Open Wide… Say Ahh….and Cough. Thank You.
Last week in Moving to Australia Part Nine (you can access ALL previous parts through that link) I mentioned that the medical, for me, was the scariest part of this whole process. Now, I know MY medical is relevant only to ME. But reading my story may give you a better idea of what you can expect in this part of the process. It may also help you to avoid “opening a can of worms” unnecessarily. It’s a long story, but I can assure you, it was much, much longer when I lived through it. So, here we go.
Firstly, I should say that at the time of the medical I was 49 years of age and I considered myself pretty fit. I was playing five aside football twice a week for the full hour each session. I gave up smoking when I was 33. I had no fear of the medical. Except….
Back in 2000, a long long time before we had the idea to move to Australia, something strange happened to me. I completely lost my sense of smell. The most common reasons for a loss of sense of smell (according to Dr Google) are:
- Viral infection
- Head trauma
- Nasal and sinus disease
So I went to the doctor and the doctor didn’t know. So he referred me to a specialist. So I went to see the specialist and the specialist (who got right up my nose AND gave me an MRI brain scan) didn’t know. “Just one of those things” – he said. And discharged me.
Around 2004 with my sense of smell now completely gone and taking my sense of taste with it, I went back to the doctor. (Sound of can of worms opening). He referred me back up the line which eventually led to an appointment with the National Ear Nose and Throat Clinic in London. By the time my appointment with them came up, (you know how slow the NHS can be) it was June 2006.
As you will know from my timeline, this is six months after we had decided to emigrate to Australia.
The good people at that clinic could also find no reason for my anosmia, as it is called. But they wanted to refer me on to a neurologist who specialised in loss of smell. I should have just said no, but it’s tough when you can’t taste your bacon sandwich.
My appointment with him took place at the end of January 2007, about six months after our application to emigrate to Australia had been submitted. This man had all sorts of theories of possible causes for my problem and wanted me to attend his personal clinic for further investigation. The earliest appointment he could offer me (he was a busy man) was October 2007. I was hoping to be in Australia by then! And that’s what I told him.
“Really?” he said, “with this existing condition, you will not pass the medical unless, at the very least, you have a full body CAT scan which proves to be completely clear.”
That wasn’t what I wanted to hear. His advice was to book a scan up now, otherwise for sure, the Australian approved doctor will request one and that will only delay our application.
A full body scan was the last thing I needed. Those scans show up everything! If there was the slightest problem with any organ or any cell, anywhere in my body, the scan would pick it up. Lovely! But I took his advice and my scan appointment was made for the beginning of May 2007.
If you read last week’s post link you will know that we were allocated a case officer on April 27, 2007. Can you see how nicely these dates are converging? I got the result of my CAT scan on May 17th and my medical with the Australian approved doctor was on May 23rd.
The day the letter turned up with the result of my scan is one I will never forget. I held the envelope in my hands for some time. Realising that was getting me nowhere, I took a deep breath and began opening it. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that our futures were about to be decided by the contents of a single sheet of A4.
Underneath my name it simply said “This patient’s CT of the chest and abdomen was normal.”
Six days later I was having my Australian medical. I took with me two things. One was the sealed envelope which contained my chest x-ray taken a couple of weeks earlier. The other was my letter with the result of my scan.
The Chest X-Ray
I believe everybody over the age of 11 has to have a chest x-ray, they cost around £100. A quick tip on that. You are not told the result of your chest x-ray, the doctor seals it and signs across that seal. So when you have it done, be nice and friendly to the person who does the x-ray. Tell them it’s for Australian migration purposes, that always opens up the conversation and tells them you’re not having an x-ray because your doctor thinks you are ill.
Once the x-rays are done, the radiologist always checks that the images have come out okay before sending you on your way. After they have done this, say something like “Well? Will Australia have me?” You’ll get a good idea from the answer. Mine said “Oh, you’ll be just fine”. If she had turned white and refused to answer, that may have indicated a problem.
So, back to the medical. It was a very thorough and as predicted by the other doctor the conversation turned toward the investigations into my condition. Trying my best not to be smug, I explained that I had been seen by a whole host of experts and had every test imaginable, including an MRI and some rather fetching internal nasal photography. Nobody can find anything wrong. I then said these tests culminated with a full body CAT scan and I have the results.
With that, I handed him my scan results letter, which I had begun to look upon as my passport to Australia. He read it and then he looked at me and said…..
“No, I need the full results, this is no good. Please get me the full results of your scan and I also want to see copies of the complete records which you can obtain from your doctor and in particular, I want to see the original discharge from the first specialist you saw and I want the full copies of correspondence between you, your doctor and between him and the second specialist. It will take me a week to receive back the results from your urine test (told you it was thorough) and if you get the information I require to me by then, I will included in my report to the Australian government. If I haven’t heard from you by that time, I will send my report as is and it will then be up to the Australian authorities to decide based on the information they have. Thank you. NEXT!”
My next seven days were so much fun. I discovered how useless my local doctor was at keeping records. For example, he could find all the correspondances about my admissions to specialists but none of those confirming me being discharged. I discovered that the only valid full report of my CAT scan was somewhere in a truck on its way to a secret storage vault run by the NHS and could take weeks to locate, (hello, this is 2007!) even though my test had only been conducted within the last couple of weeks. I also discovered that my specialist, whom I had hoped would discharge me in view of the scan results, was in Paris and then going straight on to Turkey.
I pulled together the information required by the Australian approved doctor in nine days instead of his requested seven. But as there was a bank holiday Monday in between, it was possible I could still get the information to him in time. When I arrived at his surgery on Friday 1st June 2007 to hand deliver the information, he was not there. To this day I have no idea whether the extra stuff was included with his report or not. I could see no reason to try and find out.
I just waited, again. This time, nervously.
For a full chronological list and brief description of all the posts in this series about how I moved to Australia, please visit my page How to Move to Australia.