Last Friday and Saturday, my three boys and I had our biannual medicals done by the OMF Japan medical advisor (a Brit). I'm wondering how many other missions have field-based medical advisors?
I wrote a little bit about OMF the other day and their vision statement, and how being one of them gives our support-roles more meaning. Another advantage of being a part of a mission organisation is the member care that is provided.
Probably most people would consider biannual medicals an annoyance. But really it is a blessing. To be able to sit down with a native English speaker and talk about whatever medical concerns you might have is a luxury that you might not appreciate unless you've lived in a non English speaking country and had to deal with the local medical system.
Here in Japan we are blessed with a fairly good system. But still, it can be challenging to communicate with medical staff. As someone who comes from a system where you have GPs (General Practitioner) and you go to them for everything (including referral to specialists), it can be a challenge to live with a system where you have to decide for yourself which specialists to go to. I had dermatitis in my ears one time – should I have gone to a Dermatologist or an ENT? What about a urinary tract infection – is that an Internal specialist or a Urologist? As no one coordinates your care, I presume you can go to several different doctors for the same thing with no problem.
To have someone who'll listen carefully to you in your heart language is something pretty special. I don't feel comfortable having a long chat with a doctor in Japan about a concern (not to mention my Japanese usually doesn't cover me that far). Very often their waiting rooms are full and they are shuffling you through as fast as they can. OMF medical advisors ask you how you're coping with stress, how much exercise you've been doing, how many weeks holidays you've had. No ordinary doctor usually cares so much about these things.
We're able to contact our field medical advisor for advise on how to proceed with a certain concern. So, for example, in January I had a collection of troubling symptoms one day and had trouble sorting out what exactly I was suffering. He was able to give me good advice as to what to do, which doctor to go to. One of our sons suffered an embarrassing problem one evening, after Googling it, I became concerned that it was quickly becoming an emergency and rang our advisor to check whether we should rush to hospital. He confirmed our concern and off we rushed.
Another valuable thing he contributes, is an international view of medical concerns. Different countries have different standards on various things. For example medication is called different things in different countries, and immunisation schedules are different in different countries. Our medical advisor can help us translate these things so that we can work comfortably within Japan as well as our home country. Oh, and OMF International has its own immunisation schedule as well, just to confuse things!
So, yet another thing I am grateful for as a missionary: greater care for my health than I might otherwise receive, even living in my passport country.