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Monday, 22 July 2013

Israel’s Stumbling Block Before The Blind

Our crowd is now of an age when body parts drop off at a rate of knots.

Coping with illness can be especially difficult for older Karmielis as the  city has no full-scale hospital  and travelling out of town for treatment can be arduous for the  many pensioners who have disposed of their vehicles due to atrociously high petrol and maintenance costs.

Further, as Israel is such a small country, the number of senior surgeons is limited, resulting in a dearth of skilled individuals in various fields. Some complex heart or eye surgery, for example, may be accomplished by only one expert based, most often, at a hospital in Tel Aviv.

In very rough terms, this  may enforce a Karmieli patient to take a round trip of almost 132 miles to T.A., while  similar visits to nearer hospitals in Nahariya , Tzfat or Haifa would be about 35 miles or 50 miles respectively.

So imagine the distress of someone who has bussed to Haifa at an ungodly hour only to discover his appointment has been cancelled; or the anger of another individual when she learns too late that her consultation has been rescheduled, as staff claim that they did not have her contact details.

It is not surprising, therefore, that we’re all a mite cynical and that expat-Brits like me say that despite Israel’s much-lauded bio-medical and scientific advances, grassroots patient care is on a par with the U.K.’s troubled National Health Service.

Indeed when someone quipped that I was becoming a ‘professional’ patient, I decided to take instant ‘retirement’! I don’t want to spend my time  in Israel hanging about in waiting rooms for the length of a working day – precious hours  in which I’d be better employed researching and writing.

Much more seriously, barely months after I arrived here, two of my new friends died quite suddenly in hospital. I am sure even now that they would both have had a much better chance of survival if they had not been forced to travel out of town for treatment and that, in one particular instance, post-operative care could have been markedly improved.

It’s considered unprofessional to personalise these issues, but here I will ignore convention. I suffer a very high myopia and am convinced that ‘computer vision syndrome’ – an umbrella term for a wide range of problems - has exacerbated several related conditions.

Ideally, I would have written this piece in long-hand before typing a fair copy for publication. But it’s not that easy. I need the Web for research, so it’s easier to remain seated at the screen for everything – and simply use the ‘20/20’ technique – twenty second breaks every twenty minutes.

Heavy computer use was linked with glaucoma among people with a high myopia almost ten years ago. Now I challenge ophthalmologists to examine a possible link between ‘CVS’ and conditions including macular degeneration and the development of ‘epiretinal membranes (‘macular pucker’).

I understand that juvenile macular degeneration has a genetic cause while my own condition is most probably age-related. Further, although I have never smoked, both my parents were heavy smokers and I spent much of my working life in smoky offices, before the current laws were enforced. This almost certainly contributed to my present problems.

But it also seems too much of a coincidence that matters became worse when I stopped using an old-fashioned typewriter and then a word processor in favour of a computer. Furthermore, in the past two years I have been diagnosed with epiretinal membranes. These seem to have ‘shed’ occasionally when I have not used a computer for some days and have instead read an ordinary print book without using my spectacles.

I have refused surgery to remove the membranes because the present technique appears to be a hazardous business with a fairly high risk of infection and even a detached retina. I am not prepared to take the challenge!

Instead, I will conclude with a story about a surgeon I met recently in Haifa who, I believe, enjoys sparring with his patients. 

“You don’t want surgery?”, he asked. “Well, we could always talk about the weather.”

Mark.UlyseasThis article first appeared in the August 2013 edition of Live Encounters magazine ( edited by Mark Ulyseas, a faithful supporter of Israel and all matters Jewish.



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