July 2, 2010 Going To the Doctor

Posted in Rodger's Russia Book | Posted by rodger |

There should be a point to all letters. Sometimes they are humorous in a broad way, sometimes they are quiet humor. Sometimes they are “feel good” stories because they talk about something nice that happened to other people, and sometimes they are “feel good” stories in the sense of “Thank God! That didn’t happen to me.”

I think that we are firmly in that last category today.

I would have written earlier, but Larisa has been touring the drug stores trying to purchase the x-ray film that she owes to Uncle Victor and it has been a long day.

My left eye has been uncomfortable for several weeks. Starting at about the day I left the states, the eye has felt sore and, at times, felt as if something was under the lid. Inspections with a mirror and flushing with an eye cup didn’t find anything, and a few days ago I began to have some problems with vision in that eye. Dark clouds occasionally appeared in the field of vision.

Time to see the doctor. Not as easy as it sounds. Everyone here has insurance and the local medical facility has no idea of how to accept cash – except as bribes. (Medical care is “free” only if you ignore the considerable bribes due for each visit.) I could probably get in, but the one female ophthalmologist at the hospital sees about a hundred clients a day with a civil service attitude.

The alternative was the new private eye doctor in town. She charges heavily, 600 rubles, almost 20 bucks for a visit, and I personally didn’t have much hope of better than public service.

Boy, was I surprised and boy, did I surprise her. The office was clean, modern and well equipped. Kaiser would have been proud of it. As soon as she learned that I was a diabetic and had vision problems, she assured me that there was a new laser facility in a nearby city that could do coagulation for diabetics. (Diabetics go blind because the small blood vessels in the retina burst, releasing blood into to eyeball and it can often be forestalled by using a laser to weld the tear closed.)

Then she gave me an exam that was thorough, professional and competent. She found that I was going to have cataracts in about 10 years, that I had a slightly elevated pressure in my eyes, and that I had a big blasted hair under my lower eyelid. The dark spots in my vision were the hair repeatedly sticking up in the front of my eye, and waving around. When she removed the hair, the problems went away. My wife was pleased and then demanded to know if it was hair from a woman. Peace was preserved when the doctor said that it appeared to be from a child – probably picked up on the airplane.

As for me, I surprised the doctor too. She examined my eyes with several instruments and eventually dilated my pupils and used one of the old fashioned hand held lights to search my eyes repeatedly.

She eventually told Larisa that she could not believe that there was no damage to my retinas because every diabetic that she saw had serious eye damage, heart troubles and damage to the peripheral blood vessels within five years. I’ve been a diabetic for almost 30 years and still have my eyes and my feet intact.

You should be happy about that because it’s not all my fault. I’m a careful diabetic, but the main reasons I have my health are the American lifestyle and same health system that protects you.

You and I have doctors who check our blood pressure every time they get close to us. Our doctors monitor our cholesterol and prescribe medication every time it gets a little to high, and they check our liver function every time they do a blood test. Kaiser spends $4 a day on diabetic test strips for me and checks my long term diabetes effects every 6 months. You get the same level of treatment and you will probably live about 83 years if you are a woman and about 75 if you are a man.

The average Russian male lives 59 years, and the females 73 years. Every year, Putin puts on a big show of being a sportsman on his vacation. You see pictures of him stripped to the waist while white water rafting or wrestling. He does it because he is 58 years old and he has to convince the Russian public that he is not OLD yet. At 58, the average Russian man has only about a year to live.

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