Sunday, March 18, 2012

The 305th good thing about Lagos: Medical and Dental help for an aging body

In the almost 6 years that we've been in Lagos, Brent and I have had remarkably few health problems.  We have really been blessed.  But it seems like since last summer, I've been feeling my age and then some.  I was in the States when I had an injury on the tennis court -- it seems to have been a partial tear of my Achilles tendon, though at the time the orthopedist thought it was a calf muscle tear.  That injury ignited my body into a case of shingles.  So I spent the summer in a fair amount of pain, and I'm still -- 7 months later -- limping from a sore and often swollen ankle, so my activity level is limited with a recovery that is going very slowly.  I was back in Lagos last fall when I had some excruciating pain that turned out to be from a kidney stone.  Brent's employer contracts for health services with the International SOS clinic.  The doctors there became my friends for a couple of weeks while I went there for drugs and antibiotics.  They spent more time diagnosing and listening than any doctor I've ever seen in the States.  Even though it was unrelated to my kidney stone issues, one doctor listened to the story of my ankle pain and spent a some time talking to me about what might be going on with that injury.   They sent me to a Nigerian imaging clinic for ultrasounds of my kidney two times.  I was quite impressed with this clinic.  In the States when you go for an ultrasound the technician will never tell me anything about what they see (even though I know they are quite capable and knowledgeable about whatever they are scanning), and they say that the image will be read by a doctor, who will make the report.  Well, in this center, the doctor was doing the ultrasound and he talked through with me what he saw going on with my kidney and made sure I was able to see the problem areas.  It was very helpful to me and I appreciated that he took the time to show me what was going on in my body.  I was very relieved when I finally came to the end of the kidney stone saga and hope I don't have to do it again.  But I felt that I was in good hands here and one advantage of going through treatment here is that everything was covered completely by SOS clinic -- drugs, ultrasound costs, doctor visits.  I didn't have any co-pays or anything.  So that was much cheaper than if I had been treated in the States.

In February I was worried when I started to have a toothache.  I'm no stranger to dental problems -- I last had a root canal when we were on vacation in South Africa.  But this tooth already had a root canal and a crown, so I knew that if it was hurting that there were problems that would be difficult to solve.  There is a dentist here that is recommended by the expat community and I've heard of a number of Americans who have been happy with their services.  So I visited Schubbs dental clinic on Ikoyi and the young Nigerian woman dentist who I saw said that it wasn't good news for my tooth and it likely would need to come out.  She put me on antibiotics and we made an appointment for the following week.  She seemed capable and the clinic had quite modern equipment and seemed very clean.  In the meantime, I emailed my capable and trusty American dentist and he concurred and said that it wasn't good news and she was likely correct, that I would need to have the tooth extracted.  I debated about whether I would trust a Nigerian dentist with an extraction.  After getting some Facebook reassurances from other expats who had used the head dentist at this clinic for wisdom teeth extractions and a root canal, I booked an appointment with Dr. Karunwi at Schubbs clinic.  He had been trained in England and came highly recommended by a number of expats.  I went in for my appointment with him, not knowing if he would want to do the extraction right then, but he agreed that the tooth would need to come out and there seemed like there would be no reason to wait, so we did it.  He numbed my mouth very well and -- though I've never had an extraction before, so I have no experience to compare it with -- it seemed like it went well.  He showed me the place where the tooth had been fractured and where there was infected tissue.  I really just had minor discomfort and haven't had any problems since then.  The first consultation visit and X-ray cost me N6500 naira -- about $42.  The extraction cost N18,000, about $114.  I'm sure that's quite a bit less than what I (and my insurance) would be paying in the States.  Though the dental clinic here does perform dental implants, I plan on having mine done in the States because it's a more complicated thing and for follow up and "warranty-ability", I want to have it done there.

Well, this is probably TMI about my health issues, but I do have a number of people that stumble on my blog when they are considering a move to Lagos and I wanted to reassure them that, should they need medical and dental care while they are here, that it's not always a scary prospect and it's possible to get good medical and dental care.  I've heard experiences both reassuring and terrifying about hospital care here, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I won't have any personal experiences to relate about that. 

In my emails seeking advice from my American dentist, who is also a friend, when I was debating whether I should make a trip home to the States for the tooth extraction, he said that his wife (also a good friend of mine) said he should tell me that if I had the extraction here in Lagos I could write it up on my blog as another good thing about Lagos.  So it's become #305....

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