The doctor will see you now

The doctor will not only see you, but open the door for you, greet you by name and ask you to call her by her first name.

I take medicine for asthma. I have allergy pills and two inhalers (one for every day and one for emergencies), and they are pretty vital to my wellbeing. Since Dean’s job changed in April our insurance changed in April. As a matter of fact, Dean’s employer was so efficient, our insurance stopped the day Dean left the U.S. division to work for the international division of the same company. No end of the month for us. It took weeks to get information on our new Panamanian insurance which (I’m sure you could have guessed this) was not accepted at my local CVS pharmacy. My least expensive inhaler costs $375 in the U.S without insurance but with a coupon my pharmacist found (did you know there were manufacturer coupons your pharmacist and doctor have access to?).

It’s the end of July, needless to say I needed to get my prescriptions up and running. I’ve been living on samples my previous doctor gave me.

In Panama, doctors are associated with specific hospitals here. Hospital in one building, medical offices in attached building. You pick a doctor and you’ve picked a hospital (and vice versa). We chose Hospital Punta Pacifica. It’s associated with John Hopkins and came highly recommended.

I checked out the website looking for a family doctor. If I liked the doctor, maybe the menfolk would too. The boys had outgrown their pediatrician in the states so it was time.

The website doctor search engine helps you narrow down your choices and I picked a doctor. Available appointment times were listed for the next day.

It couldn’t really be this easy, could it?

I booked the appointment for the next day and hoped for the best. There was a comment section so I told the doctor I had prescriptions I needed to refill.

Two hours later I had an email from the doctor assuring me we would take care of the prescriptions and she looked forward to meeting me. She signed it with her first name and her mobile phone number if I had concerns before tomorrow.

We are clearly not in the U.S.

Dean and I drove to the appointment, couldn’t figure out how to get in the parking lot (I cannot begin to explain the one-way streets, the random U-turns and the one entry to a parking lot that if you miss it you travel 4 miles to turn around and try again… That’s a whole other post.). We ended up parking across the street at the mall and walking over.

We couldn’t find the correct office. We were looking for #210. There was a #209 and a #212 but nothing in between. We found an information desk. Turns out the doctor had moved to #608. We went to #608, a little cubby of an office with file cabinets and one desk. This wasn’t the right place either.

Now it was feeling like an ordinary medical experience.

The doctor was next door. We arrived at 11:26 a.m. for my 11:30 a.m. appointment. No one in the waiting room. The receptionist was dressed in a sharp-looking suit (I suspect it is the uniform for the hospital) and had a small form ready for me to fill out.

The doctor welcomed us in, seated us at her desk and proceeded to chat with both Dean and I for almost an hour. Gave us advice on dealing with humidity, answered questions about Panama and identified our animal photos, all while taking my medical history and asking about our family medical needs. It was unlike any conversation I’ve had with a doctor ever.

She was amazing.

Dean left the room, and she checked my lungs, my ears, throat and nose at the nearby exam table. She checked my blood pressure and my oxygen levels. We talked about habits that help asthmatics in this country. What to look for as I adjust to a new environment.

She recommended a doctor for Neil’s ear/hearing issues. She texted the doctor to make sure he spoke English and gave the doctor Neil’s information so he knew we would be calling.

I left her office with prescriptions to give to the insurance company. In Panama, you don’t need prescriptions for the drugs I use. Mostly you need a prescription for antibiotics and heavy pain medication. But you do need the prescription for the insurance company to pay for it.

We took the prescription to the pharmacy to be filled. As the pharmacists piled up 6 months’ worth of medication, I started getting worried about cost. With our insurance, we pay for medication and insurance company reimburses us.  Remember that $375 inhaler? It’s $78.60 in Panama.

And remember this post? My new doctor had a GOOD laugh at us. Turns out those are drug tests, not drugs for sale.

Which way to the ladies room?

Want to know how I use the restroom now? I’m sure you do. It’s mostly like you do, but I have a very careful approach.

Too many times I’ve sat myself down on the porcelain throne and realized I was not alone. Geckos usually, a lizard here and there, maybe a bug.

My response is undignified, though I’m not as loud as I was a week ago when we moved into the house.

Now, I approach the bathroom door, push it open gently, poke my head slowly around the door frame… I check the ceiling, the walls, all corners, behind the toilet and I lift the lid. I don’t need anymore surprises.

It’s a jungle out there

img_0200.jpg

We need a field guide for the back yard.

Looking out my kitchen window yesterday, I found these guys enjoying a little shade and keeping guard on the back yard. Look carefully at their feet. Not exactly claws, but …

There may have been heart palpitations on my part. And I may never go in the back yard again. I’m not a fan of reptiles. But I have friends who are so I turned to Facebook for identification. We have juvenile iguana family lizards, possibly basilisk lizards (Those are also called Jesus lizards because of their ability to “walk” on water.).

The word “juvenile” worries me… That means they are going to get bigger.

Dean’s drive to work

This is actually a Facebook post of Dean’s but I thought it blog worthy. I might steal more of his posts and add them here to document our adventure.

Dean used to take the 14 to the the 5 (with plenty of trips on the 210, 134 and 2).

Dean’s words:

So day four of my morning commute and I thought I would share my drive as compared to before. Yes, we moved into the house on Saturday!! First I drive down to the Panama Canal and drive along beside it until I hit the city. Before hitting the waterfront, I get to glance over old town and see some of the Spanish colonials. Drive along the waterfront between skyscrapers and the Pacific. After a toll on the other side of the city I drive along the Corredor Sur and watch the sun rise over the ocean. Twelve miles in about 35 minutes each day so far. And either Madonna died or her birthday is today because the radio station I listen to played only her music on the way in today. Enjoy your day.

 

Feeling my footprint grow

In Panama we don’t have to bring our own bags to the grocery store. There’s no recycling bin or green waste can to put out on trash day. There aren’t multiple cans at the mall for recycling water bottles, food waste and other trash.

In the hotel, it was water bottle after water bottle after water bottle. Mentally I could see them washing ashore…

IMG_5347

Every time you go to the store, there’s a lot of wrapping up of purchases before you leave. We bought a simple casserole dish and this was the packaging…

 

Even buying hot dogs for dinner (really, why are we missing hot dogs?!) adds to the garbage pile. You have the plastic package of hot dogs and each hot dog is individually wrapped in plastic.

It’s kind of overwhelming.

In a bigger picture Panama has worked hard to combat the loss of rain forest and to reforest areas that have been damaged. The new Panama Canal locks re-use 60 percent of its water. I’m sure there is more I don’t know.

But for me personally, I feel like I’m doing more damage than before.

 

I’ll wait on that prescription

IMG_0186

We stopped in a local strip mall and one of the stores looked like an urgent care sort of place so I looked them up online. Wanted to see what they have to offer.

They apparently have a lot to offer.

(I suspect these are prescriptions to combat addictions to these substances, but …)

P.S. My doctor had a GOOD laugh at me and then assured me these are drug tests available, not drugs)

Moving day

We moved out! Took a huge amount of luggage out of the Weston, shoved it into two cars and headed to our new abode. Our house has rental furniture, cable, internet, phone and some basic amenities.

We miss the hotel.

Well, the hotel’s air conditioning and furniture… We are a little light on furniture until our container arrives. Mostly empty rooms and tile floors mean ECHOES.

And we might need a field guide for the backyard.

A common bond

Just when the differences are getting to us … The language is different (even the Spanish is different sometimes). The weather is different. The food is different. The noise and smells are different. The view is definitely different!

But some things are universal.

Dean and Jack are currently at the new house waiting for the cable guy. We were given a 4-hour window. Sound familiar?

First it was scheduled for Monday. Then they said they would call us back. Now we wait.

No matter where you go, you still are at the mercy of the cable company.

Immigration status

We are working on our visas to live in Panama. When you enter the country, you enter as a tourist and then you begin the process.

Dean visited the immigration lawyers the first time he was in Panama. Four hours of filling out paperwork — physically and digitally.

Our job today was to check the paperwork for errors and sign it. In a couple weeks we are told we will visit immigration again and receive a temporary Panamanian I.D. card. I’m wondering if it will be green. Are immigrant visas in the U.S. still green in color? Still called “green cards”?

We’ve all been to a government agency before, waiting hours in a dimly lit room that hasn’t been painted since the 1960s, rows of desks of people working away and a waiting area filled with all the people who have to get called before it is your turn.

But that’s not what we found. The immigration office we visited was a model of efficiency, an almost-empty waiting room and a helpful clerk. Our appointment was for 9 a.m. We arrived a few minutes early and we were out the door and on the road by 9:05 a.m.

He’s officially single

The immigration process has many twists and turns. We are lucky. We have official corporate assistance. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to do without the help — not knowing the language, not understanding the process.

As parents, we are guilty of not thinking of Jack as an adult. But the immigration process does not have that sentimentality.

This week’s fun was Jack had to go to a notary to swear he was single. His signature had to match his passport exactly. It took a bit of practice. When Jack got his passport he was still figuring out how he wanted his signature to look. There was a lot of experimentation. You can imagine what it looks like on his OFFICIAL passport and the degree of difficulty in recreating it.

Eventually … success!

But then the government official who would stamp the paperwork didn’t think Jack read and wrote good enough Spanish to know what he was signing so a translator was called.