Friday, February 1, 2013

Jumping Through Hoops Like a Kangaroo

Feb. 2, 2013

We arrived in Melbourne on Jan. 31, at about 10:30 PM, visas in hand, luggage divided up so that it met the airline's requirements, a guest house reservation and ride all lined up.  Everything went quite smoothly, and we didn't really need to hand over the printed visas - apparently our electronic visas showed up when our passports were swiped, and we were let into the country with no problems.

I have to add that the Australia passport stamp is a bit mundane and business-like - nothing fun like a kangaroo or koala bear or even a platypus.  You'd think a country with such unique animal life would have something more interesting than a simple name/date/outline stamp.  Oh well, we're still here.

Melbourne is a HUGE city comprised of small neighborhoods, each with its own feel.  We're staying in St. Kilda, near the beach, somewhat southeast of the CBD (central business district, for people who, like us, never heard that phrase before).  Lovely Edwardian and Victorian houses made of brick or stucco - I'm guessing the British didn't find many trees here to build wooden houses.  We've been enjoying the cafés and coffee shops in our neighborhood, as well as plenty of people watching.

And somehow, we've ended up in a neighborhood with a fair-sized Jewish population, so we're finding foods from home and our childhood:  babka, rugelach, kasha, bagels (okay, so bagels have gone mainstream - they're still Jewish in origin), kreplach, matzah, all that.  We've found yarhzeit candles in the grocery store, in the kosher food section.  (We'll stock up.)  We even discovered a dairy-only bakery with chocolate babka for Richard and borekas for me.  We're in foodie heaven!  (And we've seen plenty of Chassidim around - at least, Chassidic men, the women aren't quite as easy to identify.)

Our neighborhood also seems to have an equally-fair-sized gay/lesbian population, so that there's quite a bit of diversity and apparently quite a bit of tolerance going on.  We're enjoying our usual walking explorations of the area.

Our guesthouse is lovely, and I'll add some photos later.  Because this blog is focused on being here, and the hoops we're jumping through.

We spent most of Friday dealing with medical issues - first and foremost being my "wee lump."  I did a google search and found a breast specialist whose practice is not far from here, and whose website made her and the practice sound like a good fit.  We called.  They requested we fax the radiology/ultrasound report.  We did.  They called back.  We called them.  They agreed to see me as long as I agreed that I want to follow whatever course of treatment is suggested, versus just taking the diagnosis and going elsewhere.  (I can understand, the doctor is busy - but yes, I want a diagnosis and I want to deal with whatever is wrong.)  So I now have an appointment.  YAY!

Then we turned to the issue of what we need to do in order to get our medications here.  Now, keep in mind that both Richard and I have chronic medical conditions that require medication so that we stay alive.  It isn't dire, like, oh, heart medication.  But the meds are necessary.  Second thing to keep in mind - our medical insurance at home (St. Thomas) includes meds through their pharmacy at a highly discounted rate.  Third thing to keep in mind - we're travelling in countries with socialized medicine (which I'd love to have in our country!!!!) but that means we as visitors aren't covered by the local system - so while we could get our prescriptions filled in this country or NZ, we'd have to pay the full cost, which can be exorbitant (as most Americans know).

Okay, so, with all those issues, we have prescriptions that have been filled and are waiting at my brother's, to be sent to us here in Australia.  And that is the issue.  

First we talked to FedEx - they said we need a special license to import medications, even for personal use.  Then we talked to the post office - they gave us the phone number for Customs and Quarantine - that office referred us to the Therapeutic Medications department - who then referred us to the Pharmacy - where someone explained that, given the medications we're both on (nothing narcotic!) we could have the medications sent BUT we need prescriptions from an Australian doctor saying that we need to be on these medications.  And that the Australian dr's scrips need to be enclosed in the package with the meds.


Yes, that's the system here.  And of course the medications have different names, and some aren't available in the formulation or dosage that we get in the US.  So we're jumping through and over and around the hoops.

With our host's assistance, we called a few clinics and finally found one where a doctor could see us today (Saturday).  We went in.  The doctor was a very nice young man, and tried to do this as quickly as possible - and we had our records of medications from our insurance company's pharmacy, and our doctor's notes, and absolutely everything - but the clinic has gone to electronic scrips and he had to locate every single medication on their drop down menu, and of course try to figure out what name they use here versus the US name, and some medications (like one of my asthma meds) wasn't even on there - OY!  It took twice as long as it should have.  And of course there's a format he must follow when writing a scrip - including having no more than three meds on one prescription page.  (One wonders where some of these regulations came from, they seem so pointless.)

FINALLY we were finished, and our lovely doctor asked the receptionist to scan our scrips and email the files to us, so we could just send this to my brother to include with the meds when he sends them.  Simple, yes?  Seemed to be, the sweet young woman jumped up, took care of this, verified our emails, sent them out. 

But of course, things didn't quite work.  Because this is us, the people whose lives never quite run smooth, where things oft gang agley.

The files appeared in our respective email accounts.

They won't open.

We tried opening them as PDFs, or just TextEdit (on the Mac), or converting them.  Stubborn files just won't open, or when they do, they aren't scanned images, they're html gibberish.

The medical clinic was closed for the day.  (This is Saturday.)  Richard called around and found a business that would try to convert the files and charge us an arm and a leg if they were able to convert them.  Then we had the brilliant idea of just taking the scrips to an internet café, have them scanned there, send them to us.

And that worked.  (And the internet café had bags of uncooked kasha!!!)

So we now have Australian prescriptions for our American prescriptions and can have our medications sent to us. 

I think circular reasoning is just one more hoop we have to jump through.

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