Posts Tagged ‘health’

Health care in the Alice

May 2, 2010 2 comments

We have a reasonable number of medical centres in Alice Springs. If you’re of Aboriginal descent, then your choices are even wider with the services of the excellent Congress medical centre available to you.

It is difficult to obtain a same day appointment with your own doctor, but you should be able to get in to see the “on call” doctor if you phone at 8am or 8.30am (depending on the clinic) as most clinics keep aside a few “extra” slots.

Mall Medical Centre is no longer located in the Mall. They’re now on Hartley Street, at the corner with Stott Terrace.

There’s also Alice Springs Family Medical Centre, Bath Street Clinic and Central Clinic.

I use Central Clinic & for continuity of care, I try to stick with my own GP but I have broken in a back up GP for use when she is away.

Alternatively, we still have the After Hours GP service which is run from within the Outpatients Department of the hospital. This is an excellent service and I hope it does not close (as predicted due lack of funds). It does cost more, but you do get some money back from Medicare. When I last used this emergency clinic it cost me $95 but it was worth it to avoid spending hours waiting in the Emergency Department.

Of course there is always the ED. I’ve not had to use the ED itself, all my little asthma problems & other slight emergencies have been able to be handled through the After Hours clinic (staffed by both community doctors as well as hospital doctors). The ED has an excellent reputation & I would have no hesitation using their services. Think of any time spent waiting there as educational. You will see some interesting sights, “culturally” speaking, but then, most public hospital EDs can be “entertaining”.

There is no private hospital in Alice Springs. But the public hospital is excellent, coming complete with an intensive care unit & a high dependency unit. Many of the rooms on the Medical Ward are single bed rooms which basically means they’re private rooms, with their own en-suite. Shared rooms generally only have 2 beds. Not bad for a public hospital.

What the surgeons can’t handle, they’ll stabilize and send you off to Adelaide with the Flying Doctor (no cost to you). We have general surgeons who can take care of most emergencies. We have numerous visiting specialists who see patients at regular outpatients’ clinics. For example, I see the gastroenterology specialists and that usually means seeing the top surgeon within the field. A friend sees the visiting cardiac specialist, but also regularly flies down to Adelaide for more specialized testing & treatment.

There’s now an oncology centre in Darwin and all cancer patients are meant to be treated there. But word has it that cancer patients are still being flown to Adelaide for their treatment (which is where most locals prefer to go because they’ve probably got family support in that city).

Whilst the public system can be slow with their waiting lists, if your case is urgent, you will be seen & attended to.

Pregnant? Birth & Beyond Parent Resource Centre (Childbirth Education Association) has information on your options here. According to the web site, we have the Midwifery Group Practice now operating here. Home birthing is an option here.

As in all things related to your health, your care is generally overseen and/or co-ordinated by your GP (with hospital input where necessary).

Dental care – Alice Springs has a couple of dental clinics with visiting specialists. My partner has used one of the local clinics and had no problems with them. For my first few years here I opted to fly “home” to Brisbane to see my own dentist. That’s not an option for me now (my mother having moved to Adelaide and relocated our “home”) so I will most likely be using the Alice Springs Dental Surgery on Larapinta Drive in the future. Or maybe I’ll fly down to Adelaide & see my sister’s dentist.

Pharmacies. We have 3 pharmacies in town. They all seem to be owned by the same group of pharmacists but under different brands: Priceline, Alice Springs Pharmacy & United.

For customer service (politeness, speed) I prefer to use Priceline Pharmacy in Alice Springs Plaza (the little shopping centre off Todd St Mall where Target is). When I’m working, it’s quicker & easier for me to drop my scripts off at the Alice Springs Pharmacy in the Yeperenye shopping centre. Occasionally I’ll use the United Pharmacy which is in the Coles Complex.

I also make use of the online Australian pharmacies. I use Pharmacy Direct & Pharmacy Online. I use these for non-prescription items. Sometimes it’s just easier.

St John’s runs the ambulance service. If you’re arriving here from Queensland, do remember to join up. Currently it’s $85 for a family.

A lot of people in Alice do opt to take out private hospital & extras insurance even though we only have a public hospital. If you can afford it, then do so because it will give you greater treatment options. My partner has insurance but I do not. As soon as I have enough money saved I am seriously considering taking it out for myself.


But first, a health & work update

April 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Holiday was fantastic, there should be more of them!

Have returned home and reported for duty at the office. This particular new contract is going well. I love it. Nicely paid, nice people & I get to retreat to a spacious office far from the madding crowd. 🙂  The work itself involves databases & a large cupboard of files to be transcribed. Some might think that boring but I find it soothing & I like the pay packet.

Health is on the improve! Yay! It’s taken a long time tweaking those meds but finally they’re doing what they’re supposed to do and I’m rarely in pain. Life has almost returned to normal. My stomach is flat again (big yay!). The downside is that I don’t & cannot eat as much food as I’d like. I am starting to lose weight (& I don’t need to) so that’s being monitored over the next few months. Basically I eat my breakfast & a small, entree sized evening meal at either end of my day. During the daytime hours I’m only nibbling on about 6 macadamias (yes, I do count them), sometimes 8 if I’ve been busy physically & maybe a cupcake-sized portion of almond cake or fruit cake. If I try to eat a salad sandwich, even just half a sandwich, that blows the stomach out. So I have persisted with keeping things extra low volume but high calorie.

I am allowed to eat Tasmanian fudge. For the calories. 🙂

Blood pressure has been determined to be fine most of the time. Still on those cholesterol lowering drugs & the whole heart disease thing will be monitored over the coming months.

I do have seasonal asthma (due pollens)(due rains making grasses & flowering trees grow & bloom). Puffer with spacer with me at all times but so far have avoided the hospital’s emergency doctors. 🙂

Jobs, Illness, Heart Disease & a Flooded Desert

March 14, 2010 1 comment

Jobs have come and gone.  Other jobs have proved elusive.  Another job was not what it appeared to be on first presentation to me.  Having expressed interest in one job I arranged to have an informal chat.  Which then became a more formal-sounding interview.  I appeared on time only to discover that they’d given that job to another. And somehow they’d forgotten to telephone or email me to let me know…

A close friend in town is very ill and we’re awaiting news due next week of his test results.  He’s way too young to be this ill.

I had hoped to make it to age 50 before having heart disease shoved up close and personal by way of a prescription for cholesterol lowering medication.  I have always had high cholesterol and it’s presumed to be genetic. The lowest reading I’ve had was 5.5 mmol/l and it’s been around 6.5 over the past five years.  But over a period of 3 months it skyrocketed to a more worrying 7.5.   Diet had not been changed so it’s time to try medication.

My blood pressure over the past year has also crept up very high (but with occasional large dips back to safer levels) & my doctor advised purchasing an automatic blood pressure monitoring kit.  Which I did.  And it looks like my BP is a lot lower when taken upon getting up in the morning.  This is good for it should mean I won’t need blood pressure medication yet.

Just the cholesterol-lowering medication.

I will be curious to see the results of the stress ECG & other heart tests later this year.  My father’s side of the family (including my generation) all have heart disease to some degree, many also have a history of minor heart attacks.  Dad died suddenly at age 65 from a massive heart attack.  In fact, most of the men on that side of the family died suddenly in their early 60s.

With all the rain that has fallen over outback Queensland over the past weeks & flooding the channel country, we’re hoping to do a flight over the desert to see the water flowing for ourselves.  Given good weather we should take off tomorrow morning for Birdsville, Boulia and maybe Innamincka.  I’ve charged up my camera battery in readiness.

So what is a hiatus hernia?

February 17, 2010 Leave a comment

I was asked the other day exactly what is a hiatus hernia & why does it cause me grief.

Basically a hiatus hernia is where part of the stomach moves (herniates or protrudes) upwards into the chest cavity via an enlarged hole (the hiatus) in the diaphragm.

The vast majority of people with a hiatus hernia don’t experience any problems.

But a lot of us do.

It’s probably easier to use a few diagrams to illustrate.  Let’s start with normal anatomy.

Your insides. Note that the stomach should be sitting below your diaphragm. This is normal.

There is no hiatus hernia here. The lower oesophageal sphincter can function like a valve with the help of the diaphrgam's pressure.

Notice that for most people the junction between the oesophagus & stomach (called the lower oesophageal sphincter) sits BELOW the diaphragm. This allows the sphincter to act as a valve & prevent reflux of food and acid back up the oesophagus.

Here’s what happens if you have an hiatus hernia, and there are a couple of varieties.

This is the most common hiatus hernia type, a sliding one. See what's happened to that lower oesophageal sphincter? Can't work as well if it's up in the chest cavity.

A different type of hiatus hernia, the rolling one. Not so common. It is possible to have a combination of rolling & sliding.

Notice this time that sphincter is now above the diaphragm, where it can’t function as a valve anywhere near as well. And the diaphragm isn’t able to assist with keeping pressure on the sphincter if it’s sitting above instead of below.  The result can be GORD or GERD (reflux disease).

In my case it means a lot of GORD symptoms & I have to take care when bending over (not good) & with heavy lifting (and that means being careful even when lifting a bag of groceries).

I have adopted some of the “lifestyle” advice: no alcohol, no fatty foods, no hot spices, no fizzy drinks etc. I eat a low-fat vegetarian diet with very small servings & watch my nutritional intake carefully. I use the services of qualified dietician to guide me in food choices.

No, it can’t be treated with alternative therapies. And if you try to do “Visceral manipulation” as per the photo at Figure 5, I will scream. In pain.  Within hours I’ll have very nasty & painful reflux for a few days. And then I will commence litigation proceedings against you. Just saying.

Further information on hiatus hernias can be found at Patient UK, & that same site has some good info on acid reflux & oesophagitis which often accompany hiatus hernia. I particularly like that site’s information as it provides clinical references.

Note on treating GORD (GERD) & hiatus hernias with alternative therapies:

When I was first diagnosed I was a great user of an assortment of alternative therapies to treat any ailments I might have. I look back at those years & see that most of those ailments were self-limiting. They were going to get better with or without any complementary therapies I might choose to swallow or dabble with.

Initially I used herbal medicine to complement my medical treatment. In the first few weeks it worked, it eased my painful symptoms. But I continued to get symptoms and the herbal treatments were doing nothing (yes my doctor knew I was using). The sheer cost of alternative therapies was such that I felt I had to go with the treatment that was having a positive impact on me. That was the scientifically proven, evidence-based MEDICINE.

I do however continue to use peppermint oil to massage lightly over my stomach & abdomen most nights as it takes the edge off the painful bloating pain (& feels nice).  And if I am experiencing oesophagitis (with throat/voice pain) I will drink slippery elm powder mixed with a little apple juice. Because that temporarily eases that pain.  But they are adjuncts to my medical therapy. And I won’t have it any other way.


February 13, 2010 2 comments

It was my birthday earlier this week. No big celebratory deal for me but I did think I should at least have a cake.

Given the fragility of my stomach I opted for a healthy, low-fat fruit cake. Made with pumpkin no less! It’s been years (decades) since I baked a fruit cake. It turned out well & we’re enjoying it immensely. And it has not upset my GORD (GERD) in spite of the presence of a little ginger.

Healthy, home made, easy fruit cake.

Moist Fruit Cake

3 cups (500g) mixed dried fruit – (I used an uneven mix of sultanas, raisins, cranberries, apricots & glace ginger)

½ cup of caster sugar (yes, you could use Splenda or similar sugar substitute)

1 tsp mixed spice (I used ¼ tsp each cinnamon & nutmeg)

½ cup water

1 tsp bi-carb soda

1 cup cooled mashed pumpkin (squash) (250g raw aprx) – (you could use sweet potato)

2 eggs, lightly beaten – (OR 3 egg whites)

A few drops of lemon & vanilla essences

2 cups self raising flour

Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a large loaf tin or 19cm round tin (or use baking paper).

Place fruit, sugar, mixed spice & water into a saucepan. Bring to boil & let boil for 3 minutes.

Stir in the bi-carb. (It will fizz.)

Stir in the cooled mashed pumpkin. (At this point I transferred mixture to a very large bowl.)

Stir in the eggs.

Finally add the flour, folding it in to the mixture. (I needed to add a wee bit more flour as it looked more like a batter than a cake mix.)

Pour the mixture into your prepared tin.

Bake for around 1 hour. Check that it is cooked all the way through by inserting a skewer into the cake – if it’s ready the skewer will come out clean.)

Let cool initially in the tin then turn out on to a rack.

Close up of the cake showing the fruit & you can even see the pumpkin fibres. No, it doesn't taste like pumpkin. At all.

I cut the cake in half (because it is heavy & large), then lengthwise followed by small slices. Then I bravely wrapped & froze most of the slices so we wouldn’t eat it all at once!

Next time I make this I will experiment with adding some nuts into the mixture.

Orange & Almond Cake

January 19, 2010 1 comment

Let’s cook!

Something sweet, indulgent yet quite nutritionally dense. Orange & almond cake. It’s gluten free for those that seek such recipes for their diet.

This is a very easy recipe and doesn’t use as many eggs as traditional Jewish recipes I’ve seen over the years.

Orange & almond cake.

Orange & Almond Cake

3 oranges

3 eggs

1 cup caster sugar

300g almond meal (ground almonds)

1 teaspoon baking powder

extra 3/4 cup caster sugar (approximate measure, you might need less)

Grease a 22cm cake tin. (I used a large loaf tin)

Pre-heat oven to 170° Celsius.

  • Place whole oranges in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to the boil then simmer for 15 mins.
  • Drain & repeat.
  • Chop 2 of the oranges & remove the pips.
  • Place those oranges into a blender or food processor. Process until smooth.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the eggs & 1 cup of caster sugar until thick and creamy.
  • Add in the processed oranges, almond meal & baking powder. Gently fold together. (Mixture is often quite runny depending on how large your oranges are. If it’s too runny, you can add some plain flour.)
  • Pour mixture into prepared tin.
  • Bake at 170° C for 1 hour. (Should be golden brown, and an inserted skewer should come out clean when cooked.) (My cake today took 1 hour & 15 mins.)
  • Allow to cool initially in the tin. Be careful when tipping out on to a rack.

Whilst the cake is cooking, here’s what you’ll do with that remaining orange & extra sugar:

  • Remove the peel from the 3rd orange in strips.
  • Put peel in saucepan, cover with some water & boil for 5 mins.
  • Squeeze in the juice of the orange.
  • Add the extra sugar, up to 3/4 cup. (I use less than half that.)
  • Stir until dissolved and thickened.
  • When cake is cool, use a knife or skewer to make slight holes in the cake. Drizzle over the orange syrup. (Note” you may not actually need to use syrup if cake is very moist.)
  • Serve in small slices.

I find this cake is excellent to freeze. It also seems to be a little less wet if I refrigerate it.

I find I can use a small slice of this cake as a meal replacement and not irritate my GORD (GERD). Acid reflux sufferers it may be worth experimenting with this if you’ve not tried it before. Thanks to all that almond meal the cake is very filling. Enjoy!

Popping in to say hello

December 19, 2009 6 comments

I haven’t blogged for a long while, sorry about that. Have been busy coping with some painful health issues and the heat. It’s also nearing the end of the year and I’ve been trying to tidy up my computer and online life. Toying with Tumblr, trying to work out the “right look” for me there. And then that leads to a reassessment of my blogs, new themes, new ideas. And it all takes up so much time. Throw in the health issues and it takes up even more time.

If you want to know what I’m up to, visit me at twitter  I tweet from a personal perspective so you get to read what I’m doing, reading and what’s firing me up.

Christmas will be quiet in my house this year so very likely I will pop back in here on the day and quietly blog away. Until then, take care, and may you all have a very merry Christmas season.