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Friday, December 16, 2016

More Pain in the Ass and Wallet

Me, up and mobile, here's to better days!
The sciatica saga continues. What seemed to be a hopeful turn has ended in disappointment. While the intramuscular injections of relaxants offered relief from the truly mind boggling pain, they didn't last. Off I went to get x-rays (radiografía en español). So I have a compacted lumbar disc that is pinching my sciatic nerve. (This means the two vertebrae have little cushioning between them and are using my nerve in lieu of my squished "jelly doughnut" of a disc.) This is also know as degenerative disc disease, something that sounds frightening and irreversible. Apparently, this is not the case. Physiotherapy has a 90% efficacy rate for treating the issue. (Fingers crossed.) I kind of feel like I've aged five years over the last several weeks. Pain does truly bizarre things to my head. (I'm a lot wimpier than I thought, to be sure.) I think the meds are also messing with my brain chemistry, so I'm excited to get off them ASAP.

I'm actually quite surprised at the cost of medical treatment here. (In a good way.) As a Canadian, the whole concept of paying to see a doctor is a bit odd, but we're no strangers to coughing over for "alternate" treatments like massage therapy, chiropractic work, physio etc.

This is how it's broken down so far (in US dollars):
     * Massage therapy: $40 for two one hour sessions (an introductory rate)
     * Impromptu visit to Physiotherapist: $15 (including compression, electro-stimulation, 
            massage and assigned stretches.

     * Chiropractor: $25 initial consult and $15 an adjustment thereafter = $70
          (I have one more appointment, so add another $15)

     * Doctor: 5 visits $90, including 12 injections and x-ray consult, prescriptions etc
     * X-rays: 2 for $25
     * Physiotherapy: 10 sessions at $6.50 each (this is a partially government funded
           Association) = $65

What I haven't included is the medications. I've blown through 27 muscle relaxants, uncountable amounts of ibuprofen and acetaminophen, plus some minorly scary opioid pills to manage the pain. I'm now looking forward to 5 B-Complex injections in the glutes for anti-inflammatory and analgesic purposes. This also give me "pep" and can help correct nerve damage (if any). Be warmed photos of the needles to follow. The B shots were the most expensive of the medications prescribed (strangely) @ $22.70 for the 5. I figure I'm up to around $40 for pain management. The biggest surprise is that you can't book appointments for a lot of this stuff, you go, wait in line and get treated on a first come first serve basis. I can call my Doctor to see if he's in the office, but besides that everything is pretty casual. (This excludes the North American's working down here, but the Ecuadorians seem patently uninterested in arranging set times for appointments. If you've been here long enough, this likely isn't a surprise.)
Not too scary, right?
The needle 1 inch+ of metal for deep muscle access

The B-complex mix
Locked and loaded
So, all in we're looking at around $360 US (or $482 Canadian based on the current exchange - thanks US Reserve for increasing interest rates!) We've opted for "self-insured" medical, meaning that we put money aside every month for just this sort of thing. This is our first "major" expenditure, outside of Ron having some dental work done when we were first here. I've found an excellent source of information for the government insured medical care system, which is similar to how Canada runs. From the blog, it seems inexpensive and fairly easy to navigate. I have heard the odd story about complications and challenges with a laissez-faire approach to appointments etc, but this IS Ecuador. Thanks Bob and Linda for the excellent information. See Bob and Linda in Ecuador for more info about IESS and do some research as this is only one couples' experience with the system.

It may seem steep, as a Canadian, for medical care, but if I take into account the supplementary treatments that are only partially included, I think I'm actually well ahead of the game. The down side is I can't claim it on my taxes. So that's the state of things. I won't know until after Christmas how the treatments are working, but I'm hoping to feel some minor relief before then, again, fingers crossed! 

PS, the vitamin injection was stingy once the liquid was being injected - the needle prick wasn't bad at all - thank you Nurse Ron!