Update on Judy's stroke
19 October 2007 | Pago Pago, American Samoa
We've been in Pago Pago a little over two weeks now, and hope to leave early next week if all the things we have ordered arrive. First priority when we arrived was to get checked out at the hospital. The bottom line is that I did suffer a stroke, but apparently fairly minor as there was never any affect on my speech or motion, only a 5 hour memory loss. My blood pressure is too high, and so I'm taking some new meds. If I can keep it under control, I should be just fine my doctor in Michigan reports after hearing the results.
My experiences dealing with the health care system are a story in themselves. The only way to get into the medical system here seems to be through the ER. This involved waiting outside the emergency room (could have waited inside in the air conditioning, but as there's a lot of flu around, the outside benches seemed a healthier choice) for 6 hours before seeing a doctor. The wait was fairly typical from what I heard. Finally saw a nice young Filipina doctor who ordered a CT scan and labwork for the next morning. Seeing her cost $10. In the morning the labwork and CT scan (total cost - $200) went very quickly and efficiently, with results sent well within an hour to the Medical Clinic, where I then waited for 4 hours to see a doc. He was a very nice older Samoan man, but didn't impress me as a very up-to-date doc. He did confirm I'd had a stroke (actually, I think he agreed with my guess that I'd had a TIA when my doc at home says it was a stroke, not a TIA, if it showed up on the CT scan), and prescribed a new blood pressure med - 30 days worth. I asked if it would be possible to get more, as we'd be sailing off through really isolated islands over the next few months where the likelihood of getting any drugs was unlikely. He agreed, then went ahead and wrote the script for 30 and said to ask the pharmacist. The pharmacist said their policy is to only dispense 30 days at a time, but she finally relented and gave me 90 days worth after I "proved" I was on a boat (by showing our business card). The hospital pharmacy is the only one on the island, and apparently suffers many of the financial woes I've seen in other island medical systems. I later read that a shipment of their meds was held up in Hawaii, because the airline was running a smaller airplane on the route. Whether it was that, or just never having a sizeable stock of meds on-island, I'm not sure.
The doc said there were no blood pressure monitors available on-island (mine had ceased working several months ago), and suggested I have someone send one from home. Not wanting to bother my family with the chore, I spent a few days trying to order one on-line from a company that sent me one very quickly last year in Michigan. The only way they would send it was UPS surface, which would probably take a month or more, so we scratched that idea, and made the call to the family, also asking them to get a prescription for some extra medication from my doc in Michigan as she had said I might need to increase the dosage in a few weeks if my BP didn't decrease enough on the low dose they gave me here. My Dad got right on it, but when he tried to mail it, the Post Office told him that only doctors or pharmacies can mail medicine, even over-the-counter ones. I swear our government is regulating us til we die! At any rate, it's supposed to be on its way now, and hopefully will come in time for us to leave early next week to start heading north.
This week we went back to the hospital to get a flu shot for me (Bryan doesn't believe in them) and pills for filiariasis, a mosquito-born worm that causes elephantiasis, a nasty condition that makes one's extremities resemble the limbs of an elephant - not something we'd like to get. My blood pressure was down significantly, so it looks like the new med is helping.