Thursday, March 14, 2013

Why Hong Kong?

The other day on one of my posts, someone asked the following question:
Am not asking this in a rude way but why you in HK? Wld the medical services not be better in Aust or western country. Or does the Asian medical system have the best facilities?
I figured I would take some time to answer the question here.

We first moved to Hong Kong over 6 years ago now. Originally when we moved to Hong Kong, the plan was to stay for 2-5 years. Currently our plans are "indefinitely". We've been through so much as a family in the last six years - both of our kids are born here. We moved over as newlyweds and most of our life together is here in Hong Kong. It has truly become "home" to us. 

When we moved to Hong Kong, some of our reasons were the following:
  1. Bernard's dad is here. He is significantly older than Bernard's mum and my parents and his health is not great. He has little family here in Hong Kong - so being here would be good for him. 
  2. Hong Kong is a great place for people early in their careers. The wages are high and tax is low. The cost of living however is quite high - so we aren't getting "rich" here by any means! But we might have more spending money here than we would back in Australia. 
  3. If our children were born in Australia, they would not get HK "citizenship". If they were born in Hong Kong however, they get dual citizenship which gives them more opportunities when they grow up - it will be easier for them to live, work or study in either place if they so choose. 
  4. There is a small, local church that we are involved with over here. It has been great being involved in a Chinese church and we may not have had that opportunity back in Australia.
When Maddy was born, we discussed whether it would be better for her to be in Hong Kong or Australia. At the moment while she is young, it doesn't really matter so much - but I think that as she ages, we may find that it is harder for her to achieve independence in this society. I do think that Australia is a better/nicer environment for people with disabilities or special needs. 

So far, the medical care that we have had in Hong Kong has been good. I have had my complaints - which mainly fall into two categories. Firstly, they are SO SO SO overcautious with EVERYTHING... they plan for the worst-case scenario. While this led to Maddy's four month NICU stay (which I still to this day believe was unnecessary), I do know that she has been safe. I have seen other hospitals in the US which were the opposite, verging on not cautious enough, and if I had to choose, it is better to be overcautious (although I hate to admit that). Secondly,  the medical system is not as "friendly" here as it is back home - particularly for the parents. In other places, the parent is considered to be a part of the medical team. The doctors will discuss various options with them and include them in the decision making process. Hospitals welcome parents and provide bedding for parents, encouraging the parents to spend as much time with their children as possible (even in NICU). Here sometimes I feel as though I'm continually fighting with the doctors because I will not just accept everything that they say as gospel truth and sign on the dotted line - and I have often felt as though we are not truly even welcome at the hospitals. 

I do recognise that my "complaints" in some ways are more about me than they are about Maddy. I am used to things being a certain way and I fight against the system. I've had so many frustrations - but for local parents who just accept that it is the way it should be, they are perfectly fine with it. 

So far, Maddy's medical care has been mostly routine. She has not needed any orthopedic surgeries yet (that is, surgeries on her bones). That said, I know that with her scoliosis, that will change soon enough.

Spinal surgery is no easy surgery - it's comparatively high-risk and requires long periods of rehab. Knowing that this may be an option for us, I have considered the possibility of having this surgery performed overseas, most likely in Australia (since we are citizens and have family there who we could stay with). You would guess that the medical care would be as good or better, plus it would be much "easier" for me as a parent. The only concern would be that our family may need to be separated for this period of time while she is preparing for and recovering from surgery. 

At our last orthopedic visit however, we met with a British orthopedic surgeon who was temporarily at Hong Kong working at the university here. He was an amazing doctor and it was great for me to have a doctor with a more Western approach. He was friendly and warm and talked about his own daughter back in the UK who is the same age as Maddy. He is the one who told me that spinal surgery is pretty much a definite - the only question was timing. 

Since we got to chatting, I poured it all out to him - my frustrations, my questions of whether to go back to Australia for the surgery, not wanting to go through that here... I told him how the doctors here are so cold and don't really care about your feelings.

He really helped me to put things into perspective though. He told me "When I first came here, I was shocked by some of the ways that the doctors talk to patients and their parents, but as I came to work alongside them, I realised that they really care about their patients. They relate to them in a certain way because that is the culture here - but that does not mean that they don't care." 

He also went on to say "I've worked with many orthopedic surgeons all over the world - and the team here is one of the most dedicated and skilled that I have worked with. In fact if my daughter had a congenital scoliosis, I would bring her over here from the UK so that these doctors could operate on her."

After that discussion, I realised that while Australia may be the better choice for me, it might not be better for Maddy. It certainly would not be better for our family as a whole to be separated for that period of time (at least as long as we are living here). 

That all said, there are some extremely highly skilled surgeons in the US who have a lot of experience with dwarfism and with diastrophic dysplasia more specifically. We plan to consult with one when we go over there in June. And I would possibly consider weighing up the pros and cons regarding doing the surgery there instead of Hong Kong.

Eventually, we might move back to Australia - but for now, Hong Kong is home and all of Maddy's needs are being met here. She is growing and thriving. I'm sure she would also be if we were back in Australia or even in the US - but for now, this is where we are, and it's good :)

1 comment:

  1. Hey!!! How am I just finding your blog?! I love it- I plan on taking some time to read more tonight once Addie is down for a nap. Thank you for reading mine and offering your input- I'm still new to everything and I really appreciate BTDT mamas guidance.
    Have a wonderful day!!