Visiting another hospital, here in Armenia, is not a brand new experience per sey, as I have been to the emergency rooms in Cambodia and, before that, in Thailand. But every country has their own way with policy and procedures; or lack-there-of. 16 years ago, I sustained a broken back and neck, so I can sneeze and throw them both out, or do the same by even bending over to tie my shoes. This was no different when living in the states. (hence, the reason I wear flip flops so much) I know…how ridiculous, but this is my reality, and I will do what I need to do, to keep me going. So, when I can’t put one foot in front of the other to walk, off we go to find an emergency room to get a pain shot. I have had good experiences in both cases, and the cash cost was small, too. We have also gone to the main Bangkok Thailand Hospital for a travel vaccination that was due, and several years ago in Ao Nang, Thailand at the beach clinic to get our anti-Rabies series. Again, all good experiences.
One of the things we love about the travel lifestyle isn’t always about what we get see from a tourist perspective: sites, sounds, smells and people encounters are all try the best, figuring out how to get around hospitals in foreign lands is whole new world of its own. Figuring out transportation, and even when renting a car, directional issues are huge. With each new county, we adjust to another money to learn about and finding ATM’s. We have cultures to learn, and out of respect, this sometimes require a certain dress. Languages are always changing and most challenging where English is not widely spoken. Air travel, security lines, and no direct flights, PCR testing, and luggage issues, when we can’t get to back to our stored belongings when borders close up. Finding lodging and food; AND doing all this in a pandemic, well, it just makes it harder. Not impossible, just harder. Sometimes it is all such a struggle, and we do get weary, but given how long we have been doing this life, obviously the struggle isn’t so bad we want to run screaming for the hills and go home. Nope, far from it. Even these struggles teach us, and give us many memories. Again, our time is full-time, not vacation time. We do very little tours, choosing to self-tour, which we much prefer; unless the country requires them (and they do). I could go on and on with a longer list, but I think you get the idea. Just know, that when we take some time to NOT move, there is reason for the much needed rest. We are not spring chickens anymore. Thats a fact. But, the learning and growing continues, no matter what we are doing. We benefit from staying in one place, too and really “living in these moments,” instead of “traveling through.” It’s really great, though we do not have as much to write about or show photos on.
I’ve actually been helping a local gal translate Russian and Armenian translations to English; into proper sentence structure, punctuation and correct word choices. It’s like editing for the words to flow, to make it legible when Americans are reading the information. Its all volunteer for a charity. Im loving it, and learning a lot.
Anyway, we are leaving our digs next week and getting back on the road again, after our slumber, to finish touring Armenia. By March 23rd, the plan is to fly to Thailand, again. (so far the borders are open, but we won’t go if required to do a 14-day quarantine. Still researching this, as THAT would be our whole time, on this visit).
Back to our recent hospital visits.
Because we are seniors, not youngsters, doing what we do, sometimes me must get some treatments or testing done along the way. We have the time, and yesterday was another such a day. We had gone for another visit a few weeks ago for one treatment. This was a follow up, and then some.
Our plan for the following appointments were to take place in Thailand. The hospitals there are amazing, and very affordable, but we could not get there over this winter. (border closure) For our USA followers, you may get a kick out of procedural operations in such other countries to get medical needs met. Armenia, we are glad to report has proven to be very effective, clean, professional and accommodating, too.
On this particular day, we headed for the hospital, we were hit with snow and a serious drop in temperature, but we powered through and went anyway; only 30 minutes away from our stay.
Side note: I like to mention, to those who don’t know, that most known prescriptions-only items in America are available over the counter in many developing or third-world countries. (narcotics no, but just about everything else) I can’t tell you how much time and money we have saved over the years, by not needing a doctor to write a prescription. I only need thyroid meds, on the regular. Daryl has a travel blood pressure gadget, so he can manage his meds just fine, too. When we head for Europe (for example) we load up with meds, while in the cheaper countries. (Armenia is very affordable, too) Thankfully, we are both heathy and do not take a load of prescriptions, and what we do get, we get very cheap, compared to the exaggerated costs of America pricing.
- ✅I needed to get my thyroid levels checked. It’s been over three years, and since I have no thyroid anymore, I need to be on replacement meds for lifetime. Unlike in America, here, I do not need a doctors order, first. I walked into the lab at the hospital and said (through translator); “please check my thyroid levels.” (I have to support both T-4 and T-3) I hear; “okay,” directed to a chair an all within five minutes, my blood draw is complete, I pay in cash, and told results are provided by WhatsApp. Oh, cash was 10,000 Dram ($20 dollars). I got my results, and learned I was low, which I was feeling. This can lead to hair loss and weight gain🙄, among other things; it’s a constant struggle. I increased my meds and in a few weeks all will be better.
- ✅ how about an EKG? I’ve only had one of those 10 years ago, before my thyroidectomy. I’m in my 60’s now, so mostly out of curiosity, I thought, why not? I feel fine, but let’s have a look. We found the Cardiology floor and in the same way as the lab, I informed I wanted to check my heart ❤️ with an EKG. There were two people ahead of me, so I had to wait a whole 10 minutes for my turn. I paid the equivalent of the same; $20. I got my results almost immediately. Passed with flying colors.
- ✅ Okay, I’m on a roll, so next, we see a doctor who I found at the same hospital who understands (thru translator) I have a fairly new keloid scar from a cyst removal back in Greece, at a hospital (last April while on Santorini Island). (Not super cheap, but cheaper than in America) The good news is, the cyst is no longer a problem and biopsy proved benign. BUT, the scar has raised, it burns and itches and is painful. (Keloid-ers like me, have a condition where the healing “overheals,” and causes this excessive scarring condition on backs and chest areas). This doctor I found injected the scar with steroids and two weeks later, the raised, red ugly scar has reduced in size and the burning isn’t as bad. Yesterday I went back for more injections (three stabs more- ouch). I return in a week to have her look again and perhaps another series. (25,000 Dram) or $50 for all three treatments. I love how they take cash and off we go.
- ✅ Now, we go to the fifth floor of the hospital to find Orthopedics. I would like to mention, again, how kind the Armenian people here are. More than one nice humans (staff as well as customers, or relatives to patients) have walked us down the maze of hallways to the correct location or room. Yes, there are signs, but not in English. With no English words, I think it’s just easier to show. We do appreciate this. So we get to the right place and by the way, we heard the word “palace” used for office/room. Okay, we can roll with that. Here at the Orthopedic surgeon’s office (or palace) there are more people in wheelchairs with leg casts, foot injuries and patients in casts all around. I sit it out, till it all clears. When it does, I approach. The surgeon speaks some English. Yay. I had no appointment there, either. I told him I needed to get a steroid shot in my left knee, to help with pain management. It has been three years since my last shot. He asked about allergies, and we are good to go! You will love this part: he wrote on a piece of letterhead paper something in Armenian, handed it to me and asked for me to get the medicine from the pharmacy on the second floor and return. Okay then. Off we go down the stairs; once again no clue where the pharmacy is. Kindness again by others around us and we found it. I handed the clerk the paper and she gives me a clear plastic bag of four small vials of liquid. The cost? $4.88. Off we go, back up to the fifth floor. I called the surgeons number to let him know I was back (his door was closed, but I had his card) I identified myself as the American, and he said he will come back in 10 minutes… and he did. When he saw me, he approached and asked me if I had the drugs? (inside I’m totally cracking up trying to keep a straight face). Me: “yes, I’ve got the drugs,” …hey, I was having fun with this; and I pulled them out of my bag and made the pass-off. He said follow me. I do. We entered a surgical room with a single surgical bed. The good doc asked me more questions. I told him the last surgery I had on it was eight years ago, to try to keep my knee working from the major injury I sustained when I was a freshman in high school and tore it up in gymnastics. (I was told at that time the same injury to my knee was known as a “football knee” injury. It’s when a player gets clipped from the side. Knees do not bend side-to-side that much, so it’s total destruction in the knees, and blows them out). Anyway, when, I got into my 50’s, I hurt it again when I was chasing around a puppy, and stepped in a gopher hole. 🙄. The Ortho Doc in Texas commended me for still doing what I was doing “at my age” on such a destroyed knee, and follow-up repair. He credited the longevity with my knee “as it ended up,” to obviously having a very good Ortho surgeon following the original injury, and me remaining active and keeping the muscles strong to support my knee. Good to know. Unfortunately, after waking from his surgery, I was told while he did what he could, there was not much left to work with, and he told me I would need a full knee replacement. Well, whatever he did has kept me going for another eight years. In order to live the life of traveling full-time, Daryl required two knee replacements before we could go. He was so crippled and in so much pain, it broke my heart. An additional knee replacement and recovery on my part would have only delayed us even longer! so, I “cowgirled-up” for sure, but now my knee has to last me at least three more years and the pain has gotten worse. Let me tell you what, you have not lived, till a doctor sticks a long needle inside to the the knee joint and pushes in the magical liquid! YOWZA. I paid cash to the nurse (10,000 Dram) which is $20. In America they have a first step to the pain med injection as a freezing method. It numbs the injection area and through to the joint, so the needle is not felt as much. Here in Armenia, the doctor told they have that too, but it is “very expensive.” This was after the fact, and I thought to myself, based on what I now know, I bet it would have been another $20 or $30. But I did save that “really expensive option,” and “sucked it up like a buttercup!” Right away, for all the rest of the stairs in that hospital, no pain in my left knee. I’m a happy camper. Sooo happy that….
- When I return to the doctor who is managing my keloid scar, in a week, I told Daryl I’m going to return to the orthopedic surgeon again and get another pain shot in my right knee. I’ve never injured it like I did my left knee, but that joint is wearing out, too, and have that pain like I have a bone chip floating around. An active lifestyle including sports is a double-edged sword, but if I had to do it all over again, I would choose the life full of activity and the rewards gained from that choice.
I think after next week, both my knees will be in great shape to tackle the country of Bhutan by April. (if borders are open). The pain shots can last up to 3-4 months. We are a year late getting to this visit, due to COVID19 and all the drama the pandemic caused us for traveling, so the the five-hour round-trip hike to see the “Tigers Nest,” built into the side of a mountain won’t be any easier. This is a bucket list item for me, so I have to get there! Sadly, I am having to come to terms this may be the last hard hike I ever do, as the after days of overdoing have become so unpleasant. I can still remain active, and touring sites, but the overdoing must end. I have many great memories doing the hard hiking, that took me (us) to see many wonderful things: Backpacking many times in Oregon and also Yellowstone National Park. More major hiking tracking and meeting; face-to-face with the Mountain Gorillas, and another hard hike to see the rare Golden Monkey. (Both of those in Uganda). We’ve hiked the amazing Annapurna Trail in Nepal. Daryl has done it twice. In Brunei, I hiked up into the rainforest and all the way to the tall canopy walk, which was a VERY high metal tower, which connected the canopy walks; which loomed way above the primary forest canopy! (what a thrill. What an accomplishment) The hike up was super hard, but climbing the tower, was where many who worked so hard to get that far, stepped aside for those not intimated with the height issue (not to mention no safety gear) yes, I did it… and in flip flops, all the way. Daryl waited for me at a rest stop half way up the trail, before getting to the tower. His new knees just couldn’t do any more. We both did the hiking in Borneo in the rainforest canopy walk there, too. We have climbed many mountains all over the world to visit the most sacred, highest ancient Temples, Palaces, and Caves, to take in not just the ancient grounds, structures, but the incredible vista views on those clear days. Truth be known, some of my motivation for those mountainous Temples, and Caves were always to watch for wild monkeys. I love watching these cheeky critters, especially those who live so high up, away from people. I was never disappointed! (photos at the end of this blog post)
Back to our hospital visit in Armenia
Enjoy some photos from some of our more difficult, and harder to reach locations, over the years! So happy we could do this while we could…barely!
Most of our adventures we can drive to, with small hikes. Or, we can boat to, canoe to, ride horses to, ride a cable car, trolley car, horse buggy, or Safari Jeep through, but when that’s not possible, we have gone the extra mile or 20, straight up!