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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Western Algarve, Portugal, Week 2 - May 10, 2012

Our second week in one spot was full of discoveries:  One disappointing, one quite stunning and one old acquaintance who re-discovered us.

On our hottest day so far (well above 80/25), we decided to head to Luz beach.  Packing the hot Noses into the hot Pepper we set off with backpacks full of water and towels.  Parking was easy due to it being the low season but we still had to lug all our belongings out to the sand where we were met by two gentlemen who, I assumed, were there to offer us chaise lounges and umbrellas.  Disappointingly, they offered instead that dogs were not allowed on the beach.  Yes, this is the same beach on which we had been running around with The Noses before—even off leash.  To be honest, I had seen the sign, a silhouette of a dog with a red circle around it, but as the design did not include slash through the middle I thought dogs were allowed.   Well, that is what I told myself; but I was getting quite good at ignoring signs, as will soon be evidenced.

Being down at the beach on such a hot day what else could we do but retire to the deck of a beach-side restaurant and enjoy a pitcher of Sangria?  The addition of a fresh fruit salad, some French fries, and The Noses contentedly asleep under the table combined to make it a perfect afternoon. 

Prior to our beach day, we had driven out to the western edge of continental Europe.  Our exploration took us out to the lighthouse at Sao Vicente where we gazed in wonder first up the western edge of Portugal then, by walking about 200 yards, up the eastern edge.  It was an odd sensation and I found myself thinking about the explorers who had once stood at the edge of their known world only to jump on a ship and sail to [what they hoped would be] a new land.  #brave as they would say on Twitter.

And last, but certainly not least, a reappearance of an old ailment caught up with us.  Alan and I had both been ignoring the signs indicating a return of his Grave’s disease.  (Graves is an easily treated thyroid condition, not serious if you stay on top of it, but it puts an incredible amount of stress on the heart, so dealing with it quickly is important.)  The disease had gone into remission about a year ago but it was clearly back; he couldn’t exercise without becoming dizzy, he was losing weight without effort, and he was anxious and twitchy.  (The first didn’t bother me at all but the second and third symptoms vied for first place in the “Irritating to Kit” category--and people say the world doesn't revolve around me.)

So we contacted Alan’s doctor in the US who faxed us a blood work order and then we found an English speaking (and Oxford educated) doctor in Luz who could see him the same day.  SP went in, they drew blood, we returned in three hours and the diagnosis was confirmed.  Luckily, Alan had recorded the drugs that had worked the first time around and, even more fortunate, the same drug is available in Portugal.   The dosages are tricky due to the impact on his heart so we are staying close to the Luz doctor for a few days and then returning to Luz in two weeks for a follow-up.  After this, we’ll carry a letter from the Luz doctor and have to stop and get his blood tested every so often.  My Mom will be happy to read that Morocco is now off the General Plan.

It is frightening having a health issue so far from home;  I can attest to this after contacting viral meningitis in Peru (and dealing with a doctor who knew only five words in English, “I give you two injections!”) as well as dealing with severe altitude sickness on Kilimanjaro.  (I offered to hunt down a mutilated animal carcass to hang on the back of Salt’s door in memory of my day “resting” in a hut on the side of Kilimanjaro, alas, SP declined.)  But SP is holding up well and we already see indications that the medication is working.

Some of you are surely wondering about our health care insurance situation, it is not pleasant and a major reason that the US, when gazed at from afar, doesn’t appear to be a welcome place to return.  In a nutshell, before leaving we tried to get on the same plan that SP had from Sage Software but Blue Cross denied us coverage because of pre-existing conditions (apparently, the fact that they covered us during those issues didn’t matter when switching from a group plan an individual plan.)  Going on COBRA would have cost us over $1,000/month for insurance.  So we have opted to buy an international, emergency only plan for our time overseas, paying out of pocket for any other items that might come up. And the tally? . . . 

Alan’s visit to the doctor, including an EKG, blood work, two consultations and a blood pressure monitor to take home, all came to only $500 USD.  Less than what a hospital back home would have charged Blue Cross for just an EKG.  The drugs were even better:  $10 – less than our co-pay for the same drugs back home.  And people wonder why some Americans are upset with the health care situation in the States. 

Ouch!  I just fell off my soap box.  Must be time to work on my tan.