Medical emergency!…Off to local hospital for care…

Tom checked in at the reception desk at the dental office located on the hospital grounds, providing only his name.

Sooner or later medical emergencies arise. Regardless of how hard we try to attain and maintain good health, our bodies are subject to maladies we can’t always control on our own.

So was the case yesterday, Monday morning, when Tom confessed he’d been concerned about a huge bump on his gums beneath a molar with a crown. He never said a word about it all weekend knowing that most likely no dental office would be open over the weekend. He didn’t want me to worry.

Tom was his usual cheerful self even under these worrisome circumstances. 

For me, it’s not about worrying. It’s about taking action to get an appointment as quickly as possible. I can handle being worried. I can’t handle avoiding issues.

Within minutes of him alerting me to the situation I sent Mario an email, asking him for the name of a dentist and then proceeded to look online, calling the only clinic I found. They were closed for another year but referred me to the local hospital, of which we’d posted a few photos last month while on a tour of the city.

The treatment room was spacious and seemingly well equipped.

Calling the hospital I was transferred to the dental clinic to discover, “No appointments necessary. Come in between 8 to 3:30 but, not at lunchtime, 12 to 2.” Fijians value their lunch breaks as a time for nourishment and socializing. This left us with a 5 1/2 hour window. Rasnesh was available to pick us up at 2:00 pm, giving the staff time to return from lunch and get settled.

Once we arrived at the hospital, Rasnesh walked with us to the dental building on the hospital grounds as we dashed from the car in the pouring rain. He said he’d been going to the hospital’s dental clinic all his life and they do a good job. With no other options within a four hour round trip drive, we didn’t hesitate.

We could only hope for sanitary conditions.

There was no doubt Tom had an abscess which can be very dangerous if unattended causing serious and even life-threatening systemic toxicity. I was not happy he hadn’t said anything sooner but, he claims he didn’t see the necessity of me worrying over the weekend. 

Good grief. I’m not that delicate. We’ve since agreed to hold nothing back in fear of worrying one another.

Luckily, he didn’t have one of these dreaded injections.

There was no waiting room. Instead, there was a long bench outside the clinic with a reception desk a few feet inside the door. Within minutes of giving only his name, with no address, no medical history, no passport or ID check, we walked into a treatment room with a Fijian dentist.

Explaining that I was in attendance to aid with Tom’s sketchy hearing issues (years on the railroad), especially with the thick dialect of many Fijian people which he particularly struggles to hear distinctly, the dentist directed most of his comments my way as I “translated.”

The dentist handed Tom a mirror and showed us both the issue with three of his back teeth, where a raging infection was causing the teeth to be “mushy” in the gums from the infection. 

The used sponge on the sink could instill a degree of concern for sanitation.  Then again, we Americans may be overly concerned about germs.

Only a few months earlier, we had our teeth cleaned while living in Trinity Beach, Australia. At that time Tom had been warned about this area as being vulnerable to infection, eventually requiring gum scaling. He sloughed it off for the future, thinking he could take care of it after we left Fiji and moved to New Zealand. Well, it didn’t wait that long. We won’t be living in New Zealand until January 19th.

Had we been in the US, the treatment would have been more comprehensive than yesterdays. I had an abscess several years ago and the area was treated and injected with antibiotics directly into the site, spending two weeks on oral antibiotics.

The dentist wrote Tom two different prescriptions for antibiotics along with a packet of non-narcotic pain meds and sent us to the hospital pharmacy across the parking lot. Now for the bill.  We had no idea how much it would be and nearly broke into laughter when we were handed the invoice for FJD $6, USD $2.76. 

The bill for the dentist visit was surprising at FJD $6, USD $2.76.

Tom started digging through his small change when I said, “How about giving them a $10 and they’ll give you change. Save the coins for the Farmers Market.”

“Good idea,” he responded and handed over the FJD $10 bill. 

Profusely thanking the dentist and receptionist we dashed across the parking lot in the rain to the pharmacy.  The prescriptions were “free,” even for us foreigners. We were shocked and surprised by the small token payment at the dentist’s office and also the free medication.

We were told to return next Monday for the dentist to determine if the infection is improving which we’ve already arranged with Rasnesh. If it’s not better, the alternative is frightening…pulling three teeth. If that’s the case, I think we’d try for another round of a different antibiotic and decide an action plan from there. 

As we entered the hospital’s pharmacy. We only waited a moment for service. The medications he received were already packaged and ready to go. Only the label was added with Tom’s name and instructions.

At this point, we’re trying to be optimistic and not project as to the possibilities. We don’t take this lightly and will do whatever is necessary to protect Tom’s health, even if it means flying back to Sydney a month earlier than planned to get to a private dentist. For now, we’ll play it by ear. Isn’t that what we always do anyway?

For now, he’s comfortable, pain-free, and diligently taking the two antibiotics as prescribed. Stuff happens. This could easily have occurred had we still been living in the US, although a more radical treatment plan may have been implemented along at a considerably higher cost.

Tom’s free prescriptions, two antibiotics, and one packet of non-prescription ibuprofen.

The cost for treatment in the US might now be as much as US $1000, FJD $2175, or more, based on the bill I received several years ago for a similar situation. In any case, we’re grateful we had an option here in Fiji, regardless of the cost, that didn’t require leaving the island at this point.

We’ll be back next week on this topic after next Monday’s visit to the dentist to see if there’s been any improvement. 

Have a wonderful day!

Photo from one year ago today, November 10, 2014:

The blue water in Maui, Hawaii changes with the sky which more often than not, is clear and sunny. For more details on last year’s post, please click here.

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