I’ve written about health care here in Thailand a number of times before, but since this topic is in the forefront of the news back home I thought maybe an update might prove useful. Also, I just had a physical checkup so it is pretty fresh in my mind.

I know I am supposed to get an “Annual Checkup” annually, but it has been about 4 years since my last one. Since my birthday is this month Pikun thought that we should begin doing this annual thing on a yearly basis, and when would it be easier to remember than on my birthday?

We still go to Chiang Mai Ram Hospital, although there are now other hospitals in Chiang Mai that are Expat-centered. We went to the old reception desk and said we wanted to get complete physical checkups and were told we had to go to the new building about 100 meters up the block. Not to worry, they have a shuttle service. It turns out that they have a brand new, spotless and modern, complex with one building just for “Checkups” as the sign in front says.

Since one cannot eat before getting certain blood tests we go as early as possible and reach the Checkup Center at 7 am, which just happens to be their opening time. I bring my book to read (The Handmaids Tale) since there is usually lots of waiting time at hospitals. I can tell you now, so that you can get a feel of what the service there is like, that I did not get to read more than 1 ½ pages during the whole waiting time.

A doctor first takes a history. We have been going to Chiang Mai Ram for years so they have our records but they still ask, which I think is a good policy. I see the same friendly doctor I saw 10 years ago, and she remembers me. We speak in Thai although I know she is fluent in English.

Aside: All the Chiang Mai Ram doctors’ English was quite good but not that of the nurses. The nurses did speak English but haltingly. But none of the Expats I observed seem to have any problems with that.

The next step is to meet with a nurse and decide what procedures we want to have. There is a list of recommended tests but we could choose not to have certain ones. I eliminate the x-ray and the ultrasound and since I get a PSA and urology exam every 6 months I drop that one too. Besides the normal blood pressure, Body Mass Index (BMI) and weight checks, I get a bunch of blood tests (including red and white blood cell counts, platelets. glucose, uric acid, liver and thyroid function, testosterone, and cholesterol, and a few others that I have no idea about). I also select an EKG, and an Ankle Brachial Index (ABI) which test for any blood vessel blockages.

My test for whether a health center knows what they are doing is to see how good the nurse is who takes my blood. Since my arm veins are a bit deep they are often hard to get at. My nurse gets an “A”. Got the vein in one shot.

After the blood test they give you a coupon for a snack since they know we are all going to be hungry. I get some juice and a tuna fish sandwich.

Everything was finished by 9:15. We are told to come back at 1 pm for our results and to talk to the doctor.

But I have another problem. Lately I have had some shoulder pain and wondered if I could see an orthopedist. Maybe I could get an appointment for some time within the next month (good luck with seeing a specialist that quickly back home). The nurse made a call and then said, “This man will take you (in a golf cart) back to the main building where you can see an orthopedist. He (the orthopedist) is waiting for you now.” By 9:30 I was in the orthopedist’s office.

The orthopedist found that I have a slight case of impingement syndrome and some easy exercises and Tylenol will fix it right up. He takes out a number of pictures of shoulders and shows me exactly why I am having pain. I check it out on the Internet and they had similar diagrams and they recommended a bunch of diagnostic test for impingement syndrome. My doctor, it turns out, did every one of them. So I was very pleased with him.

It is early now so we go to the nearby Kat Suan Kaew shopping mall to do some shopping and get some food and maybe I could even read a few pages of my book. I also went to Dairy Queen and had a Chocolate Blizzard (important information; see below).

At 12:30 we go back to the Checkup Center thinking we would be a half hour early so I could maybe even get a whole chapter finished. As soon as we walk in they said the doctor would see us right then.

Results: Pikun’s got a slightly high blood sugar count, and my cholesterol is a bit high too. The doctor said to cut down on chicken skin and pork fat and ice cream. “But those are my 3 most important food groups.” I said hoping to elicit a smile. No smile. So I tell her I would be a good boy and I would see her in one year, slim and svelte and with a lowered cholesterol level. Pikun will cut down on carbs.

That’s it. We’re as healthy as teenagers.

Oh! I forgot that we are both way overweight, I with an embarrassingly high BMI.

So it is diet time for us and Dairy Queen will not be seeing any money from me for a while.

*****

Just a thought: Americans are wont to say that they have “The best health care in the world.” True or not, if one can’t afford to get the care, then it makes no difference. May sanity prevail back home and allow everyone to be able to afford to partake of that great care. Maybe that won’t make us “great again” but it would at least put us on a par with every other developed nation in the world, as well as with Thailand and the very good health care available to us here.

How much did my hospital bill come to?

Checkup cost: $100.59

Orthopedist cost: $17.63

The tuna fish sandwich: Free

*****

Love to you all on my birthday. May you be healthy and happy and don’t forget those “annual” checkups.

Birthday present 2017

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