medicines sans frontiers
23 May 2010
Isabelle, feeling much better.
As i reclined into the couch in the cockpit with sweeping views of the bay and mountains in the background, i looked up through the skylight to see a Tropic Bird flying past with it's two long tail feathers trailing behind. Then i opened my mouth for the Dentist to look inside.
Yes, this is the most scenic dentist's surgery you will find!
Michel on Mariposa kindly offered to take a look at a troublesome tooth of mine. He is a largely retired dentist who travels with pretty much a full dental set-up on his catamaran, doing mostly charitable work wherever he goes, with the locals who often lack complete medical care.
We've had great luck with medical care way out here in the middle of the Pacific.
First, Isabelle came down, or rather up with some lumps in her neck on the way across from the Galapagos, still about 1000 miles from land, so we had to use the satellite phone to call Dr Rowan Sawers in Melbourne for advice. Then, after arriving in Hiva Oa her condition was getting worse. Fortunately, someone knew someone (as it often seems to be the case here in the cruising community) who was a doctor on another boat. Sophie, on board the boat Shark, is a French medic and she generously offered to take a look at Isabelle after we rowed over to see her.
She was able to diagnose and also had the right medication on board. She wouldn't take payment either. She said the medicine was all free, courtesy of the hospitals in France. And her time? Well, that's what friends do here, even if just new.
Still, Isabelle didn't get much better, but even worse afer a brief improvement. So we trudged off to see the doctor at the Hospital in Atuona. We were surprised to learn that there was no charge for seeing a doctor here. We were met by friendly, smiling, relaxed staff and directed to one of the doctors. The nurse, who was also husband to the doctor, told us he is a kite surfer, and needed a repair. At least we could return a favour here. They drove us home to their house which happened to overlook the yacht harbour, so we could have a look at the job. Not quite in our line, at least we could supply him materials to repair the kite valve. They were happy, and also gave us some pamplmouse, mangos and passionfruit to take with us.
We didn't get charged once, not even for blood tests or for tablets preventing elephantiasis (which are available to anyone).
It would be nice to think that Australia, and other countries, would also include travellers in their medical benefits.