Monday, April 16, 2007

NZ medical fun: Part II

I went in for my follow-up visit yesterday to the doc. (Follow-ups are half-price within 48 hours you know.) Anyway, the doc pretty much figured that after four days, I probably wasn't too likely to have appendicitis. Likely culprit? Salmonella or giardia.

The docs ordered some tests done and I should know for certain within the next couple of days. I think it's mostly a moot point though as I'm feeling about 95% today.

Anyway, this wasn't intended to be so much of a "How's Peter Doing?" sort of post. I more wanted to give a little glimpse into what seeing the doctor in NZ is like.

In general, it's a lot like going to a clinic in the US, but with a bit less waiting than I've ever seen in the US. Your experience may vary. Both doctors that I talked to seemed knowledgeable and willing to speak to me frankly and in technical terms. They have a network of medical diagnostic labs here, so any time you need to have blood work or any other testing done, you simply go to the closest branch. That's extremely handy. And, being NZ residents walking in off the street, two doctors visits cost a total of $105. Not super cheap, but definitely better than paying a premium for health insurance plus a deductible. There are some "frequent user" programs that can drop those prices even more.

It looks like I won't get to experience a kiwi appendectomy after all, but from what I've seen of the system, it works. Gee, who'd have thought? Socialized medicine works? Shocker!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

First experience with NZ medical establishment

So, almost three days ago, I started having a low grade fever and chills. Pretty standard. Chilly weather has started, and I pretty much figured that I was about due for a case of the sniffles.

Well, about two days ago, I started getting some mild pain in my lower abdomen. Nothing to write home about, nothing bad. Well yesterday that mild dull aching pain migrated and seems to have localized itself in my lower right abdomen. Ugh.

I called the local hospital and asked if I should come in. They referred me to a medical advice hot-line staffed by registered nurses. She asked me a bunch of questions about the pain, the nature of the pain, any fever, etc. She then cautiously said that I should probably take a trip in to the doctor and recommended a 24/7 clinic here on the North Shore. I asked her if I should go in now, or wait till morning. She told me it was my choice, but that she'd suggest going in now.

I met a doctor who poked and prodded my abdomen. I had the classic textbook symptoms of appendicitis--pain that starts below the navel and eventually settles around the appendix. However, I didn't have severe pain and I didn't have "guarding" or uncontrolled tensing of the abdominal muscles when poked in the appendix. Pretty suspicious stuff, but nothing to get too worked up over. He recommended drinking plenty of water and sleeping on it. Presumably it would be better or worse in the morning.

It's morning now and I don't really feel better or worse. After I have a chance to wake up a bit, I think I'll probably call back in to the clinic and ask, "now what?"

Monday, April 09, 2007

In Other Easter News...

You'll be pleased to note that 16,121 bunnies were killed in Central Otago during the annual Easter Bunny Hunt this year. As a major pest in New Zealand, Kiwis are pretty pleased with the haul.

Another story in today's paper reports that the Easter kiwi (that's the bird, not the fruit or the person) has been voted the preferred Easter mascot for New Zealand by the people at the Makenzie Easter Show in Canterbury.

Maybe we'll see chocolate kiwis popping up in the seasonal isles of the supermarket next year.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Montana Jazz Festival - Tauranga review

Easter weekend we hopped in the car and headed down to the Montana Jazz Festival in Tauranga (yes, New Zealand). Being jazz aficionados from Montana, it's a little strange seeing Montana logos, jazz, palm trees, and beaches all in one place. We're familiar with this excellent Montana Jazz Festival. Additionally, we spent some quality time with our good friends Tim and Sara who also moved from Missoula to New Zealand and are now living in sunny Tauranga.

Tauranga was clearly the place to be over the Easter holiday. New Zealand has a silly law that causes most businesses to close Easter weekend. I say it's a silly law, because most kiwis don't even go to church. Enacted 17 years ago, it's not like the Easter weekend trading law is some sort of grand old tradition. I'll go on record as calling it a lame, anachronistic "blue law" that has no place in a secular country.

Tauranga doesn't suffer from the trade act because it has a jazz festival. I think it's because we jazz types are in cahoots with Satan, and he knows which strings to pull to get an exemption. I'm not sure what it means, but in Tauranga, you could even get some "coffee up your jazz."

As we arrived downtown, it was clear this was a big festival. A number of roads were blocked off and the sound of one band bled into the next. As we walked down one street, we saw the NZ Air Force band playing an excellent rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition." Hey, that's pretty funky. The female vocalist singing most definitely had pipes. They finished to boisterous applause despite playing a small side-street venue. Then they launched into another Stevie Wonder chart. They must have been doing a Stevie Wonder tribute gig. Hey, they're an Air force band, they can get away some kitsch--it is a festival after all.

But as we walked from venue to venue, I noticed that everyone we heard was playing covers. They weren't just covers, but covers of pop music done "jazzy." The jazz we heard were mostly standards. There's nothing wrong with playing some of the standards, but it felt a little tired to hear the most standard of standards against a backdrop of jazzy pop oldies.

Out of the approximately 15 songs I heard, some 12 were clearly identifiable covers or "ultra" standards. I hate to sound like a whiner, but a steady diet of (I'm not making this up) the theme from "Love boat" or a swing rendition of "All Along The Watchtower" started grating on me.

By the time we decided to head back to Auckland, I'd pretty given up on hearing jazz. It was fun; it had a nice carnival atmosphere (complete with bouncy castles, jugglers, and escape artists), but it wasn't really a jazz festival in any way that I was familiar with. It lacked authenticity. I began to realize that the festival was a ruse for bars to sell a whole lot of food and booze on Easter weekend.

Fortunately, on the way back to car we found salvation. There was a little trio setting up down one of the side streets. They had their white hippy van parked next to them, their dog lazily lying in the shade.

And I'll be damned if they weren't playing honest to goodness real jazz. They had some rough transitions in spots, but they were playing together and off of each other. And for the 40 minutes that we listened, they didn't trot out any pop covers.

Tim asked what their band was called. "Do you have any suggestions?" they laughed. This was in sharp contrast to pretentiously named groups like the Grant Winterburn Experience. Thank you, anonymous band. You saved Easter.


As a postscript, anyone near Missoula in April should go hear the Buddy DeFranco Jazz Festival at UM. Bob Mintzer is going to be there, and he's brilliant.