Sunday, April 8, 2012

Medical Musing

Our blog reader has asked for an explanation of my burns that I mentioned in an earlier post. I didn’t say much earlier because I didn’t want to be one of those heroes who is always bragging about their escapades.  So there was this fire on a boat down the dock from us. The flames looked small, but the smoke was starting to get thick. On the dock finger were a bunch of folks just standing around and gawking. A little 4 year old girl was screaming that her cat was onboard. So I jumped on the boat, crashed through the companionway and started feeling around for some fuzz. Up high above the galley I found the scared fuzz ball, grabbed her by the nape of the neck and flew out of the smoky boat. The crowd cheered wildly. I was sure I was going to get free beers for a week at Happy Hour.
Yea, in my dreams. I poured boiling water out of the tea kettle into my coffee cup. Then lifted the lid to the reefer to get some milk. It knocked the cup over onto me. Nasty ass second degree burn. Something we always fear when sailing offshore. Of course, I managed to do it while tied to a dock. Either way, not recommended.
We’ve been in Shelter Bay Marina, Colon, dealing with some medical issues before we leave Panama. Colon itself is a rough town. Fortunately we are a half hour outside of it. A few nights ago a catamaran was anchored off the Club Nautico near downtown Colon. Late at night 3 guys swam out to the boat, boarded it, tied the owner up with wire ties and ransacked the boat. They took his dinghy to load up all the stuff they stole and left him tied hands and feet. His boat is now in a slip 2 down from us. (Skipper tied up and Robbed)
Colon looks a lot like Bourbon Street in New Orleans with 75 years of deferred maintenance.

The biggest single expense we have while we’re out cruising is the health insurance premium, a policy with a $10,000 deductible, that we pay each month.  But this is for the big, bad events that we hope won’t happen. In the meantime, any medical stuff we need on the way we pay for with cash. (If you are interested in the cost of cruising, our friends on Kokomo publish exactly what they spend each month on their blog at the beginning of each following month: Kokomo.)
Medical care in Panama City is very high end. Lots of US board certified specialists, excellent clinics and hospitals. We deal with the private health care system in Panama. This is a two tier system, with public Social Security hospitals paid for by the state along with private hospitals and clinics. In general, the doctors and specialists who work in the private system also work in the public system. 
So, you make an appointment with a specialist, he sees you for 50 minutes, taking all the time in the world to expertly examine you and deal with your issues and questions. Go to the receptionist desk and pay your $50 or $60 for the visit. Head down to the lab and where you pay $30 for this test and $20 for that test. Need a chest X-ray or EKG, $30. In a lot of ways, this has been a way better experience than the broken US system.
Easy availability of specialist means that you do get referred a fair amount to the local expert. Right now, there’s a push for more tests that involve semi-flexible tubes placed in places that the Panamanian sun don’t shine. Not a popular choice.
We’ll grab the bus back over to Panama City tomorrow. Finish up with test land, hopefully, and get ready to head north out of here in about 10 days. More on that later.

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