorly-timed week’s worth of violent protests put the Jabberwock and me under house arrest. So much for planning ahead. Fortunately, things cleared up before the deadline, but only just before.

I took a Monday morning off work, shoved the cat in his despised carrier and took him to the vet we used last time, who looked over the paperwork and said this was not something he could do. He suggested that I try the Ministry of Livestock, all the way downtown. My little princeling has never been referred to as livestock in his life, but you gotta do what you gotta do. We showed up at the Ministry and the charming office director told me he had no clue what I was asking for, but whatever it was, they couldn’t help me. He suggested I try the Ministry of Agriculture a block over. So I traipsed over there in my kitten heels with my kitten in his bag on my shoulder, and found some guys who did know what I was talking about. But they don’t do that either. There is, they told me, one man in all of Guinea with the training and qualifications to perform this task, and after fifteen minutes of watching five men frantically flipping through cell phone contact lists and rifling through desk drawers I had his phone number.

We drove to the other side of town and found a guide to Dr. Keita’s house, where he has a small clinic in a spare room. Dr. Keita appears to be about eighty and is assisted by his son, who looks about seventeen. We filled out the paperwork together, assisted by flashlight since the power was out. We weighed the cat to determine the appropriate dosage of anesthesia; this was accomplished by having the son stand on a bathroom scale twice – once with the cat and once without – and doing some math. With the cat knocked out, I sat in the waiting room next to a partly-disassembled dentist’s chair (a sideline business?) while they shaved his leg with a drugstore razor and cleaned the area with hand sanitizer, as they didn’t have any rubbing alcohol. I trembled as a headlamp-assisted Dr. Keita said, “where’s the vein?” and Keita Junior said “it’s right there!” But they got what they were after, and we settled my zonked-out Jabberwocky back in his carrier as the son ran out to turn on the generator for a few minutes so they could use the centrifuge. After a quick spin, they put the blood serum in a little vial. They put the vial in a film canister – remember those? – filled with ground-up wet grass to keep the vial from breaking and to maintain humidity. They sealed it with packing tape and I had my sample.

Given the low-tech veterinary medicine I had just witnessed I had my doubts about the viability of this plan, but I popped it in the mail and hoped for the best. And it worked! I got the results back today – my beamish boy is officially rabies-free! As if there was ever any doubt. But now that the paperwork’s sorted out, that’s one less thing to worry about. Many more still to come.