Saturday 29 September 2012

NHS versus Private Medical Aid

For 39 years I was only aware of the NHS. Yes, there was private care available at a cost in the UK, but it usually came with a benefit package or the rich used it. Despite needing hospital care in the UK the private scheme was only ever used the once by hubby as in the past treatment needed hadn't fallen into the right category. I've had a few stays in hospital with viral meningitis and pneumonia and other things and all of them were 999 calls/emergencies so never really stopped to think about using the private care and apart from service in the NHS being slow, there's never really been an issue. On moving to South Africa less than 2 years ago, our only option is private medical care, so we've been told and although its part of a benefit package hubby still has to contribute 50% of the monthly cost and it's a taxable benefit. There was the cricket ball in the throat incident, pay cash up front, claim back from med aid, bills sent directly to us to pay, but not receiving them so issued with court orders to pay as the med aid wasn't linked to the emergency hospital son was taken to. Emergency surgery after the heelies accident, now apart from the cast being too tight, that all worked out well, from A&E to surgery, to ward to discharge, less than 24hours. There's been a CT scan after I was dehydrated, numerous dental treatments and doctor’s appointments. We've certainly had our monies worth from it but what has been the real cost? I personally think Private medical care is a waste of money, time and effort and so far it has caused me more stress than any of the treatments, surgery and emergencies that have happened so far. When admitted to hospital you have to set up an account, so your child is separated from you while you complete paperwork, provide copies of ID and med aid, know your hubbies works number off the top of your head as in any emergency you're never prepared. Did you know you can request which hospital you want the ambulance to take you to? Then the hospital will ask you after they've carried out initial treatment what scans/tests etc do you want? You're the bloody experts, you tell me. Do you want to be admitted? I don't know how much does that cost? Then of course you say yes to the tests and no you'll take child home if the hospital say it's ok to discover that now you have to phone your med aid and ask permission for the tests, you discover the hospital you are at doesn't meet with the med aids agreed prices and you have to then hand your bank card over for them to take the necessary payments, because they don't tell you this until afterwards or unless you ask, keep the receipt and spend next 6 months arguing with the med aid for a full refund...It was an emergency. Oh and don't forget the payment gap you'll end up in, the what? Exactly. You go to the Doctors or are half way through dental treatment and your funds run out. Yes seriously and the first you know about it is when a bill arrives or you get a phone call demanding payment. It's even more annoying when you explain to the med aid that you don't know how any of this works, as you are only used to free treatment as you're from the UK, you finally get informed that there's a drop in centre nearby where you can ask to speak with someone to explain all of this to you. So you visit every time you ne something or you get a bill and they are very good at reading off the computer, emailing you cut and paste and putting you on the phone to someone above them who is more qualified to answer your question, when all they then do is read off a piece of paper. This week I was admitted to hospital for day surgery. It was 6 weeks from referral by doctor to appointment and the actual procedure. Which compared to the NHS is bloody brilliant, but the stress of organising it was immense. R500 payable on initial consultation, claimed back from med aid. Completion of consent forms for surgery and all med aid details including car registration numbers for both myself and hubby (no parking permit was issued) details of next of kin in South Africa and as we are immigrants, contact for family members in the UK. Then there was approval from the med aid, the hospital contacted me to say I'd need to pay R3500 towards the treatment, so a visit to the med aid drop in centre, a phone call to discover that they won't pay for two treatments in the same year. But I wasn't having two treatments in the same year, but according to med aid level 1 injection were the same as level 2 injections. The physio and anaesthetist come to see me, told to refrain from driving for 48hrs and my neck may be sore for a week. At the consultation I was informed I'd be sedated and a needle would be inserted into my nerves on both sides of my neck from C1-7 and an electrical pulse would stimulate the nerves. I was put under and the procedure lasted 90 mins, I came round and my blood pressure was 57/40 something, I was dehydrated and it took 2 hours for the drip to pass through and I was discharged at 5pm. On arriving home I stepped out the car and collapsed on the drive, I've been in bed ever since with this (sat pm) being the first time I've been able to sit up for more than a few minutes without incredible neck pain. On calling the hospital on Friday I was told I had to have complete bed rest till Tuesday, take the meds as prescribed, despite instruction on box saying 'when needed' and to drink caffeine, coke and eat chocolates to keep my blood sugar levels up, my feet elevated and not to attempt to stand unaided and not to be left alone. Now hubby wouldn't have gone to Cape Town Thursday till Saturday had we been given that information at the hospital. And thanks to med aid company I now have to go through the whole procedure level 2 again in January when the New Year starts which will mean with the costs that we will be in the payment gap sooner than we want. In the meantime I'm trying to find a perodontist that works within the med aid figures and despite requesting that the med aid company find me one, I'm still waiting for the surgery I need to resolve and slow down the bone degeneration I have and prevent my teeth from falling out. I'd rather have the NHS any day, thank you very much. I may have to wait longer but from previous experience, there is less stress prior to the event and after. My father had a heart attack in June, the only option he had was the NHS, their care during and after was fantastic and the help he receives now is amazing. No wonder I'm suffering from depression, most of it caused by my lack of knowledge and the medical aids lack of understanding in response to 'I don't know how this all works, please help'

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Tampons, naked saunas and swimming sideways

I've had enough.

Responses from tweets indicate it is the same whatever gym you go to, regardless of where you are in the world.

As I enter the Virgin Active Gym there is a board

'Lets make South Africa Proud'
Followed by a list of do's and don'ts.


Do you know what that means?

It means if someone isn't respecting your boundries, you challenge an issue or just about anything else, you're likely to get sworn or shouted at, or told to mind your own business.

The pool has a current, yesterday I gave up after 10 lengths, I was in lane 1 of 6, the lane with the strongest current, lane 6 was empty and lanes 2, 3, 4 & 5 were men and women training, with paddles and flippers and one guy was even using a snorkel.
The current was so strong it took me 10 strokes to swim up the pool and 16 to get back and most of that was sideways.
Just a thought, silly I know, 'excuse me Sir, would you mind swopping lanes, only I'm just here for leisure swim, maybe it'll be easier for you to swim in the current with your flippers on than it is me'

'fuck off'

I went back to the pool today, I was the only one in theRE, the pool was really cold, but at least the showers were working this week. Last week there was a problem with the hot water so after a freezing cold shower I thought I'd nip in the sauna just for a few minutes to warm up.
I don't particulary enjoy walking in the door and being eye to vagina, thank you very much, OK, people go naked in saunas, but knees bent, legs apart on the top bench, facing the door just really isn't necessary. I walked out, there was nothing I could say.

Anyway back to today, out the shower, why are the doors see through perspex? we don't all enjoy showing off you know. I return to the changing room, put my costume, googles and hat on the floor, open my locker put my clothes on the bench and grab my make up bag and go to the mirrors to sort my hair and face. I return to my bench and despite there being loads of space a woman has put her damp towel on my clothes, I pick it up and ask 'is this yours?' to which she just snatches it off me and puts it back as close to my clothes as she can. I told her I don't want wet clothes and could she move her stuff, she replied that I was to move mine, so I shoved her clothes and bag along the bench, with most of it falling on the floor, grabbed my stuff and went to another bench.

Big mistake...
Me: excuse me would you mind going to the toilet to insert your tampon
Her: Why
Me: *Gives up, gets dressed, buys coffee and blogs*



Monday 17 September 2012

Just what is @kwo_org that I so often tweet about? and why is it so important to me?

Kungwini Welfare Organisation is an umbrella Non-Profit Organisation for 8 public benefiting projects, namely:
Paul Jungnickel Home - with 140 adults with disabilities
Kungwini Early Learning Centre - with over 200 children between the ages of 2 - 6 years
Drop -In Centre - for over 40 children between 6 - 12 years
Vocational Therapy Unit
Kungwini Protective Workshop
Children's Home
Nickel Xmas Market
Social Work Services

I got involved with the Paul Jungnickel Home sort of by accident. I had visited the organisation with Santa Shoebox appeal and had been taken out to visit the Kungwini Early Learning Centre. Everyone was so friendly, that I left my CV with them with the intention of supporting the teachers in the nearby township.

On Mandela Day, 18th July, his birthday, #67minutes I visited armed with cup cakes and a pair of scissors to help make some paper bunting for the Nickel Xmas Market. I ended up going back again and made 1km of paper bunting. I then started to make some material bunting for hanging outside and so far have made 150 meters.

Me and my sewing machine were too noisy for the meetings held in the adjacent room so I was moved to the Kungwini Protective Workshop where all hopes of sewing any more bunting were put on hold until the material cupboard was tidied. Since then I’ve been going 2-3 times a week. There is little English spoken and combined with speech difficulties I’m struggling a little to be understood and to understand. But the residents there are so patient with me, practising their English, taking me by the hand and showing me where to go, making me a cup of tea, using gestures and I’m finding my understanding of Afrikaans is coming on nicely, I catch key words and work the rest out. Sometimes I have to fetch someone to translate, but on the whole we all get on fine.

At the moment I’m making bags to sell at the Christmas Market. I have taken a few orders so far and will be posting them when I return to the UK in October. I will also be travelling with many other goodies for sale and I’ll be asking/pestering those of you I see to buy from me. Pop over to my face book page for more info.

So why has this organisation become so important to me? It has given me a life line, a purpose, people to talk to, a place to go and more importantly makes me feel needed and valued.
I can’t work in South Africa, I don’t ‘do lunch’ or play golf and I’m not a big fan of shopping or having nails painted, so I was a little lost.
KWO lets me be me, I can blog/tweet/facebook, I can take photos, I have the freedom to make suggestions and carry them out.

So if you want to do your bit also and help out some amazing people and live in or can get to Pretoria, have a look at some of the needs of the organisation and if you’re outside South Africa how about making a donation, there’s a space to leave a message and don’t forget to let them know that @chickenruby asked you to pop by.

You help to make a BIG difference in other people's lives.

Friday 14 September 2012

From appointment, to assesment, to treatment....6 weeks

15 years ago I suffered an injury at work, I now live with chronic pain in my neck, lower arm and fingers.

It doesn't prevent me from doing anything, it just hurts. I struggle with tin openers and writing and sitting for any length of time, esp driving, but I can manage it, it just hurts.

We moved to South Africa 19 months ago and almost overnight the pain stopped. I'm not working, I'm not doing 100s miles of driving weekly, I can't continue with my studies. The hot weather here also helped.

I was still experiencing pain if I did anything on a loop, but the pain stopped inbetween.

The last few months I've realised the pain is back. I know it sounds silly, but when you live with pain constantly it is possible not to notice it unless it gets worse. My threshold is probably higher than most.

More migraines, the feeling someone is putting pressure on the back of my neck, disturbed sleep and off I went to the Doctors a few months back. I was prescribed Gabapebtin. I refused to take it. In the past I'd suffered side effects. I was irritable, constipated, constantly searching for food and lost my sex drive. I started to exercise more and that helped.

The biggest trigger for my neck pain and migraines is stress. Couple with everyday tasks, writing, hoovering, cooking and baking (I have a guy who does my ironing) So back to the Doctors 5 weeks ago with a variety of issues (inc depression) and today I had my appointment with the pain clinic.

I went armed with a file of treatments and procedures. I accept my pain, I live with my pain, I just want a little help from time to time.

So I was booked in for day surgery, can't remeber what the procedure is called but it involves injection along my spine, from the base of my head to C8. I couldn't make the first appointment in 5 days time as hubby is away so it is rebooked for the following week on the 26th.

I'm so impressed, I know we are paying for it, via the med aid (waiting to find out if med aid will cover the cost) if not we'll have to dig deep. The only issue I had was completing the admissions forms as they wanted to know our car registration numbers...why? and a UK residential address and person to contact in an emergency.

The 5 C's in a crisis

Last week I wrote about regaining my smile

Life has been going well, I've been really enjoying the volunteering at a home for adults with learning and physical disabilities, I've established a routine, I'm committed to giving up smoking (even if I do require medical intervention to do so) I'm back swimming 1km daily at Virgin Active Gym. I'm spending my spare time, sewing bags and making bunting for KWO Christmas market. I'm busy emailing schools, local businesses and Embassies promoting

So life is good and I'm also dealing with Hubby being away into his 3rd week on business in Europe and holiday in the UK to visit family and friends.

But today was crap, I put feeling better with the depression down to the fact I've not had to deal with a difficult situation recently and not the medication making it easier to deal with stuff.

I lost/misplaced/had stolen my bank card and I went into meltdown. Not out of panic/fear/worry, but out of annoyance at knowing how bloody complicated this will be to sort out.

I'm at PicknPay, no bank card, I'll be back. I retraced my steps to the petrol station where I know I last used my card, nearly 24 hours ago, it's not there. Youngest is searching the car, under the bed and friend is checking her house and driveway where I went last night. I check my balance online, all is good and then I cancel the card.

After cancelling my card I realised how isolated I am here, how little help and support actually exists for us as a family, thankfully my boys are 13 & 17 and in a medical emergency they'd cope/manage in hubbies absence.

It takes ages to find the number online as I'm signed in, if I'd signed out and just surfed the website, I'd have found it straight away.

Them: Hi how are you?, I'm fine (this happens all the time, I never had chance to answer and didn't ask a question.

Me: I'd like to report a lost card.

Them: Can I have your name and ID?, not your account number, your ID

Me: That is my ID I'm British

Them: But there isn't enough digits

Me: I know, I'm not South African

Them: Can we have your account number?

Believe it or not, I don't actually know it. I get statements online, it's not written on the front of the card, like the UK, so I log back on to internet banking to locate it.

Them: When would you like your new card?

Me: ASAP as my hubby is away and I have no access to any money till he gets back next weekend

Them: How would you like to get your card?

Me: Please tell me what my options are and then tell me the quickest way to get access to my money please.

So I'm off to the bank tomorrow after my hospital appointment to be issued with a temporary card. The proper card will arrive at the bank in 5 working days.

I doubt things will go smoothly, they really do, here.

My friend is wonderful I called her. I had a cuppa, cake, cry, cuddle and most importantly....she gave me cash.


Wednesday 12 September 2012

I've not smiled in a long time

I'm not an unhappy person.

I'm not a sad person.

I am an angry person.

I am an upset person.

I feel let down.

Let down by this whole move to South Africa, the non exsistant support from hubbies company, despite the promises. Finding a house, setting up bills, opening bank accounts etc, etc, etc. Living in a dnagerous country. Then there was the problems with school, the refusal to acknowledge sons dyslexia, the subsequent house move, the emergency trip to the UK when my dad had a heart attack (one week after we moved) the lack of friends, the boredom, the lonliness, the medical aid.

I put a positive spin on things, I look on the bright side of life, but I do have a habit of letting things get to me, wind me up, make me shout. I also enjoy the good things about living here, a recent trip to Kruger National Park, the markets, the volunteering, being able to afford for my son to learn to drive.

I wrote two posts recently about being ill, about everything getting on top of me, about going to the Doctors and asking for help, about being prescribed anti depressents.

Yesterday I went for my 4 week review of the anti depressents and I told the Doctor I didn't think the medication was working. I said my life had been stress free for the past 4 weeks, no trauma, no hassles, no bills to query, no illness.

Of course everyone says that don't they? They've got better all by themselves, things are good, on the up, they don't need tablets any more. I understand that and perhaps I just feel better equipped to deal with things, to be more cheerful and positive about stuff.

But the one thing that reminded me that the tablets are helping is the fact that when I walked into the surgery, the Doctor said 'I've not seen you smile before'

Saturday 8 September 2012

Camping at Kruger National Park

We spent 4 wet nights and 3 full wet days at Kruger National Park. It was a 800km round trip and we drove 500km around the park, totally 27 hours of driving time, mostly by my son. It cost R800 to camp, we spent R700 on a yearly pass, R1300 on fuel. R300 on tolls plus food.
For some people it is the holiday of a lifetime, for us it will be a regular trip at under £400. However we do need to buy a new tent (hopefully a trailer one...hint hint Hubby)
Kruger is larger than Wales and we only saw the equivilant of Monmouth to Cardiff.

We tied the fridge up on advice of a neighbour who had been raided the previous day, however on our return we discovered they'd had a good go at the fridge and failed but stole the bread, ignorned the rice crispies and left dirty muddy paws over my air bed.

There are approximately 3100 hippos at Kruger and I think there may only be a handful that we didn't see.

Anyway without further ado here are some photos and you must watch the video of the Hippos mating. My 13yo son tried his best not to giggle and failed, his laugh is infectious.