Sunday 24th November 2013 - Any Old Iron?

Jon & Carol Dutton
Sun 24 Nov 2013 01:52

17:40.86S 177:23.21E


Sunday 24th November 2013 – Any Old Iron?


Jon was in quite a bit of discomfort when we got back into Vuda so straightaway we inquired about doctors and that afternoon Jon was off the see the encouragingly named Dr Doton who arranged for him to have an X-Ray immediately and to see an orthopaedic specialist and the physiotherapist in the hospital in Lautoka – about 15 minutes away by road from Vuda marina.- a couple of days later  The X Ray didn’t support a definite diagnosis so Jon was advised to have a CAT scan.  However, the scanner in Lautoka hospital had run out of film.  The only other place to get a scan here is in the capital, Suva.  But they also have an MRI scanner there and that would have been an even better aid to diagnosis.  An appointment was made for Tuesday, 19th November at 10:30 a.m.  Suva is a good 4 hours drive from Vuda, so we drove to Pacific Harbour, about 50 kms west of Suva, on Monday afternoon. The majority of hotels there are of the resort type which would have been wasted on us but Carol had found a delightful B&B called Nanette’s and we would recommend staying there if you need to be in that part of Fiji.


We arrived at the hospital and tracked down the Radiology department only to be stopped in our tracks at the MRI scanner door.  “Danger – Very Strong Magnets – Do Not Enter If You Have Any Metal Implants”  That was a bit of an issue.  Over 20 years ago Jon broke his ankle and had it plated and pinned.  The radiologist wanted to know if the plate was MRI compatible, which of course Jon didn’t know and it was far too risky to take a chance on it.  The magnets in these machines are very powerful and even if the plate wasn’t dramatically pulled out of his body, excruciating pain would have ensued if the metal was at all magnetic.  The radiologist wasn’t having it.


Jon was whizzed of for an X-Ray – not quite sure why but there we are.  As you can see, the plate is very firmly still in place.




The only other option was a CAT scan; the machine in Suva can save images to a CD so lack of film wasn’t an issue.  The normal procedure – back to your doctor, new referral, booking and all that - was circumvented by the extremely helpful staff once they understood that we’d undertaken an 8 hour round trip and an overnight stay to get there.  Half an hour later Jon was having a CAT scan and about and 40 minutes after that he was presented with the images on a CD.  To our unpractised eyes something in his spinal column looks a little out of place but we await the interpretation from the orthopaedic specialist in Lautoka.


Throughout this round of seeing doctors, physiotherapists and radiologists, we have kept in touch with our insurance company, Topsail and the outfit they use to handle claims, CEGA Medical, who have been very helpful even to the extent of arranging to settle the Suva hospital bill directly.  The MRI scan would have been $1840 FJD – approx £650- which is probably as much as it would be in the UK if done privately.  Fijians pay only half this, but even so there can’t be many who can afford these sort of charges.  Even the CAT scan for the locals costs the equivalent of £100.


Our impressions of the hospitals here are that the facilities are basic, the fabric very shabby in places but pretty clean on the whole.  Neither of us had seen a hospital as packed with people waiting as the one in Suva.  Every space in every corridor was taken up with people either standing or sitting.  It seemed impossible that they would all be seen in one day.  But, everyone seemed to accept that they would be a long time there and we saw no sign of frayed tempers – indeed what struck one was how quiet everyone was.


With a reasonable weather window in the offing, it doesn’t look as though we will get the interpretation of the CAT scan until we are on our way to New Zealand.  We plan to leave tomorrow along with a few others from the marina here.  The painful spasms Jon gets from time to time –usually associated with walking or standing - are not so frequent now (aided by a few drugs and physio exercises) and he feels up to taking on the passage.  We really do need to get going – officially the cyclone season has started although we are currently experiencing no wind at all coupled with high heat and humidity.  A few days ago we were treated to a dramatic electrical storm followed by a biblical deluge – the weather is definitely changing.  It looks as though we’ll be getting pretty light and variable winds for much of the passage, mixed in with a couple of reasonably weak fronts with winds of 20 knots gusting 30 whilst in them.  That’s do-able..If all else fails it will be up to Mr Perkins to get us the 1,000 NM south to Opua in NZ.