Monday, August 16, 2010

Random Asianess: Taiwanese Health Care

I recently had an opportunity to get a first hand look at the Taiwanese Health Care system. Taiwan’s health care is a national health care system. Because it is a national health care system there are flaws, but I think for the most part that it’s pretty well run. Of course, as I have said many times Taiwanese bureaucrats are not like US bureaucrats, they’re helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, and I suppose thrifty, brave clean and reverent; just like Boy Scouts…even the girls. As always they will go out of their way to help you to have a successful conclusion to your business with them.

Medical History:

For a 54-year-old man with Muscular Dystrophy I’m a pretty healthy guy. My doctor once told me that everyone who has had MD as long as I have is in a wheelchair…EVERYBODY. But I’m not. I walk around, well, not a lot if I can help it, but I’m not in a chair. For the most part I feel reasonably well. There are the aches and pains that come with being 54 and the occasional falls; there’s the tiredness from everything being a strain. But I’m usually pretty self-sufficient and get through life pretty well.

But Then…

Last week I started to feel a bit achy. You know how you feel just before you come down with the flu? I had aches in my shoulder, my elbow, my wrist, my ankles, my fingers and my toes. Then I started to feel a bit nauseous, so my diagnosis was “I’m getting the flu.”

Saturday, I just took it easy. I had to finish up my sermon in the morning but then I just slept off and on all day. I did notice that the pain in my wrist had begun to hurt severely and one of my elbows swelled up. Suddenly this didn’t seem like the flu any more.

Sunday morning I felt really bad. My wrist was unusable. I couldn’t put any weight on it. My wife had to dress me, because of the pain and weakness. I hadn’t slept more than one hour the night before.

But I “manned up” I pulled myself together and I got ready for church. When we got to the church I started doing the things I do. In the middle of setting up song service I started to faint.

I saw the black edges in my vision, lights started flashing and I felt really sick. I had to sit down because I knew I was going to pass out. After I sat down I noticed that I had sweated through my t-shirt and dress shirt.

Then the absolute worst possible thing happened, my Chinese Teacher, Yu Xiu, walked into the church. That’s not the bad part; Yu Xiu is a wonderful person. The bad part was she said “good morning, good morning.” She brought joy and happiness into the life of each person to whom she spoke. She has this way of making everyone smile, then she came to me, but instead of "Good morning," she said, “Oh my…what happened?

I’m Used to That

I’m used to that to a certain extent. I mean let’s be honest here…I’m a mug. You know, I’m not the best looking guy I’ve ever seen. I often get looks like the one pictured, when people see me. People often ask me about the train wreck, or if anyone else was hurt...I’m okay with that, now! But Yu Xiu is unfailingly polite, she rarely, if ever, utters a negative word. Even if she thought I looked like a derailment she wouldn’t mention it. So when she said, “Oh my…what happened?” I knew it had to be really, really bad. Only fear would cause Yu Xiu to comment on my looks.

For the first time in my career as a preacher I couldn’t go on. I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish the church service on my feet…or even conscious, so I had to stop. I went home to lay down.

There is a Good Part

There is a good part, because we saw a bit of discipleship in action. One of the men in the church rose up and preached a short Father’s Day message. He preached on how God is like our earthly father. He finished with an altar call and prayed for Fathers, and those who would like to be fathers. (Of course he insisted that those who wanted to be fathers, be married, already.) It was a great blessing. Another man showed a film in the evening. So even though I was unable to continue, the work of God continued on.

The Hospital

The next day I visited St Paul’s Hospital. I came without an appointment and sat to wait. There was a short wait, maybe one half-hour, and then a preliminary visit with the doctor. He examined the parts that hurt and talked to me. Then he sent me for an x-ray of my wrist. When I returned he examined the x-ray, and prescribed medicine to treat, of all things, Gout. I had Gout in my wrist, shoulder, elbow, ankles, fingers and toes. This is the most severe Gout attack I have ever suffered. But here’s the real deal. The Gout was brought on by dehydration. Because of the temperature and humidity, I had sweat a great deal, but I wasn’t feeling thirsty so I wasn’t drinking much water. As the water level in my body dropped, the level of uric acid by percentage increased and, voila, instant Gout.

The doctor, to battle this severe Gout flare-up prescribed Indomethacin and Colchicine, rest and a great deal of water to get my hydration back to normal. As a bonus the doctor spoke excellent English, having studied medicine in the US. The hospital visit cost exactly $544 NTD or $17.00 USD. All things considered I was very happy with my care in the Taiwanese Medical System. However, I have a new hydration plan. I will drink a Gatorade type daily and plenty of water. I had reduced the salt levels in my body and needed to replenish them. Even though it was a great experience, all things considered, I don't think I want to visit too often. Pass the water, please!

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