Sunday, March 04, 2012

Medical Matters

We seem to be going through one of those spells where every week has "personal maintenance" appointments of some type for someone. Between the five of us and my mother there seems to be a constant stream of visits to the doctor, the dentist, the optician, the orthodontist, the chiropodist and so on. Last week it was the optician for Rose and the asthma nurse for me, not to mention that my mother had her hip replacement surgery. Next week it is the orthodontist for Marie and the optician again for Rose.

Rose has surprised me. When we took my mother to the optician's a couple of weeks ago she complained that her eyes were blurry. She sailed through her pre-school eye check and is reading well, so I assumed it was either because she had a bit of a cold or just association of ideas because we were at the optician's, but I made an appointment for an eye exam just to be on the safe side. It turns out she was right, and her eyes really are blurry. She is long sighted with a slight astigmatism and is going to need glasses. She has to go back again next week to have eye drops to relax her eyes so that the optician can measure the prescription properly (apparently little people's eyes work so hard adjusting focus it is hard to get an accurate measurement without something to calm them down). We now understand why she has been reluctant to move up reading levels at school. She has tended to look at books from the next level and say they are too hard, though the lower level books are way too easy. Her teacher and I both put it down to lack of confidence and coaxed her along. It turns out Rose was right. The books are hard - not because the words are too difficult, but because she struggles to see the smaller print! It also explains why she doesn't often volunteer answers in phonics lessons - it isn't that she is too timid, she just can't see the board properly!  From what I have been able to dig out of her, it seems she didn't have any problem in her first year at school, last term it was getting a little blurry, and this term it has got worse.

After 18 months of not having any asthma problems and feeling I had it well under control, I got overconfident. In December I got a chest infection, and now a slight cold has turned into an evil cough. Throwing everything I had at it (stronger preventive inhaler and maximum dose of reliever) was just about holding things together but wasn't really making any headway, so now I'm on the first course of steroids I've had in two or three years. Two days in and I'm still coughing and puffing, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed it will work and doesn't turn into another chest infection.

Marie and braces is turning out to be a complete pain as the wires keep breaking. In the six weeks she has had them we have been back to the orthodontist twice with broken wires. She has now broken two more, but fortunately has a routine appointment booked for Tuesday so can wait until then. I presume the breaks are because the wires have to stretch unsupported across the gaps where she had molars removed to make space for the rest of her teeth. Apparently she will get a stronger type of brace after six months, but I can see us trekking backwards and forwards to the orthodontist ridiculously often until then.

All of which makes me incredibly thankful yet again for the National Health Service. Out of all that lot, all I have had to pay is £14.80 for two prescriptions. Rose's glasses will be free, as is Marie's orthodontic treatment (though I seriously hope they don't cap the number of times they will deal with broken wires!). I was able to book my medical appointment online with my choice of doctor or nurse (I picked an asthma specialist nurse). It saddens me to see that the US election year is beginning to trigger outbursts against "socialized medicine" in general and the British NHS in particular, which according to the Republican candidate Rick Santorum has "devastated" the UK. Huh? I picked up on this from William Oddie's response at his Catholic Herald blog, from which I also discovered this staggering statistic:

The US spends 7.4 per cent of GDP on healthcare (to which very few are entitled). We spend 7.2 per cent of GDP on the NHS for a system to which everyone in the population has an absolute right, and which most of those (I am one) who actually have any real experience of it, consider pretty effective
I think that alone is enough to indicate that our system is not a disaster. I wrote a bit about the different perceptions of healthcare in the US and UK in the aftermath of the last US presidential election here. For what it's worth, I don't think our system would be possible in the US and the changes Obama is trying to introduce are not even remotely similar to the NHS, which was a product of particular historical circumstances - not just the aftermath of the Second World War as I mentioned in my previous post,  but also a long history of social provision though the Poor Law in this country, dating back over 400 years. I don't know what the answer is for America, but I do know that holding the NHS up as a devastating and disastrous example of what could happen there as a result healthcare reform is just ridiculous. I know there are many Americans who would love to have our health service. I don't know anyone here who would wish to replace the NHS with a system based on private health insurance.


Jennifer said...

Well, you know how I feel. Health care is the #1 biggest threat to our financial security (this is true for most of my extended family as well). I can't imagine what it would be like to be relatively free from the expenses but also the worry.
I had the same experience with my daughter and glasses. I drilled her with flash cards every day only to discover some time later that she was nearly (legally) blind.

Missus Wookie said...

I am so grateful for the NHS every time we use it.

Hope everyone including you gets healthier soon!

PixieMum said...

You have done well to avoid steroids for all that time. Do you not have steroids and antibiotics at home to take immediately you have a flare up of symptoms?

Not sure whether I mentioned this, about a year ago I attended a pulmonary rehabilitation course, lasted about 6 weeks but was of great help. Have to admit I probably still don't take enough exercise though and that is considered as important as medication.

ellie said...

I feel a bit wistful when I hear about the British healthcare system from friends and on blogs I read ... (you probably know from reading mine that I haven't got health insurance, and with the brain tumor ... well, I'm not sure what the bills are up to. A staggering amount, I know). You all are fortunate.

My daughters orthodontics are going well so far **touch wood** I really hope Marie's settle down soon!

Karen Edmisten said...

Oh, poor Rose and poor all of you! We've kind of been running from one appt. to the next, too, and I've been wishing for your NHS here!