15 Apr A Trip to the Doctor
Sharry and I are part of a 20-person hiking group on Oahu. We hike twice a week and cover 4-6 miles, usually with around 1000ft of elevation gain and occasionally up to 2000ft.
Sharry was complaining of butt and leg pain and her physical therapist recommended a series of stretches and exercises for what he thought was sciatica.
Prior to leaving in February, even with the exercises, her pain had been getting worse and exercise tolerance diminishing. Celeste had Sharry see a doctor at Straub in Honolulu and received a diagnosis of spinal stenosis but without specific cause. The doctor did no imaging. Medications were prescribed for first and second tier management given the duration of the voyage ahead. With this regimen Sharry was mostly comfortable while underway, but walking any distance hurt.
By the time we reached Fukuoka, Sharry could only walk short distances, often needing assistance. We needed a definitive diagnosis and medication aboard to be able to make the rest of the trip reasonably comfortable (and enjoyable) for Sharry. We called Kirk Patterson, our Japan cruising agent to see if he could get us into a clinic to have Sharry diagnosed. Kirk called back an hour later and said we could go to a walk-in clinic a 10-minute drive from Starr.
Upon arrival at the clinic, we were told that we’d need to pay with cash because we weren’t covered by Japan’s healthcare system. Being used to the US medical system, this brought some anxiety. We’ve all heard the stories of people being bankrupted by medical bills!
We only had to wait 20 minutes before being called in to see a doctor. Kirk did the English-to-Japanese interpreting. After an extensive conversation with the doctor, Sharry was sent to get an MRI. I feared the bill would run into the tens of thousands.
Less than an hour later we were with the clinic’s chief doctor. With the MRI up on his computer, he showed us where the lower spine was pinching the nerve, like the narrow section of an hourglass.
New medications were prescribed with the knowledge that we were not like other patients–we could not return in a month for reevaluation. The physician was comfortable prescribing months of medication given that Celeste is an RN and could dispense a progressive regimen, if needed. We picked up the medications at the pharmacy which was in the clinic. The whole visit took 2 1/2 hours.
Japan has free healthcare for all citizens, but not foreigners, so we had to pay the full cost. Including three months of medication, the total came to $200 USD! Less than the cost of copays at home.