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redgrrl40 in peacecorpsfolks

medical and social clearance - hips and ink

greetings - wannabe here. i've been to a couple of peace corps community sessions and have wanted to join since i was a weeee little one. i have two main concerns after reading and asking around:

1) i have had hip replacement surgery. the medical restrictions page states that a joint replacement can be accepted at least one year out from the surgery. by the time i get my degree in order it will be far more than a year out. but does anyone know anyone who has served with a joint replacement, hip or otherwise?

2) i read that people have been denied for having "too many tattoos" - well, that could be applied to me. is this a reality?

i lived as an unsupported volunteer in kenya for six months (through a small non-profit that arranges things but doesn't really support you while you are there the way PC does), prior to hip replacement but after multiple knee surgeries and with all of the ink i have now and was ok.

yes, the toilets are interesting - as someone who never went camping the bending is only one part of what needs getting used to, and i got used to it. and my skin tone alone would get me noticed - the tattoos did and did not in certain areas; my hair was much more of a fascination, as was my marital status and religious affiliation. at least that was my experience...but will the peace corps deny me because of these two issues? if anyone has any insight, knows anyone who served with either circumstance, i'd love to hear about it. thanks.


I just got invited and I haven't been asked about any tattoos during this process at all. They are probably more concerned with the cultural aspect of such things. If you have tattoos and you are invited to a place where that isn't acceptable for women you either have to know how you're going to deal with that or be prepared to cover them up for two years. As for the medical stuff I have other medical conditions and if you are capable of completing your service they will just put you in a place where you can have access to necessary medical support. If you don't need medical support then you won't have any medical restrictions on where you are replaced. Simply having had surgery isn't a permanent disqualifier.

This is a small community, so the chances of anyone with a hip replacement seeing this is probably fairly slim. However, we did have a volunteer in her 80s serving when I was there, and it might restrict you to certain countries but I don't know if it would actually prevent you from going.

I'm on my way to work in a few minutes, but I remember searching around for various conditions when I applied (2006) and found all sorts of documents that have been released because of FOIA that were very helpful. If you have time to google around, it might be worthwhile. You may also have better luck on one of the larger google/yahoo groups.

The PC Wiki might also have good info-- I don't have time to check right now!

Good luck! I can't imagine tattoos being a problem either. :)
Oh- just re-read! You HAVE done your homework!

I'd imagine since it explicitly says that joint replacement is okay one year out, you should be fine. Have you had issues? Do you think your doctor would clear you for it? If so, I wouldn't worry. :)
Thank you for your responses - it helps a lot to have this feedback!
I can't speak on the hip replacement issue other than to say what others have - if the medical restrictions page says a year out and you're longer than that it probably won't be an issue. You'll probably be asked about your mobility and maybe to see a specialist (aka more paperwork) but that's likely all.

The tattoo issue is something I've come across. In my experience it's more about your ability to cover up your tattoos should the need arise. For example, when I applied/served I already had a full sleeve tattoo (among others) and it was the very small tattoo I have on my hand that got my invitation to serve in the Caribbean rescinded. Soon after I receive another invitation, and went on to successfully serve in Ghana. As was the case for you in Kenya, my tattoos were, for most people, just another weird White man thing. If anything, people loved them and I was asked too many times to count if I would give them a tattoo. There was only one Ghanaian in my two years of service who aid anything negative about my tattoos, and really he was just the towns' curmudgeon (my friends' town, not even anyone my very observantly Muslim village).

I'm surprised that someone here said that tattoos never came up - it was on my medical form when I applied. That was a while ago now though (applied 2004/5 served 2006-08) so perhaps things have changed.

Good luck!

I had much the same experience as the poster above. I was asked if I had tattoos in my medical and application forms, they were mentioned briefly in training and have been largely well-received while serving (also in Ghana). I tend to use them as a way to relate to people as mine are very significant to my hometown. I tell them it's like a tribal scar - if people from around my hometown see it, they will know which part of the state I am from because of the symbol. And then they also ask for me to give them one. :)

The hip replacement shouldn't be a big deal. If you are cleared to come, you'll be fine. If it's something that's an issue later on, talk to your PCMO about it. If the latrine/toilet thing is ever an issue, a raised seat can easily be built with mud and sticks (on the cheap) or cinder blocks and wood (a little more expensive, but sturdier). You can make it a comfortable height for yourself. The only other time it might become as issue is on long travel trips. You may have to figure out how to break up your ride, especially if the local transportation isn't that good.

Speaking of poor local transport, meteoricpath, I camped out at the escarpment in Nakpanduri with some friends this weekend (awesome, can't wait to go back) and it took 10 hours - yes, ten hours - to get from Nakp to Tamale. I could've gone to Kumasi and back practically. This trip was much more worth it, though.
Listening to both of you speak about tattoos so positively definitely gives me a lot of hope! I have a small one on my inner left ankle and have been worried about coverup especially in a hot region (ie C/S America, Caribbean) and am planning for more on my torso. Seems relatively minor in comparison to a sleeve :)
I have two on my wrists, two on my back and one on both my feet. between the short sleeves, tank tops and sandals, mine are almost always visible and no one has ever had a problem with it. We've even had some PCVs get more tattoos while they're here (in the bigger cities), and some have gotten the marks of the tribe they lived with. It's not a big deal here, but that's all I can speak to.
Sorry - this is OT:

hey there, happy new year!

Speaking of poor local transport, meteoricpath, I camped out at the escarpment in Nakpanduri with some friends this weekend (awesome, can't wait to go back) and it took 10 hours - yes, ten hours - to get from Nakp to Tamale. I could've gone to Kumasi and back practically. This trip was much more worth it, though.

Ahh, I'm jealous - I never got to the escarpment. there were various issues each time I attempted and as you've said, it takes ages to get there and back again... probably I was more concerned about making the trip to Wa/Lawra to see my girlfriend at the time anyway ;p

Back on topic:

lonelyinsanity, and the OP, I think a small tattoo on your ankle will likely be largely overlooked, though of course it really depends on where you are placed. In some areas there is criminal activity connected to tattooing so that I think would be the main issue.
In Honduras Peace Corps staff told us we'd have to keep our tattoos covered (in most of Honduras only gang members have tattoos), but most people found that once people in their communities got to know them, they could go around with their tattoos exposed and it wasn't a big deal. Most of the Hondurans I know get that Usains have a different attitude to tattoos.