Archive for February, 2010

Universal Medications

Friday, February 26th, 2010

This week has been fairly gruelling health-wise. It’s amazing how something small like an accidental bite to the inner lip can result in a canker sore so painful I have to literally go home after work and sleep. It’s hard to eat, drink, talk, laugh. Sometimes it’s just painful to sit and do nothing. Seems like the “injury” is located at a kind of nerve centre, so the pain shoots up through my jaw and into my ears. GREAT times.

This is just a short entry to showcase the absolute absurdity or universal greatness (depending on how you look at it) that is Medicine in Latvia.

I’ve received recommendations from almost everyone as to what I should do/administer/not do regarding this canker sore. I am not allowed to drink juice, eat fruits, or spicy, hard or abrasive foods. Basically, anything with real flavour is off limits. If you know me, you know how miserable this has made me the past five days.

After realising that obsessively applying a numbing agent meant for teething children (the alcohol in the ingredients may actually be doing more harm than good), I have turned to other remedies. Baking soda, salt water, black tea bags, hydrogen peroxide. Ouch, blech, ouch and nothing.

After my numerous “consultations”, I have decided that doing nothing that will make the canker sore hurt will be the best course of action. I understand that it may take the sore a full two weeks to heal, but COME ON. I can’t do this that much longer.

Now I’m down to using something called “Faringo Spray”, which is basically a mixture of seabuckthorn and calendula oils. Faringo Spray is first and foremost intended to be used as a throat spray for sore or infected throats, but per instruction leaflet extends to uses related to general infections of the mouth and (here comes the absurd/great part) is even listed as being good for outer injuries such as cuts, burns and rashes.

I understand that natural oils have many purposes, but I can’t get over the fact that the spectrum of things this medicine is supposed to heal is SO WIDE. And random. Burns? Seriously.

This morning I stopped off at the pharmacy before work and picked up something called “Kanistad N”, which is usually recommended for people with dental prosthetics to heal mouth sores and irritations. According to my relatives AND the lady at the pharmacy, this stuff is supposed to be ace. I read something online about a kind of paste or liquid meant to heal mouth sores that turns your teeth blue — so I’m glad I wasn’t recommended this stuff.

Another thing recommended (and heeded) was to take Ibuprofen. Since my “big stash” is at work, I picked up a smaller pack for a whopping LVL 0.25 (that’s USD 0.50). I was about to buy more, but this Latvian Ibuprofen has an expiry date in March. MARCH. This medicine will be good for the next MONTH, at best. Which leads me to wonder — what the crap is in this stuff that renders it useless in such a short amount of time?

My grandmother recommended that I simply chew or suck on Tums tablets (many websites recommend swishing Malox around your mouth for a few minutes) to neutralise the pH level in my mouth. I ate my last calcium-fortified Tums tablet over four months ago, but had a pack of Gas-X chewable tablets my mother had sent me. I will say this once: GAS-X IS NOT THE SAME AS TUMS. Oh, God, is it ever not the same. That was a burning, unholy mistake I will never, ever make again.

Other simple at-home remedies include drinking chamomile tea. Which I’m not a huge fan of doing, but let me tell you, was I EVER chilled out last night. Whoa, man. Whoa.

Next time I will write about the whole repatriation business. So until then I’m going to keep trying to nurse my poor mouth back to health with these Latvian wonder-meds.

No Motivation

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

I’m feeling entirely unmotivated right now. Maybe it’s certain factors that aren’t really working to my advantage that are making it more difficult to BECOME motivated. For example, I was fully prepared to book an instructor to go start learning how to snowboard tomorrow. But the place I was looking at is not easy to get to with public transportation and doesn’t have a bus stop anywhere near it, although buses do drive by it. So now I don’t know what to do. I guess wait, maybe rent a car and go? But even that would end up being too expensive.

This just feels like a week that will take a while to get through.

Saturday I took my god-daughter to see “The Princess and the Frog”. It was the first time I had been to an animated movie that had complete and “professional” Latvian language dubbing. For the most part it was tolerable, except that most of the male-sung songs sounded more like schlager music than Disney music. But it was a good experience. I might borrow my cousin’s kids again this weekend to go see “The Fantastic Mr. Fox”. Of course it will be great to spend more time with immediate family, but let’s be serious, I don’t want to be that lone, creepy adult sitting in on a kids’ film.

My back and neck seem to have be almost entirely recovered. This is fantastic news to me, considering it only took three 30-minute sessions to undo 3 weeks of pain.

It’s snowing again today in Riga. This means more days spent traversing the different barriers put up on sidewalks so roof cleaners can push the pounds and pounds of snow off the buildings and onto the street. This is something I didn’t see or just plain missed last winter. It’s kind of neat to see people up on the roofs shovelling snow, and people standing on the opposite side of the street with their heads tipped back to watch them do so. It’s the winter equivalent of gathering to watch someone repair their car or motorcycle.

Ugh. I even lack the motivation to make connections throughout this post. Next one will be an enlightening update about repatriation vs. residential permits!

About Latvian Dentists and Other Doctors

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Today I went in for two consultations.

The first one was a form of physical therapy cum massage, during which I basically got a massage. The woman I went to see was recommended to me by a co-worker who has known the woman for some time. Though the better part of the consultation (pretty great that the consultations are so hands-on some of the time) was mostly trying to work out the ridiculous stiffness in my right shoulder and shoulder blade, a tiny part at the beginning was spent with my head being suspended with the help of a strap, then turned this way and that. This ended up being to make sure the problem wasn’t in my spine. The best part of all of it? Massages like this are (rightly) considered a medical procedure, in my case is most likely a result of my working conditions and is covered by my insurance. Which I paid for, I know, but still.

The goal is to get me in for another 9 sessions to knock this thing out of my park, so to speak.

The second consultation was with a dentist, to determine if the apparent upward-crescent shaped wear in the bottom of my right front tooth (hah, seems as if the entire right side of my body is having troubles) was actually a wear, or a chip, and if it could be fixed. It’s pretty widely known that Latvian dentists have good reputations for being skilled, efficient, and inexpensive. Many practices advertise to tourists who are looking for “medical vacation” options. Anyway, I went to the consultation and was told by the dentist that I had a few options for fixing what he determined was a chip in the enamel of my tooth. One was to fill it in with the same stuff used for filling cavities, but which would probably fall out within a week to a month later. Another option was to get ceramic caps, I guess they would be, which would be the most drastic option. Then he remembered he could always kind of “buff down” the corner of the chipped tooth to make it look even. When he said “buff”, I heard “file”. I said it seemed to make more sense than a filling.

So I’m sitting in the patient’s chair, thinking about how I’m going to have to decide on what to do, then make another appointment, when the back of my chair is moving down and the dentist takes the buffer/filer and I have just enough time to realise what is about to happen and open my mouth. Water droplets fly everywhere to the whir of the buffer. I’m handed a mirror, and then I lose it. I laugh so hard form the bottom of my stomach up that the dentist and his assistant just look at me for a few moments before nervously laughing with and asking what is going on. But I’m laughing too hard to accurately explain that something like that would NEVER happen in America; there would be questions, new appointments made, lots of murmuring and thinking… I manage to say something about how everything looks good and it’s great, but it’s just so damn funny to come in for a consultation and next thing you know your teeth are being filed down.

The dentist stopped me there and said it wasn’t “filing”, but “buffing”. So I kept laughing, this time with him and the assistant laughing with me. Then the dentist says “Well, there’s nothing really for me to do here”, then tells me I can go see the hygienist if I want, so my trip here isn’t wasted. And I did. I waited 30 minutes, but I had thought to bring a book and wasn’t bothered. All in all… a very good day for medical visits. I have yet to be disappointed by dentists in Latvia, though I’ve only seen three specialists to date.

I also think I did well enough on the written and analogies part of the GRE to make up for how shameful the math section will turn out :D

Busy in February

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

For the shortest month, February is going to take a really long time.

I’m scheduled to take the GRE exam this coming Saturday, will be performing for about an hour the Friday after that with some of the members from a folk group “Saviesi” at a European youth association meeting. Or something. We’ll be playing some “danchi”, or dances, which are something between “rotaljas” (games) and folk dances. It’s a bit hard to explain it. The easiest thing is to just see what “danchi” are and then put the word to the action.

At some point I also really really REALLY want to make it out to Sigulda to start learning how to snowboard. My learner-in-crime was sick this past weekend, so that fell through. This weekend is filled with tests and farewell parties for a few close friends and the weekend after at least two of my friends, if not three or four, will be heading for their “ski break” to Egypt. They’re planning on Sharm el-Sheik and just basking in the sun. I can’t say I’m entirely bummed out about this; I don’t think I’d  be ready for Egypt again so soon.

If absolutely everyone leaves Latvia during that time, I’m just going to go learn how to snowboard myself. The weather has been excellent for this the past two days — we’ve gotten many much snow (6″+ or ~20cm+) in the past day, and a bit more overnight yesterday. It’s enough to make me literally stop in my tracks and wonder if I shouldn’t fake sick and just go roll in the snow in another city.

I have other things on my mind that will keep me busy during the month as well. One is putting together goodies for birthdays :) Others are things I don’t quite yet want to write about because I’d rather not get people prematurely excited.

On another note, a few of us might go check out the last Dinamo Riga (hockey) game of the month. Against Moscow. Wooooot.