Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Very expensive Garfield bandaids

After making much progress on the trip research last week, I decided to make a few doctor's appointments to deal with some recurring issues.

For the past couple of years, I have had fairly constant pain/discomfort in both my right & left big toes. I have been getting regular pedicures to help shape my toenails but it turns out this is an inherited condition (the curving of the toenails into the sides of the toe) which I have no control over. I saw a podiatrist last year before I left NYC and she treated me for ingrown toenails by taking a scalpel and cutting out the nail along the sides of each toe. This was a painful procedure with no anesthetic but it did relieve the discomfort for a few months. Unfortunately, the toenails grew back in the same curved manner as before. With all the moving around that Greg & I have done over the past six months, I have not gone to another podiatrist until this past week, when I realized that the pain was getting to a level that I could no longer ignore. Of course, the doctor immediately said that I would need surgery to permanently remove the sides of both toenails. He would have done the procedure this week, but we are leaving for Yellowstone on Friday and I was not going to miss our vacation! So now I am scheduled to have the surgery on both toes on May 24th. I will be fairly immobile for a week or more but I am confident that Greg will be able to take care of all our basic necessities during that time. Plus, if I look on the bright side, I will be forced to stay home and read/do research for our RTW trip! And, by having this procedure done now, I am hoping to avoid any potential related problems while we are traveling and far away from specialized medical care.

My allergies have also been bothering me lately, but this is normal for this time of year and I have dealt with seasonal allergies my whole life. Over the counter drugs generally alleviate the symptoms enough to keep everything in check, but last week my left eyelid got red & puffy and irritated to the point I could no longer wear my contacts. I kept applying a warm compress but the eyelid remained very red & painful. I finally saw a doctor and she diagnosed an infection, most likely caused by the swelling of the glands due to allergies. So now I am administering prescription eye drops three times a day and am hoping that I can start wearing my contacts again by Friday (I find it much easier to look through binoculars with my contacts versus glasses -- important for all the wildlife spotting we plan to do in Yellowstone!).

Maybe you're wondering what all of this has to do with Garfield bandaids? Well, Greg & I started our first round of vaccines on Monday. After consulting with a travel medicine specialist, we have determined we need a total of nine different vaccines prior to our trip, not including the anti-malaria pills we will be taking during the trip. Those nine vaccines require a total of 14 injections at an average cost of $125 per dose plus a $50 office visit charge and $5 administration fee per shot. Thus the total cost of the vaccinations will be at least $1500. Note that neither of our health insurance policies (United Healthcare & Aetna) cover any portion of this. I got four shots on Monday (yellow fever, polio, typhoid, meningococcal) and Greg got five (same as mine plus Twinrix for Hepatitis A & B). Two shots in each arm (one intramuscular, one subcutaneous) and Greg also got one in his hip. I was given Garfield bandaids; Greg got blue Crayola crayons. Considering my bill was $445, I'd say those are some expensive bandaids!

Luckily we had already bought tickets to the sold out FredFest that night so all we had to do was catch the streetcar then a bus to the Hair of the Dog Brewery to spend the evening imbibing some strong beer. Which, for the most part, made us forget spending so much money and the achiness from our shots!
FredFest 2010

UPDATE 5/13: Greg & I sat down last night and mapped out our vaccine schedule for the next weeks/months. Using the numbers Pearl Health Center provided us, we also were able to more accurately calculate the total cost. If we both get all of the recommended vaccines (the ones we have already gotten as mentioned above plus rabies, Japanese encephalitis, and MMR plus malaria pills and "just in case" antibiotics to take with us) then we are looking at around $2400 PER PERSON!!! OUCH!!! I'm seriously considering not getting rabies ($660) & JE ($390) not just because of the cost but by evaluating our risk of infection. Or, more likely, I will get JE but not rabies. Must decide soon as we'll need to start those series of shots on May 24th...


  1. Granted, it is your choice to travel overseas, but I've still never understood the mentality of U.S. health care companies that they won't pay for a simple injection that could prevent disease and also benefit the recipient's health here in the United States, but the companies will pay for your treatment if you come down with an infirmity while traveling overseas.

    Wouldn't it just be cheaper to pay for the shots ahead of time??

  2. Wow we're surprised that your medical insurance won't cover anything. Sure, at the specialty travel clinic they told us they won't/can't work with insurance, but I just took my vaccination wishlist to my regular doctor to see what he would say. Polio, Hep A/B, T-Dap and MMR was covered in the most standard way — you are entitled to get these shots every 5-10 years and your insurance shouldn't consider it falling under "at will travel related." Very, very surprising.

    We chose not to get rabies shots. The JE we got, but it was pricey! Be very very careful how many antibiotics you buy in the states. They are EASY to find and cheaper abroad. Plus, your medi kit will weigh a ton (we made all these mistakes!). Most importantly, you shouldn't be self-medicating while traveling. It's simple to find a doctor and it's always a better idea. We brought along a ton of medication, used almost nothing and had a hard time rationalizing throwing it out along the way. Never again.

    On a brighter note: Loved your photos from the recent trip! WOW.