Thursday, February 4, 2010

Happy February

It’s been a good start to the year. Not a terribly exciting past month, but a good one nonetheless. It’s nice to get back into the swing of things at work. I hosted a volunteer group my first week back and am now busy preparing for another one in a few weeks. (At least my work boots are getting a lot of use out here!) Started my year off with a health & fitness plan (here’s to cliché resolutions!) and managed to stick to it. Even vowed to reduce my intake of fabulous South African wine, which is no easy feat considering the good stuff costs next to nothing out here.

On a less healthy note, I had my first African dental encounter recently. Noticed the subtle differences in care and the not-so-subtle differences in cost, from the US! With *perfect* timing right before the big holiday road-trip, I started to have some awful toothache. (Anyone who knows me knows I am plagued with dental woes!) When I say “awful toothache,” I don’t mean a little sensitivity. I mean fall-to-the-ground, migraine-inducing, tears-streaming PAIN! Needless to say, it was bad. So that’s how I found myself at a dentist’s office in the middle of nowhere, South Africa, just a few days before my holiday. I had taken a friend’s recommendation and luckily the dentist agreed to see me right away without an appointment. No calling ahead to find pre-approved dentists. No waiting lists. No need to compromise care for coverage. What a relief to step away from health insurance bureaucracy for a minute!

Anyway, the dentist was very polite and professional and managed to numb me up, take several digital x-rays, tame some misbehaving nerves, AND re-seal a filling all for less than $40!! I know! And that’s before insurance covers their portion, if anything. I was in disbelief when I saw the bill. I cannot believe the same thing costs hundreds of dollars back home with comparable facilities, equipment, and treatment.

One thing that is slightly different is the communication between doctors and patients out here. Docs don’t really feel a need to discuss what they’re doing to make sure you’re comfortable like they do at home. They kind of just go for it and expect you’ll keep quiet with a doctor-knows-best mentality. Maybe we are coddled at home, with options, consultations, and play-by-plays of procedures, but I’ve really grown to appreciate the dialogue and participation when it comes to my healthcare. If I hadn’t asked the dentist what he was doing, I doubt he would have mentioned a thing.

This phenomenon became all the more apparent when I went for a follow-up visit last week since the initial treatment was apparently just a temporary fix. I assumed he meant a temporary vs. permanent filling and didn’t think twice…until I found myself in the dentist chair again. There was drilling. There were x-rays. But then, there were strange wires, other odd devices, and then came a hand-held torch! No joke. There was fire involved and at one point my mouth was actually smoking! It was only when I saw the bill that I understood he had given me a root canal! Unfortunately it was not my first root canal (I said I have dental woes!) and I am not too squeamish in a dental chair… but these are things one wants to know ahead of time. Either way, the pain is gone and will likely stay that way. The bill surpassed $100 this time, but that’s still not too shabby for oral surgery!

In the end, it wasn’t necessarily a traumatizing experience—just an eye-opening one. I would still recommend the dentist to anyone who finds themselves in a dental emergency in South Africa—which I hope you don’t! Not a massive pinch on the wallet and well worth it to be pain-free.

Other than sitting in denist chairs, January was a good month. I enjoyed catching up with friends, some sunshine and some rain, and just a little bit of nice South African wine. Looking forward to some local trips in the coming months and hopefully to fewer dentist chairs and better health.

Til next time, a votre sante!

1 comment:

Kristin said...

What a crazy experience! I'm glad you came through it just fine and you sound more than fine. Wonderful, really. It's good to hear from you.