A Trip to the Doctor

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.

  • Chris Clothier
    Posted at 09:07h, 15 April Reply

    omg. So glad you now have a more definitive diagnosis as well as needed medication. What a good surprise at the end. Hugs to Sharry and all.

  • Andy Howard
    Posted at 09:35h, 15 April Reply

    Happy Sharry found some medical assistance and at a very reasonable price. Hope she gets to feeling better. All the bst from Debbie and me. Continued good times are wished for all aboard.
    Andy and Debbie

  • Andy Howard
    Posted at 09:36h, 15 April Reply

    Very glad Sharry found a doctor and MRI so quickly. We hope she improves with the medication. Continued safe travels.
    Andy and Debbie Howard

  • Milt & Judy Baker
    Posted at 12:57h, 15 April Reply

    What a great example of what distant cruising is all about: seeing far-away places through the eyes of a local–in your case, experiencing Japanese healthcare like a Japanese. Well, all but the bill–which like so many things Japanese was very civil and reasonable. And reaffirmation that you made a good choice in taking Sharry and Starr back to Japan for another deep dive into all things Japanese. Your report was a good reminder for Judy and me of the two years we were privileged to call Japan home a half-century ago. So happy that you now have a valid diagnosis and proper meds for Sharry!

  • Dave Stabbert
    Posted at 13:38h, 15 April Reply

    Wow! What a lovely surprise! Enjoy your adventure and here’s prayers for a pain-free voyage.

    Diane finished up with her Alzheimer’s study this week. It lasted just under 2 years. They don’t tell you the results, but we’re hoping for evidence in her daily life!

  • Doug McClaflin
    Posted at 14:30h, 15 April Reply

    Thank goodness you could get scans done. I had a very similar problem a couple of years ago and had surgery done at Stanford Medical which solved the problem.

  • Joe and Elayne Golberg
    Posted at 14:38h, 15 April Reply

    Amazing story, so glad you found such good care and hopefully Sharry is getting relief. Makes our health system pale by comparison. Our love to the whole crew.

  • Tad Lhamon
    Posted at 16:55h, 15 April Reply

    Way to go Sharry and Don; best wishes for you and the crew as you continue your adventure, living in, not just visiting, a friendly country. Tad and Joyce Lhamon

  • Denis Umstot
    Posted at 17:46h, 15 April Reply

    You might consider Dr Bellabarba at UW Harborview Spine Center. He operated on my spinal stenosis in 2019. Excellent job and no pain since the operation. Recovery was in weeks!

  • Mary Ann Underwoo
    Posted at 05:39h, 16 April Reply

    So glad that Sherry is getting relief. You do wonderfully well in solving the problems you encounter. It is a happy story that we are reading

  • Jack John C. Peters
    Posted at 17:57h, 16 April Reply

    Heal SHARRY

    Subarashi !!!

    Your many friends are hoping for the very best recovery

    Our USA Medical system is a tragic mess



  • Jill L Hearne
    Posted at 11:46h, 18 April Reply

    What an inspiring story and testament to the “don’t give up too soon” school of thought.
    we have also been fortunate experiencing health care abroad. Good for Sharry for her strength and courage.

Post A Comment