Disclaimer: This post includes scenes of a distasteful nature…
I am seriously considering compiling a list of the Ten Best Things About Being and Expat in KL. Now that really shows that I am settling in, right?
Number 1, then, is healthcare. Now, I know that people come here from all over the world on ‘health holidays’, which means they come here to have surgery, often with their whole families in tow. Some of the hospitals are second to none, not that I’ve had any experience of them yet I am pleased to say.
So, one thing I love about living here is that I have a walk-in doctor’s surgery. That’s right, no appointment necessary. Not like in England, where my parents’ surgery requires them to book in via the website and even then they have to wait a few days for a slot and then for at least an hour when at the surgery. Not like in Holland, where I had to register with a local doctor and needed to produce my local National Insurance (SOFI) number in order to get registered. Not like in back home, when, not having lived in my passport country for 12 years and no longer being registered with a GP the only options for me are £100 same-day doctor or A&E. Not that I want to bash the NHS or the Dutch medical system, which are superb, I am big fans of both, but, when you compare them to what I am experiencing now, it has been neither as quick nor as easy, though the NHS (praise God) is, enviably, free.
Yeah, sure, Ian’s company pays for our healthcare anyway, but that’s not the point. We pay first and then claim back 80% of the bill. So that means we get to see how much it costs. My walk-in, same day, seen-within-ten-minutes appointment, car parked by a valet parking man, water feature complete with Japanese god in the waiting room, costs ten quid. That’s right, ten quid. Plus any procedures, of course. Plus any pharmaceuticals. It always makes me laugh writing that word, because my glorious friend Christine, calls them syoomafarticals. Yes, she is a bit like Miranda. Yes, she is aware of this so won’t be offended that I just named her.
So, squeamish, look away, because I am going to give you some examples of how very chuffed I am with the health service here.
My parents just came for a visit and my father developed a cough that ended up rattly, exploded all over the dinner table and, frankly, was annoying us more than it was annoying him. He hates doctors so would not be coerced into going. So Ma and I colluded. She sneaked his passport into her handbag (’cause we’d need it for the 30 second registration process), told him to bring his book ‘in case he got bored’ and we took him in the car ‘out for coffee’ – only, tsk tsk, we were actually taking him to the surgery. Anyway, I handed the car keys to the valet man, we fessed up to Pa and, no questions asked, he was registered in a heartbeat, was with the doc in fewer than ten minutes and within 20 was being ushered for a chest x-ray. He wasn’t sure how long he’d be so we girls scarpered to get our nails done (we had got an appointment, after all) and left him there. The surgery promised to put him in a taxi and send him over to us when he was done. Anyway, in short, he was given three types of meds and the bill was about 50 quid for the lot. I don’t think that’s bad.
Last year, back when I saw the doc for my first appointment and mentioned I’d been told twice by separate medics I might need an MRI scan of my back, I was sent straight over to the scanner and had it done there and then.
Same for a mammogram, same for all those other nasty checks women need to have. No waiting. Bish bash bosh, sorted.
But this week I’d been worried about something that had been troubling me for about six months. I’d had stomach ache and indigestion for ages and been ignoring it, but when Rennies failed to touch it and I was starting to dread mealtimes I thought I’d better do something about it, so on Tuesday, I headed to Mahameru, but it’s also called Heartscan and Japan Medicare (that’s the surgery, and yes it does have a confusing name, but it’s on Jalan Maarof opposite a petrol station). I left my car with the valet parker, walked in, waited about five minutes and saw my usual GP (whose also a dermatologist by the way and removed a couple of my dodgy moles a few weeks ago right there and then at first consultation). This time he recommended they put a ‘camera down’ and, uhoh, ‘a camera up’, just be sure. But that’s what it’s like here, and yes I know, they are there to make money too, but they are also very good at prevention.
I was sent for a blood test, there and then, again, just be sure it wasn’t something else causing my symptoms. And you know THEY FREEZE THE SKIN BEFORE THEY PUT THE NEEDLE IN TOO. Yep, not only are they quick here but they don’t like you to experience pain either. I mean, digressing here, Ian has had two root canal ops while he has been here and they numb the gum before the put the needle in with the numbing solution in it. He ends up so blasé to what is going on that he falls asleep while they do the biz!
Anyway, I was sent home to spend a tortuous day eating plain stodgy food that I won’t have anywhere near the house – white bread, white rice, plain noodles, no dairy, no wheat, no meat, no fruit no veg. It was awful. I had absolutely no idea what to cook. I’d never eaten the recommended packet of instant noodles in my life. Then, this morning, I had to wake at six (that was a first) and consume a liter of soap suds and a bottle of acid. At least that’s what they tasted like. I had been instructed to ‘go and then go in’ to the doctor. So I went and went and went. Goodness, I lost count of how many times I went, but it took two and a half hours and no, I shan’t add a photograph.
Well, again, I shan’t bore you with the details of my two oscopies, but I shall tell you that they gave me what they called ‘gentle sedation’ and began ‘downstairs’. Well, I tell you, it had me endlessly screaming in agony and telling them to gerroff much as I had during the third stage of labour with Joshua, when I had stood up on the bed and declared: “I am going home”. Funnily enough it stopped after that and I had no recollection of the ‘upper regions’, which is a blessing because that was the bit I’d dreaded most. Then, they led me to a comfy reclining chair, covered me with a blanket and drew a curtain round me, apparently. I only know this because that was where I woke up two hours later.
But here’s the best bit… this is a Japanese medical centre, right? My lunch options were all Japanese and Japanese is my favourite food! So, at about 1.30 I tucked into teriaki salmon and drank green tea. Now, that’s what I call service!
You want to know the result? Well, later, I was back in my GP’s office watching a film of my insides in bright, shiny technicolor! Gosh they were clean as a whistle. I felt rather pleased with myself. I watched them remove a solitary polyp from my colon and saw that all I have is a mild gastritis. Well, if mild gastritis feels like I’ve been feeling then I don’t want a chronic one any time soon. The doc sent me to the pharmacy for my meds and that was that. Less than three days from first visit to diagnosis and it would have been quicker if I hadn’t been obliged to spend a day eating rubbish first.
“Did I really scream out loud during the procedure,” I asked the pharmacist? Their desk is directly below the treatment room I was in.
“Oh yes, but they just gave you some more sedative!” she said. “It shut you up.”