My Hospital Experience

I’ve had ongoing issues with the mesh that I had implanted many years ago.  My US doctor ignored my complaints for years and denied that the pain was from the mesh he implanted.  For over 4 years the pain got worse and he continued to deny that it was from the mesh that, by now, was getting a lot of media attention.  He gave me lots of drugs and finally left me with Vicodin, which I am allergic to.

I gave up running and most activities at the gym.  The pain on some days prevented me from even walking more than a few blocks.  That’s when I went to our local Boquete internist, Dra. Digna.  A quick exam confirmed what I had thought for years.  Parts of the mesh had rippled and others were pulling on my internal tissue.  No wonder it hurt.  She recommended a specialist, Dra. Roxana in David.  Dr. Roxana advised me to visit Dra. Hernandez in PC.  This is so unusual to me.  In the US, doctors seldom refer patients to other doctors.  Not true here.  They really want you to have all the information you need to make a good decision.

My surgery was the past Monday.  All of my pre-op tests were done last week, including a visit to a cardiologist.  The total cost was less than $100.  I asked for a private room at Hospital Chiriquí.  Dra. Roxana asked to have a plastic surgeon to assist since the tissue she was dealing with is so delicate.  I was told to get to admitting at 10 AM.  By 10:30, I was in my room with IV attached.  Amazing!

At 2 PM I was wheeled into the operating room, got my jugo de felicidad (Happy Juice) and I woke up back in my room.  Dra. Roxana was right behind me explaining everything she did and handed me a vile of the nasty mesh that caused me so much grief.  I need the contents to help in my lawsuit against the manufacturer.

For the rest of my stay I was given great care.  The nurses came in for their usual blood pressure, temperature, etc. I am really glad that I have a working knowledge of Spanish however.

The next morning I was released.  My total bill for everything including the surgery and specialists?  $2600.

People ask about health care in Panama.  I tell them I have never had better care.  Better than that, it’s affordable.  I have my doctor’s cell phone number and she answers my texts almost immediately. I can see a doctor, even a specialist, usually within 24 hours if I need it.  None of my doctors have ever rushed me through an appointment.   I am very comfortable with all of them.  I feel that I am getting more competent care here than in Florida.

Anyone who is considering moving here should do their own research to make sure they have doctors here that meet their individual needs.  Our needs have been rather simple and we have been very happy.

 

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I recommend that future expats visit the links below.

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casademontana

Boquete’s newest B&B – Highly Recommended

 

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Getting Vaccinations in Panama

David and I are going to India and Nepal in March to celebrate our 20th anniversary.  We will be leaving from JFK, but all required paperwork and health documentation needs to be completed in Panama.  Several weeks ago we went to Panama City and visited the India Embassy.  Easy peasy – we dropped off our passports and application.  Five working days later our driver, Eric, retrieved our passports and sent them to Boquete with Uno Express.

Because our origination country is Panama, India requires a Yellow Fever shot.  It is also recommended that we get Hepatitis A as well.  Today we went to the Salud Minister in David.  Once you have the directions, the building is not hard to find.  What’s funny, is the building you have to go to for shots is directly in front of the Chiriquí Morgue.  saludmorgue

They tried to tell us that people our age (old) don’t need the the Yellow Fever shot anymore.  After talking to others within the agency, it was verified that, regardless of age, all travelers from Panama to India are required to show proof of Yellow Fever vaccination.

saludBack to the caja (cashier) to pay for the shots before getting them.  David and I have had these shots before.  About ten years ago we made appointments at the Broward Department of Health and paid hundred of dollars each to get these vaccinations to go to Africa.

saludbillThe payment today for the same vaccinations?  Five dollars.  That was $5.  Five dollars each for yellow fever.  The Hepatitis A booster was free.  We did not have to make appointments.  We walked in and got treated.  In 15 minutes we were back in the parking lot with health verification cards in hand. salud2

When a country is concerned about public health, it makes it affordable for everyone to get health care.

 

 

 

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer AwarenessSeven years ago, in October, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was more than just a shock. No one in my family had ever had it. I’ve done my genealogy back many generations and have lots of ’cause of death’ information. There was a death by Indians in colonial Massachusetts, a death by dysentery at Andersonville Prison, and many deaths due to old, old age – but never breast cancer.

I took advantage of the Mammovan that visited the school where I was teaching. Because it was convenient, I made an appointment. I had always been told that my chances of getting breast cancer were slim because of lifestyle and family background. When I got a call to come for a re-check, I was more annoyed than concerned because the required hospital was about 35 miles away. It was my first biopsy. Hurt like hell but I still wasn’t concerned.

Then I got the call that everyone dreads. Stage 0. Lumpectomy and radiation. Why me? But as it turned out, it was a minor inconvenience and if you’re going to get cancer, Stage 0 is very good news. After that I got mammograms every six months for the next 2 years.

Many women avoid mammograms because they aren’t pleasant. Neither are a lot of things we go through but they serve an important purpose. For me, it was finding cancer so early that it was only Stage 0.

So I went for my exams faithfully just waiting for the 2 year period to be over. That was October, five years ago. It was my last exam I was excited to finally be able to return to “back to normal”. But I got the call to come back for another biopsy. A recurrence. This time it was only Stage 1.

Five years ago I made the decision a lot of women are now making. Surgery. Cancer was not going to beat me.

October is an important month for me. I was diagnosed twice in October. This October marks that I am FIVE YEARS clean. I am truly “back to normal”.

This is not a sob, woe-is-me story. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Ladies, please get checked. Do it for you and do it for your family. A simple mammogram saved my life.

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Trip to the Dentist

In Florida, our health plan allowed 4 trips a year to the dentist. We chose to continue with the same maintenance program here. Last Friday, we walked into Dra. Luz’s office to get appointments for cleanings. Surprise, surprise – no 3 month wait. Our appointments were this morning.

Dra. Luz is located in town. We arrived on time and she met us at the front desk. We filled out one form and spent about 30 minutes each in her exam room. dentist office Dra. Luz has two exam rooms but we only saw one. Everything was immaculate and our procedure was exactly what we would have received at my old dentist’s office.

She speaks good English though I tried to speak to her in Spanish only. At the proxima cita, we will have x-rays. The cost for the cleaning = $30 each.

In the last week, we have gone to two doctors. What they have in common: 1. the doctor is the caregiver, receptionist, billing clerk and extremely professional. Being accustomed to Florida’s bustling medical facilities with several intake personnel, tons of paperwork, an entire billing department, and waiting for weeks or months for an appointment, this is a wonderful way to be treated!

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First Doctor Visit in Panama

David and I had our first doctor visit, a dermatologist. We visited Hospital Chiriquí last week to find the office and made the appointment then. That was when I was pleasantly surprised and today just continued the good feeling.

First, I have been going to US dermatologists for 25+ years. Raised in Florida + loving the tan = skin cancer. This is a brief description of my dealings with US dermatologists. Call for an appointment and wait at least 3 months to get one. Arrive on time and fill out page after page of redundant information. Wait so long that I talk to other people in the waiting room and find that many have the exact same appointment time as me. Finally get called into a room to wait again. Doctor comes in for no more than 2 minutes and ASK ME where the problems are. Aren’t they the ones who went to medical school? Zap, zap, and maybe a biopsy and the doctor is gone for another 3-4 months. I’m willing to bet they don’t even know my name.

Today was completely different. David and I had appointments scheduled 20 minutes apart. No one was scheduled at the same time or between our appointments. Twenty whole minutes of undivided attention. Dra. Rodriguez came to get us and took our basic information. Without asking, she examined my entire body – including my scalp which is never done – and found several spots needing attention.

Liquid Nitrogen canister Dra. Rodriguez did not have a nurse in the office. She needed to fill the liquid nitrogen canister and did it herself in the office. She attacked several spots and then took a biopsy. She explained the care of my treatment, wrote a prescription and asked if I had any questions. They she explained about when I would hear about my biopsy results. David was also seen, treated and given a prescription. We entered her office on time and left 40 minutes later. At no time did I feel rushed.

This treatment cost $35 each, just $5 more than my deductible in the US. This is the first time I feel like I was actually ‘seen’ by a dermatologist. My friends say the same things about all the doctors they have seen in Chiriquí. Not only is it affordable but pleasant too.

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The Importance of Learning Spanish

Today David went into the community clinic to get his tetanus shot for the cat bite he received at the Spay/Neuter clinic. He’d never been there before so they had a lot of background questions. The nurse tried to ask him questions in English. What David THOUGHT they asked was something like: Are you male? Have you ever been female? So he answered “Yes, I am a male. No, I’ve always been male. He thought the questions were weird and he didn’t understand the them completely.
However, it dawned on him that they were asking about sex and HIV. What they REALLY asked was: “Have you ever had sex with males? Have you ever had sex with a female? Unfortunately, his answer was interpreted as “Yes, male, always male”.

I am certain you can still hear the laughter from the clinic.

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Buenos vecinos

David and I did some local errands today and then came home just to chill. One of our neighbors was playing with her foster dog, then the neighbor from the other side of the house came out and in a few minutes, the entire neighborhood was sharing drinks and snacks.
Our house is one of five which are all owned by Ruth. We have a nice green area for the dog to run, some patio chairs and great neighbors. This is the first time we just hung out and talked and laughed. Everything from the goats to plant killers. I have some very funny neighbors. They’ve been extremely helpful and friendly as we have run in and out getting our house together. It was great to get to spend some time with them. We made a great choice in renting here.

Also, news to report. 1. We found paint chips! Sherwin Williams in David. With the fabric, foam, batting, paint and molas, we will soon have a real bedroom.
2. Our paperwork for pensionado is almost complete including the required passport pictures – taken after shopping in David all morning. pretty. And the local medical facility has deemed us physically and mentally qualified to become a member of their country with our $3-we-don’t-actually-have-to-examine-you health certificate.

paint swatch

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What a Beautiful Tan

Growing up in Florida, tan season began in March. First you got the base tan and then let it get browner for the next 7 months. This schedule repeated every year. Once I became a teen, tanning became a science. Baby oil and turn every 20 minutes, like a turkey. Laid for hours on the beach just baking. Eventually as I got older, people would ask about my “beautiful” tan. I was proud of that tan. Now, a few decades later – no so much. I have had various bouts of skin cancer for the last 20 years. I’ve been biopsied, zapped, scraped and reprimanded for those last 20 years.

Basting Turkey

With LESS THAN A MONTH 🙂 left in Florida, we have been working on the last doctor visits. Oncologist, ophthalmologist, gastroenterologist, dermatologist – the list of specialists gets longer as the years get larger. Today was my last visit with Dr. Feidler, my dermatologist.

If I were not moving, it would still be my last visit with Dr. Feidler. She just opened up her own practice in Boca Raton. I always went to her in Coral Springs so this appointment meant about 20 minutes extra travel. When I got there, on time, I was told that the wait was about 45 minutes. This is not an unusual occurrence. Why is Dr. Feidler’s time more valuable than mine? But it always happens – 1 hour or more every time.

So I waited, again. Seething. But I had no choice since I needed to get rid of all my budding pre-cancers before we leave.

Sure enough, zap, zap, zap. Four spots on my face, 4 on my upper body and 1 biopsy on my cheek. And I just had the whole zapping/biopsy process just 4 months ago.

Except for the biopsy, I’m clean again for another few months. My next doctor will be a dermatologist’s in David. I’m betting I won’t be waiting time after time for a doctor who books 4 appointments at the same time at 15 minute intervals. Unfortunately I also know that my new medico will be biopsying, zapping, scraping and reprimanding me about my past love of the sun.