Saturday, September 09, 2006

What it's like: part 2 (health issues)

It isn't any fun being sick. Back in the States, I hated that feeling that comes on when you're getting the flu. For me, my hips start to hurt first, then I get all 'achy'. That is usually just an inconvenient sickness, that is, for someone my age, usually not life threatening.

I've never broken a bone (thank the Lord!). Of course, I have known many people who have broken various bones. It is a scary time and, I'm told, it hurts like heck. I hope I never have to know.

Cancer is a whole other story. That is some bad stuff. My mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother were all affected by cancer. My grandma and mom are cancer survivors. That is a horrible, trying time for the whole family, not to mention the patient. The treatment can be almost as hard on you as the cancer itself. You sure want to have someone who knows what they are doing to deal with it, especially if it is caught early. Cancer is just plain 'bad'.

A heart attack is scary. It has some warning signs, and there are perhaps, 'high risk groups' for having one, but you really just don't know what is going on inside that ticker of yours. People as young as 40 can drop dead without warning. Of course, it is sometimes survivable if you are able to get help when it first starts. You need some big time health care to survive a heart attack.

A stroke is a nightmare. I know several stroke victims. I had a great aunt who literally just killed over with a massive stroke. My brother-in-law has had a couple of stokes and he is struggling to recover. PTL he hasn't lost any function from these mind scrambling events.

Being sick yourself is one thing; it is quite something else when your child is sick. You tend to panic, especially if there is any difficulty of breathing or a high fever. At least "Urgent Care" is open 24 hours. Right?

Well, if you live in the States it is. If you live overseas, especially in the 10/40 window, your chances aren't so great of finding any kind of medical care you'd send your dog to, much less your children.

I have been associated in some way with helping other missionaries get health care in the various regions I have lived. The very first "city" we lived in on the mission field (before helping folks) had a "medical" clinic. It actually had a price list of medical procedures painted on the outside wall. One of the procedures that has stayed with us was "caesarian section". It listed its price as about $15. It listed a C-Section WITH ANESTHETIC at $25. We reasoned that it was listed that way because some folks couldn't afford the extra 10 bucks for the happy juice! OH MY GOODNESS!!!!

I have seen the terror on a mother's face when something is wrong with their child and they are 10,000 miles from "home" and the only medical care is something along the lines that I described above. Medical care is reimbursed where ever you decide to have it, but in order to get your travel and lodging reimbursed, you have to have pre-approval. Of course, procedures exist for emergencies, which vary from region to region.

However, you can't just zip down the street to you local ER or urgent care facility. In our first city, we lived about 5 hours from the capital which had one negligible hospital that we weren't too uncomfortable going to for basic stuff. However, when my wife needed to give birth, we packed up the family and went to a different country for nearly two months to give birth in the very best hospital in the whole region, which was on par with a rural county hospital in the US. This hospital was clean and nice, and offered a measure of assurance, but for anything major, you had to be flown to Europe or back to the US. Any kind of heart problem? BOOM! Back to America. Any kind of cancer? BOOM! Back to America. Broken bone? Boom! Go to the regional hospital. Appendicitis requiring emergency surgery? Boom! Go to the regional hospital. Need to give birth? Boom! Go the regional hospital.

Where I am now is not much better. I'd say that more that 90% of all the folks who live in my current region must go somewhere else for birth, surgery, etc. Same for the folks in the surrounding regions.

Well, I see that this is now too long for most folks to read. If you have continued this far, this is definitely something that separates living in the US and living overseas in the 10/40 window. Pray for us.


GuyMuse said...

Just "discovered" your blog and glad I did, some good reading! Being a M myself I especially appreciated the two "What it's like" posts. Looking forward to reading more from you.

Monte Erwin said...

We were missionaries in the former Soviet Union. My wife woke up about 3:00 in the morning with a very fast heart rate that would not slow down. We didn't know what was happening and really didn't know what to do. We managed to get to the hospital, but they didn't have anything that compared to an ER. The long and short of it was that my wife eventually ended up in Germany, and then back in the U.S.

We can relate. Those were difficult times, but we made it through and could look back on how God sustained us.

Our prayers are with you.

Nomad said...

I have been reading your blog for some time now. I enjoy it. I made it to Manta back in 1994 or so to see the Parsons. I think you were on STAS, but we sent a big box of mail to you from Ecuador. Keep up the good blogging!

Thanks for reading my blog and for your prayers.

A 10-40 Window Missionary said...


I can relate...C-section $15 or $25, depending on anesthetic, so true, so true.

We were in one country where three prices were displayed for "treatment" (as if I would take your dog to those places). One price for Locals (very cheap), one price for Westerners (expensive by the country's standards, but maybe 10% of what it would cost in the USA), and one price for the rest of the world's citizens. I always wondered if the kind of care and treatment was comissurate to fees received.

Keep it up...

Micah said...


I know where you're coming from with the medical. When I was deathly ill with a horrible case of malaria I went to the only clinic, with 1 private bed, worth seeing in the entire country. When I realized that I was in the nicest medical facility in the country, and they handmade their iv stands out of wood, I knew I wasn't in "Kansas" anymore.

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