healthy enough to cross the border

A few people have asked how the medical exams went, so I might as well tell everyone. It might be informative, or perhaps entertaining.

The doctor was an ancient man with a strong Eastern European Jewish accent and a slight tremor, in a bizarre, almost Dickensian office bursting with boxes, papers and all kinds of assorted junk, and in bad need of a fresh coat of paint. A not-quite-ancient office assistant herded us around. Allan and I looked at each other skeptically, a tad weirded out.

I went in first, and my discomfort grew to mild freak-out when the doctor - hands trembling slightly - couldn't find a vein on my arm for a blood test. (I get my blood drawn regularly and have never had a problem.) As he shone a light on my arm and peered and tapped and puzzled, I imagined jumping up, grabbing Allan, announcing "We're leaving!" and hurrying out. But the doctor finally found his quarry. It turned out not to be so bad, though today, two days later, my arm looks like a topographical weather map.

Despite this unpromising start, it turned out fine. The doctor, though quite elderly, was perfectly sharp and focused. Working from, as Allan said, 20th-generation photocopies, he asked questions from a list - have you ever had this, have you ever had that, do you smoke, how many glasses of alcohol do you drink per week - then did an extremely basic exam (blood pressure, height, weight, a scrap of paper for an eye chart). We signed releases for our blood to be checked for HIV, then we were sent elsewhere for chest x-rays.

We each need a letter from our respective doctors confirming some medical conditions and prognoses. Then we bring those letters and the x-rays back to the doctor's lair, he packs them up with the questionnaires (our extra passport photos attached) and exam results, and sends the whole shebang on to the Consulate.

We're waiting on our doctors' letters now, and expect this hurdle to be cleared by early next week.


Rognar said...

Good to hear your tests turned out fine. Good health is essential in the great land of rationed health care.

laura k said...

Thanks. The doc told me he's never heard of anyone being refused on medical grounds. They basically want to check for TB and other airborne infectious diseases.

Rognar said...

We're pretty skittish about that sort of thing ever since the SARS outbreak. The tourism industry still hasn't recovered.

laura k said...

I think it's important. It's one place you can screen, so why not.

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

"land of rationed health care...."

Ah yes, the great healthcare debate. Having been through both systems, I can't say either one is great. If you have lots of money, you get superior healthcare in the states, but for average middle class people healthcare isn't dramatically better in the states.

Unfortunately, there isn't really any good solution for health care. One reason its so expensive these days is because of new diagnostic technologies. They really improve treatment options, but they cost a lot more than in the old days when the doctor made educated guesses and took a few swabs of this and that. My soon-to-be father in law is a doctor, and my soon-to-be brother in law is a paramedic, so I do get to see the inside world of medicine.

The only real way to cut costs is to focus on prevention. One of the reasons I decided to go to WW is that I'm starting to experience the effects of being overweight. If I lose the weight, I won't cost the healthcare system much, but if I stayed on my old path I'd be looking at expensive problems like diabetes and heart disease.

laura k said...

"Having been through both systems, I can't say either one is great."

What system? There is no system here. There is only whatever you can afford. No matter what the complaints about the Canadian system, I cannot imagine that what goes on in the US could be preferable.

Prevention is paramount, but poverty often makes prevention impossible. And there's no guarantee of prevention, anyway. There are huge factors completely out of our control.

And by the way: "Ah yes, the great healthcare debate..." There wasn't a debate going on here. There was just a comment about our chest x-rays.

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

Sorry, that was more directed at Rob. His comment had a lot of hidden meaning to a Canadian.

Anyway, when I lived in the states I only experienced standard private insurance and the occasional military hospital. To me, it seemed about on par as at home. Having been neither poor nor rich, I haven't experienced anything else about health care in the states.

laura k said...

Hey, no need to apologize - and I'm sorry if I seemed to be snapping at you. (Didn't mean to.)

What you're talking about then is the *quality* of care, which might be the same. It's the *access* to care that we're so upset about here. Access and lack thereof.

Anonymous said...

Mollie here, to say:

Congrats on getting through the cash-only, bizarrely antiquated health check for Canadian immigration.

We were examined here in Victoria by a woman doctor who also has a family practice; her nurse did the weighing and measuring and tests of our faculties. The best part was the hearing test: she held a folder in front of her face and had us stand several feet away and then said, "applesauce" in a normal tone of voice. If we repeated "applesauce," we passed.

The doctor admitted that the only reason Canada could turn us away is if our health condition posed an immediate threat to the health of Canadian citizens (i.e. communicable disease). I guess up until fairly recently, the test was used as a way to screen out anybody who promised to be too much of a drain on the already strained resources of the health care system (which, in my experience is FAR FAR FAR SUPERIOR, BOTH MORALLY AND PHYSICALLY, TO THE U.S.'s CRAPPY, FOR-PROFIT SETUP), but there was some sort of lawsuit and some sort of court decision and last August or the year before that was deemed to be illegal. So they still go through the motions, but it's become a kind of goofy ritual.

One guy I met here was quite traumatized by his med exam experience. He claimed the male doctor fondled his genitalia! We told the guy to go directly to the authorities! He was too afraid his status would be in jeopardy if he told. Turned out the doc was the other physician in the office with the woman who saw us. Glad we went with the female doc, since we had a choice. She was very cool. Sexual assault is definitely not cool.

We had to wait a couple of months for me to give birth, since I couldn't have a chest xray while I was pregnant. My biggest complaint was that my son was forced to have a blood draw to screen for AIDS. My three-year-old son. No kid under 12 is required to have that test, except my son, who has brown skin and was adopted from Vietnam. I tried to reason with the nurse: "He had a full-spectrum blood analysis when he entered the U.S.: Hepatitis, AIDS, HIV, all negative. Now how the hell would he contract HIV between the ages of seven months and three years? I can give you a copy of the results..." Nope. They insisted. I am still mad about it. It was totally unfair to my boy, who is no more likely to be a carrier of infectious disease than the biological child of immigrants, but the nurse scrawled "ADOPTED" across his form in big block letters, right in front of the boy. Good thing he couldn't read yet.

Oh well. We're in. Sounds like you guys will be too. Soon!

laura k said...

Hi Mollie - thanks!! That hearing test is hilarious. Ours was similar: "Cover your right ear." "Now cover the other one." "Now cover both." "Uncover your ears." "OK, you pass."

Fortunately this dottering old man did not molest me, but he did seem a little too happy while feeling around. And he did molest my arm, which now resembles a Rorshach test.

That story of bigotry against your son is SO disgusting on so many levels!! Grrrr... Thank goodness this is one hit you could shield him from, by virtue of his being too young to understand what was happening.

Congratulations on all of you being legal! :)

Anonymous said...

Your physical reminds me of the "Pre-Induction Physical" at an US Army base during the bad old "Selective Service" days of the military draft.
Joshua Ben Joseph