Organ Recital in Antigua
13 May 2016
That's what my grandmother used to call anyone's lengthy commentary about their medical problems and procedures. I avoid organ recitals for two reasons. I'm very squeamish about medical stuff and I don't have much to report....thankfully. I will detail my latest encounter with the medical profession which tells how I was treated in a third world country. The short answer is very well!
The past two days we had some more upwind sailing from St Martin to St Barts and from St Barts to Antigua. I promised Lisa, “That is as far east as we need to go. Our Caribbean travels are all reaching from hear on out." We really had a good run the 100 miles to Antigua, averaging over 7 knots. Uproar loves to go to weather.
I noticed some floating spots in my left eye that kept me cleaning my sunglasses. It wasn't the sunglasses. At night I saw a few flashes in the corner of my eye. Uh-oh! We cleared customs in Antigua this morning and I asked the Port Authority Officer if she knew of an eye doctor. She made several calls and also discussed it with the Customs Officer. He called his eye doctor's personal cell phone and told us Dr. Edwards would see me. They called a cab.
The cab driver took us to Dr. Edwards' office. The reception staff knew right who I was when I mentioned the Customs Officer had called ahead. There was no paperwork to fill out but I did have to pay $175 EC ($65USD) in advance. A tech did some vision tests and I saw the Dr within about 30 minutes of arriving. My eye pressure has always been high and Glaucoma runs in the family. Dr. Edwards mentioned that it is possible to lose 40% of your vision without symptoms from Glaucoma. He dilated my eye and did a very thorough exam. No retina problems at all.
He said, “When you get home, see a doctor to check for nerve damage and possibly start treatment for Glaucoma. It is readily treated and you won't go blind like your father.” I mentioned that I'm not going home and that we live on our boat. He asked our next port and I mentioned Guadaloupe. Dr. Edwards suggested I see his colleague in Guadaloupe but I mentioned we would be there only a few days. I explained the next port where we will stay awhile will be Grenada at the first of July. He said, “I can have the tests done at our hospital today and see you when they are completed this afternoon.” He called the optical lab at St John's Mountain Medical Center to alert them I was coming.
He asked if we had a car or cab. “Cab, but can we walk there?” He said, “Sure,” and pointed the hospital out at the top of the hill. It was a pleasant 15 minute walk. I was given a prescription form ordering the test. At Outpatient I was told I needed to pay $150EC ($55USD) first. I had to go to admissions and get in the system which was simply my name and address. I paid and a staff member pointed to a hallway where I should wait. It didn't take me long to realize I was the only guy waiting in a row of very pregnant ladies! The staff lady laughed and said, “Follow me.”
There was a sigh on the door, 'This optical lab a gift of the Antigua/Barbuda Rotary Club.” I didn't wait long before a tech called me in. She did an optic nerve scan, printed the results and put them in an envelope. As we walked back to Dr. Edwards' office I asked Lisa to look at his diplomas and see where he went to school. I was very comfortable with him and pleased with the time he took with me without an appointment. We walked back to Dr. Edwards' office and he was sitting in the lobby. He took me right into his office.
The tests were completely normal. He said the floaters were most likely caused by eye strain and chastised me for not wearing reading glasses. I use a Kindle Paper White and with the brightness set right, can read without any glasses. He said, “You are 61, your eyes don't focus like they used to. Wear reading glasses!” He said my distance vision was nearly perfect. I did quit wearing glasses for distance after two months of cruising. The lifestyle must be working for me.
We walked out and Lisa told me, “Columbia University, New York!” I received first class care with no waiting and a reasonable cost. That's how the medical system worked for me in Antigua. We still don't have ACA insurance in spite of tireless efforts to obtain and keep the policy. They keep canceling my policy saying I have requested to have my policy canceled in spite of the fact that we have been paying for the policy! You don't want to know how frustrating this has been.
So what really caused the eye strain? We did spend a few hours on Orient Beach, St Martin. Orient Beach is a nude beach and not where the beautiful people hang out (pun intended). As one guy put it, they are the overfed and almost dead!
Lisa and I have also been on a “Orange is the New Black” marathon. We have a portable drive loaded with movies and such. What a treat when we don't have TV available. But it has caused a few late nights staring into the laptop screen.
I'm wearing reading glasses as I report.