Monday, December 11, 2006

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an apple a day

phil and i have been sick for the better part of the last month - phlegmy coughs, sinus congestion, fevers. major respiratory breakdown, really. phil was feverish when he first came home from the states, then my hacking, choking coughs took center stage for a while, then phil regained the sicky limelight with his chest-rattling cough. all of that to say it's been a month of ill health in the anderson bowen household.

neither one of us is much of a drug-taker (except for the ubiquitous ibu during ultimate season) living by the i'm-young-and-healthy-i'll-get-better-soon philosophy. our philosophy suffered this time around...being sick for a month isn't normal. so, last week i instigated and got us to the surgery. you'll remember the surgery from phil's 9-stitch hand injury in august. positive experience then, so we assumed positive experience now. oh boy, were we wrong.

dr. stockley, a brit, is the main figurehead of the surgery. everyone knows him in kampala, an easily recognized face at the local pub and a regular contributer to "the eye," kampala's monthly chamber of commerce-esque publication. we went to see him in all good faith in a time of need expecting greatness, or at least competency, and walked away thoroughly disappointed and, at least for me, disgusted. four words: rude, arrogant, unconcerned, uninformed.

the first 3 expats i complained to following our doc stock visit said, "let me guess, bilharzia?" bilharzia must be his communicable disease of choice these days. you get bilharzia (aka schistosomiasis) thru contact with contaminated freshwater. we know this. that's why we don't swim in freshwater in uganda. phil got sick in the states before coming home. there isn't bilharzia in the u.s. yet, doc stock ordered a full blood test to diagnose bilharzia and discharged phil saying "if it's not bilharzia, then it's just something you're going to have to get over with time." huh? you told him that his airways are so constricted that he has the lung capacity of a 55-year-old, but that doesn't matter because he has bilharzia? i don't think so.

after talking around town some, i learned that general consensus is "don't go to an expat doc if you're sick." no level of scrutiny is directed their way because it's assumed they're good - they're european or american or whatever, they must be good. right? wrong. the longer they're here the more time they have to slip, to stagnate. besides, expat patients will continue to come to their clinics regardless of quality of care simply because they're an expat provider. following our visit to the surgery, i could not have been more convinced by these theories. (of course, none of this applies to providers on short rotations in the country. they maintain the high-level of professionalism and technical know-how required for successful practice anywhere. case in point, the swedish doc that stitched up phil's hand.)

phil suffered a few more days, before i decided enough is enough and got us to the international hospital kampala (an "international" hospital primarily staffed by ugandans) with a specialist recommendation from a friend.
1st reaction: they have specialists!
2nd reaction: wow, nice facilities. helipad included.
3rd reaction: IHK is where it's at for kampala healthcare. no more the surgery for us.

we didn't wait more than 10 minutes to see dr. olok, a ugandan ENT specialist on staff. he did all the things dr. stockley didn't - asked questions, listened to answers, examined thoroughly, diagnosed, prescribed drugs, cared, established doctor-patient rapport. i was impressed. final diagnosis: sinus infection, chest/lung infection, not bilharzia. we walked away drugs in hand, $40.55 poorer to cover the consultation/meds x2, and (finally...hopefully) on our roads to recovery.

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