Indonesia: health issues

Heat lamp treatment for Lisa's back
Due to Lisa's motorbike accident, we spent a lot of time since my return from Australia on March 22nd dealing with medical issues. So here's our experiences with health care in Indonesia. First of all, it's not as bad as you might think. The biggest problem we encountered is the general lack of information. Often no one knows if or where a specific treatment is available. That's mainly because most treatments are simply not affordable to the average Indonesian. Lisa had to threaten to fly home or at least to Singapore for an MRI until the staff at her work realized that there's actually a hospital doing MRIs in Solo. Luckily, the results showed that nothing is wrong with her spine.

RECOMMENDATION (1): Smaller ailments can easily be treated in Indonesia. No need to panic. But for bigger issues or complicated injuries, we recommend to either fly to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur for treatment or consult a health care professional at home online. Lisa did the second and got great help from REGA.

After that, we struggled with the sometimes contradictory opinions of doctors. After the MRI, they prescribed her a physiotherapy and told her to rest her back otherwise. Going almost crazy just lying around, she took up a gym membership to strengthen her back after consulting her mother by email (she's a trained personal trainer and massage therapist and probably knows Lisa's back even better than I do). And this finally helped. Her back keeps getting better day by day. The doctors who prescribed the physiotherapy obviously disagreed with this, but another doctor Lisa had consulted previously conceded that it was about time she moved her back again. He only conceded once she had taken up exercising at the gym already.
RECOMMENDATION (2): Same as above. Additionally, don't hesitate to ask questions and consult another doctor for a second opinion. If a treatment doesn't work, look for alternative methods.

A nasty side effect of Chikungunya
As if getting Lisa back on track wouldn't be enough, we got Chikungunya. As most members of our host family already had the disease before, this wasn't a big surprise. It started that one morning, I woke up with terrible pain in every muscle and limb of my body. Around lunchtime, they took me to hospital with 39.5 degrees of fever. They diagnosed a viral fever and sent me home with some paracetamol. The fever eventually went down and the aching limbs and joints got slowly better too. But unfortunately I contaminated Lisa. She skipped the fever but still has the aching limbs and joints, even after a month. Only when our host mother went for a checkup, we finally knew what we had. Chikungunya. As it's a disease common in poor tropical countries, the only cure is patience. But it keeps getting better every day and hopefully will be over soon.
RECOMMENDATION (3): Always ask what medication you're given and how and why you have to take it. Doctors in Indonesia (and elsewhere) are not used to patients asking questions or even questioning their opinions. Ask in a respectful way, but make sure you get the information you need. Get a proper diagnosis so that the sickness or injury can be treated properly.

Well, I guess that's enough about being sick and health care. Getting sick is an integral part of travelling. Accidents unfortunately happen, at home as well as on the road. We are thankful that no permanent damage resulted from both Lisa's motorbike accident and Chikungunya. Lisa is on the road of recovery and I'm already up and fully running again, as you'll see soon in my next blog post. I'm not nearly done yet with Indonesia and I hope neither is Indonesia with me.

Ready to go tubing through a cave (Goa Pindul) with our friend Jodi

Pictures: Indonesia April 2014 (random)


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