December 23, 2009

Losing Sight...

I know this photo looks disgusting. This is NOT my eye but this is similar to how my eye looked last Thursday night and Friday.

Woke up on Thursday morning with my right eye feeling achy. Feels like I did not have a good or sufficient sleep. Put on my new contact lens and felt ok so I went ahead with my usual day and went to work. At the end of the day in the late afternoon, I felt my eye was suddenly sensitive to light. Good thing I was still able to wear my sunglasses and drive to hubby's office nearby and he drove thereafter. When night falls, my eye became a lot more photophobic. While hubby drove, I could hardly open my eyes to see the lights around. I needed a constant light source for my eye to adjust and be okay. By the time I got home at night, my right eye was red and it stings a little when I removed my contact lens. Worried that I turn up with red eyes on Saturday for a wedding that I am helping out, we reckon I should see a GP the next day.

On Friday morning, I tried to ring and make appointment to see 3 GPs near my place, all of whom are people that we know. However the earliest appointment was Saturday. Rang another GP friend H and spoke to him. But he could not see me too because he was working at a further place that day. So we decided to see any GP near our place, so long as he/she does bulk-billing (This means we do not need to pay. The government pays them). This GP B looks ok. He diagnosed that I had conjunctivitis and prescribed me with an antibiotic eye drop. If I do not get better in a couple of days, I should go to the hospital to see an eye specialist. (See my note below on healthcare system in Aust) At the same time, GP B found a white speck around the edge of my pupil. He determined that it was not a metal foreign body (and that was all he could tell. Gosh, I think GPs should read up more. I think now I can diagnose such conditions better than him).

Thankfully the eye drops did make my eye better. Half a day later, my eye was less red but the speck is still visible with a naked eye. My photophobia was lessened. I wished I was in SG, which then I would be able to see an Ophthalmologist (eye specialist) easily at my previous work place. I have a handful of them to choose from. Thank God for Dr T in SG whom I emailed him to ask about my condition. Dr T replied my email fairly quickly and told me that it could be an ulcer which is common to contact lens wearers. That made me more at ease that someone knows what is happening to my sight.

Also spoke with friend GP H (and forwarded him Dr T's email), he asked to see me the next morning (Saturday) just before the wedding that we were all attending. Good thing that his home and other clinic is near the wedding venue. GP H did a more thorough examination and determined that the speck is not a foreign body but an ulcer. It should go away in a few days but I need to stay away from contact lens for those days. So thankful that it is nothing more serious and I am not losing my eyesight. By Saturday night, my eye is not red and looks normal but it was the first time I wore specs to someone's wedding. I sat with an Optometrist friend at the dinner reception that night and he gave me good advice about eye care, etc. Extended specs wear has also caused the top of my ears to hurt. I finally could wear contact lens yesterday. Today, the speck in my eye is no longer visible with the naked eye.

On of my ex-colleague said I have nice eyes and I should go for lasik? I cannot afford it though...

I vaguely recalled I have had eye infections in the past but I have never had photophobia which was a bit scary at first. I was afraid I would lose my eyesight.... and cannot imagine how it would be like. I prayed God will allow me to continue to see the beautiful world He has created and read His word in the Bible. The only thing that I probably would be confident doing (although not 100%) was knitting. I am able to knit in the dark but I cannot piece the knitting together or be able to see if I have any mistakes without my sight. I imagined the kind of inconvenience and dependence that I would place on hubby and I feel sorry for him to have to care for me if I turn blind. I prayed and only have to trust God... I am thankful that I am okay now, which taught me to appreciate my eyes and my sight better. Thank God for eyes which enables me to see people, things, views, etc. The ability to visualise is so important for me. Having eyesight would help a lot. I also better learn to handle my contact lens better and not neglect the care of my eyes.

Differences in healthcare systems
In SG: You are encouraged to see a GP as the first line of healthcare. Should you need to see a specialist, the GP will refer you to one with a referal letter. You can choose if you either want to go to a public hospital and wait days, weeks or even months (depending on the severity of your condition) to see a specialist or go to a private hospital and see the specialist, possibly on the same day or at the most, a few days' of wait. However if you would like to go straight to the private specialist, you may go pass your GP and make your own appointment to see the specialist. There is a slight difference in consultation fee as compared to being referred by a GP. The cost would be heavily subsidised if you wait to see the specialist in a public hospital but if you are seen as a private patient in a public hospital (which means your waiting time is shorter, similar to that if you went to a private specialist), the cost is quite the same as seeing any private specialist.

In Aust: You have medicare (government body) and private health insurance (which the government would give you a rebate off cost of insurance that you pay and you are highly encouraged to take up by a age 30-31 or if you earn above a certain wage otherwise the rebate given would be lessened). To see a GP, people make appointments. If you just show up at the clinic without an appointment, you are taking a risk that the GP might be free to attend to you. To see a private specialist, you NEED to have a referral letter by a GP. Otherwise you cannot see the specialist and they will not see you. If you choose to see a specialist in the public hospital (which you don't need to pay), you need to turn up at the ED (or A&E in SG), wait hours before they may refer you to a specialist if they think you need one. If you go to a public hospital, basically you are covered by medicare and you (almost) do not need to pay a cent. The medical care given is not any less or worse than private hospitals. The only con is the waiting time.

Private specialists are expensive (first consult close to A$200. In SG, it would be about S$180) but waiting time is shorter. I suppose the good thing is that medicare will also cover close to half your cost of seeing the private specialist (there is a fix benefit listing for various procedures and medical service rendered). If you need to be admitted to the private hospital, you only pay a gap (if the doctor charges you a gap) and an excess (amount depending on your policy) for your admission. Basically if you have private insurance, you can use private hospital services and the insurance provider will cover a portion of your cost and you pay some of it. Without private insurance, you may admit yourself to a private hospital, but you pay through your nose for that.

So in conclusion, which is better? I reckon in most cases, Aust has a better system (benefits people more). But you pay high income taxes. If you are poor, Aust is probably better if you are ill. The government would take care of you even if you are low income or unemployed.

However, in my case, because I used to work in a private hospital in SG, I could have almost immediate medical attention/advice from senior specialists (whom I am familiar with) quite easily and I would at least get a discount (if not free). Under my employment terms, my hospitalisation bed charges would also be waived for staying in a single bedroom and other charges either discounted or covered by the hospital (there is a fixed ceiling, of course). For instance, I saw a specialist about 4 years ago for my gastro problem which I underwent ultrasound, gastroscopy and 3-months of medication and I only paid about S$200 in all (for reasons I cannot remember). I had a knee problem which I saw the Orthopaedic Surgeon which I also got it all (comprehensive x-ray, consultation) without a cost. I felt so privileged to be able to consult specialists whom I know and trust at almost any time. Hence in Aust, I felt a little frustrated when I could not see the doctors that I want to, easily and conveniently. Nevertheless, I am still thankful for some doctor or medical professional friends we know here (mostly GPs and pharmacists) and also that I could reach some trusted specialists or GPs in SG via email and they would reply me. Thank God for doctors!

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