Living overseas - and especially in the Foreign Service, means you need to rethink the way you handle your medical care. I was raised in an environment where I had the same doctor year after year. That doctor has followed my progress and kept my information. I like that system. It's simple and you've got someone who understands the way your body works - all it's little quirks. But when you move to a different country every few years, it's a bit different. Many people choose to keep there regular doctors in the US and see them when they're back for Home Leave and R&R. You still see doctors in other countries, but your main point person, is your doctor back home.
Since we were about to be overseas for two years, we made sure we took care of all of our regular check-ups when we were home in California before we left for Brazil. It made for a few hectic days of racing from appointment to appointment, but in the end, it was nice to have it all done.
But, as luck and life would have it, on one of my regular yearly tests, there was an abnormality. Nothing major, but definitely something you want to follow up on. We found out the morning we were scheduled to take the red-eye to Miami before heading on to Brazil. My amazing doctors were able to get me in that afternoon for a follow up look-see. It added another event on a rather busy day, but I was very glad to be able to get things checked out before we left the country.
But . . . the follow up look-see showed a bit more - something that required a biopsy. None of the professionals felt that it was an issue, but it's always better to get everything checked out to be sure. But - when and where to do it? At one point, we thought about doing it right then, before my flight out, but that just seemed like it was asking for trouble. So it was decided to get it taken care of when I got to Brazil. The medical center organized all my records and sent me off with a complete packet.
Taking care of things in Brazil couldn't have been easier (well - it could have been if my command of Portuguese was better and more geared to medical terminology and day-today living).
My Consulate has a CLO (Community Liaison Officer) and she's wonderful. I explained the situation and she found me an appropriate doctor who also spoke English. I was able to get in to see her just two days later for my consultation. That doctor reviewed my files and scheduled my appointment for my biopsy. She also let them know that I worked for the Consulate and that Portuguese wasn't my primary language.
The clinic where I went is one of the best in Recife. They confirmed things with the Consulate (again making sure that I was understanding everything). And when I went for my biopsy, they had someone who met me and moved me from place to place so that I didn't get lost in the system. The doctor who took care of things spoke English and explained what she was doing.
Interesting note - unlike in the US, where once the sample is taken, it's whisked off to the lab and you only get the results from your doctor, in Brazil, they handed me the biopsy sample to take to the lab. I dropped it off and they gave me a little card with a number on it and told me when to come back to pick up my results.
It also helps knowing what great care the State Department takes care of it's people. A fellow blogger has shared their recent story. It's challenging, but so nice to see how well supported we are.