Sunday, May 11, 2014

Medical Adventures in Papua New Guinea (and Australia)

I am sorry I have not been posting much the last month. My life ended up taking a detour through the adventures of medical care in Papua New Guinea.

At the end of last term, I had a cold/ throat infection. After that my left ear felt full and I wasn't hearing well out of it. I assumed that it was either a middle ear infection or a wax blockage. After the Women's Retreat (for which I was a leader) I checked in with my two German friends who are doctors at the local hospital (Dr. Christa Thumser and Dr. Demaris Kneif). After some work on the ear, they realized that there wasn't that much wax in there and the ear drum looked fine. So, they gave me that name of an ENT in Lae, the nearest city.

Since it was Holy Week and I was confused about the doctor's name, it was a week before I saw the ENT. He referred me for a hearing exam with an audiologist. After a day of chasing around after the test (first try the power was out) I had the hearing test, but not the tympanogram (which is what I most needed). Finally I was told that I would have to fly up to Goroka to get that test. I decided that I didn't want to risk having the same go around of problems and made an appointment in Australia instead. Thankfully, my Boss, Pr. Franklin Ishida, gave me the go ahead.

I finally saw an ENT in Australia that was able to do the neccesary testing. It turns out to be a senory-neural loss for which there is not any medical treatment. The hearing in my left ear is quite reduced and I have fair amount of tinnitus (ringing or buzzing sounds) in that ear. Usually this sort of loss is tied in to a head injury or loud noise exposure, but can happen spontaneously, which is what apparently happened in my case. I go back to the US on home leave in two months. I will have further testing and decide whether to try out a hearing aid.

This was all quite a shock to me. I have always had good hearing and expected to not loose any hearing until into my 70s or 80s. So far the biggest problem has been hearing students in the classroom. I tell them that they have to speak up (especially on the left hand side of the classroom) but we are all getting used to the situation.

It was also sobering to have so much trouble with getting medical care in PNG when I had traveled to the referral hospital for the area. Even with access to a car and "waitskin priviledge" I spent a lot of time just trying to get what would be basic services in the U.S. I am very thankful that I was able to go to Australia and feel for the locals who do not have that option. I also understand why other internationals (and rich nationals) do almost all their medical work in Australia. I will certainly consider going to Australia more quickly next time.

With all this traveling around I missed teaching the first two weeks of the term. Fortunately everyone was supportive of my efforts to get treatment and helped cover things for me. Now I am busy teaching my two English classes, a library class, a study skills class and an elective class on International Church Issues.

No comments:

Post a Comment