First Encounters

By the time we left Canada, I was quite comfortable with the medical system. After having checkups, one trip to the emergency room, two pregnancies and births, and one child with special medical needs, there was rarely anything that surprised me. I never had too many complaints about the care I received, but it was really all I had ever known.

Since arriving in Japan, I have been really fortunate in finding doctors and getting Theo's medical records translated. Through our neighbour, we were able to meet a pharmacist that would like to be an English/Japanese medical translator. She has been overwhelmingly helpful in getting the reference letters from Theo's Canadian doctors and a medical history translated into Japanese. She was also able to help us find a hospital in Fukuyama with a pediatric urologist and nephrologist and set up an appointment.

Theo looking into the middle distance
Theo's visit to the hospital was on Monday. We were able to visit the doctor, who spoke impeccable English, have an ultrasound of his kidneys, blood tests, and a urinalysis. The tests showed that there has been no change in his kidney function since Canada, but the doctor informed me that he would like to refer Theo to a larger hospital with a more specialized pediatric urology and neurosurgery department. He was concerned that since Theo has a very rare kidney and spinal malformation, that they would not be able to provide the most comprehensive care for him here in Fukuyama. We are being sent to Okayama National Hospital which is in the prefecture directly east of us. It is actually extremely close to us, only 18 minutes by shinkansen. I was afraid that he would refer us to some place much farther away, like Osaka or Tokyo, so Okayama sounded great to me. Hopefully they feel confident taking Theo's case and don't just refer us somewhere farther away. Our appointment  is on December 13th, and our pharmacist friend is being nice enough to join us there.

I have been to at least 20 appointments in Canada just like the one we had on Monday, and here are the major differences I observed:

1. It takes months before you can get an appointment in Canada. Unless it is an emergency, it is extremely common to get an appointment to see your doctor anywhere from 2 - 6 months in the future. You get very used to booking appointments months in advance. Here, I was given the option of seeing a doctor within a week of calling.

For lack of a relevant picture, here is a cute one of William
2. In Canada, it takes at least four months before you get an ultrasound. Your ultrasound is taken by a technician, interpreted by some doctor, and the results and images are then sent to your actual doctor. It takes about 2 weeks before you get your results. They will only speed up this process if it is an extreme emergency. In Japan, Theo was given an ultrasound, by the doctor, at his appointment, and I was told the results right away. Needless to say, I was impressed.

3. Health care is free in Canada, but prescriptions are not. For Theo's appointment on Monday, I paid 500 yen ($6.50 Canadian) because he is covered by National Health Insurance and Infant Medical Expense Assistance. Prescription medicine here is free though.

4. The doctor I saw on Monday was incredulous that the doctors in Canada had never done an MRI of his kidneys and that the only CT scan he has ever had was when he was 2 months old. It seems that doctors here are much more willing to preform every test available to better monitor your health.

All in all, I was very pleased with my first encounter with the medical system here. Even though Theo's doctors in Canada were very competent and caring, I think in the long run he will receive better care in Japan. Lets just hope that our experience in Okayama confirms this!

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