Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Transferring - the medical nitty gritty

It can be a complicated thing to move with kids with special needs. Moving overseas is even more complicated as you change from one medical system to another. Particularly if the country you are moving to has a public health system, moving means going on another often long waiting list. Coordinating things to attempt to have a smooth transition with good continuity of care has been complicated, but I feel we are off to a good start!

When we were deciding to move, one of the first things I knew I had to do was to contact our new hospital in Sydney and attempt to open a file for them. I was very fortunate to be able to get both girls in to the Connective Tissue Dysplasia clinic at Westmead Children's Hospital when we were back in July (given we had to go as "private patients" and pay out of pocket). Now, Hong Kong doesn't have a Connective Tissue or Skeletal Dysplasia clinic, but Westmead does. Run by clinical geneticists, these doctors can help to coordinate and oversee the "big picture" medical care for our kids with dwarfism and other skeletal or connective tissue disorders. This is the department that Prof Sillence was the head of when he graciously visited Maddy in the NICU when she was only four months old. He has since retired and a new doctor has taken over.

One of the things we have had to decide is what we can do in Hong Kong before we go and what we should do in Australia after we get there. On our horizon is Briella's cleft repair, Maddy's spine, potentially more work on Briella's feet - as well as wheelchair assessments for Maddy. I tried to get the kids into see orthopedic doctors at Westmead before our move, as well as getting Briella in to the cleft clinic as well, but with our limited dates and the hospital's waiting lists, we were unable to do so. We do have orthopedic appointments, as well as a cleft appointment for Briella, lined up already at Westmead for shortly after we arrive in Australia early next year. 

We have decided to do all the orthopedic work in Australia - Maddy's spine and Briella's feet. These things are not so urgent or time sensitive and waiting would not be detrimental. While we have had a wheelchair assessment for Maddy and will be doing a "fitting" in two weeks, I don't think we will get the chair here as it is extremely expensive and has no public funding. In Australia we would be eligible for some public funding for a chair making it significantly more affordable. While I would like Maddy to have more independence in distance mobility, I don't think it is an urgent need at this stage. 

We have decided to attempt to do Briella's cleft repair in Hong Kong before we leave. On one hand, I wish we could wait and do it in Australia as it would be more comfortable and supportive to have it done there. I hate the ICU here with a passion, and surgery will definitely mean at least one day, possibly longer, in the ICU. I wasn't particularly fond of the plastic chairs we were meant to sleep on in the surgical ward either (that or the floor - no blankets provided). While we could do the surgery in Australia after we move, it will take some time, possibly months, to organise. After Maddy's surgery was delayed until 22 months and seeing the effect that had on her speech development, I don't want to be delaying surgery for no good medical reason, just because we might all be more comfortable at Westmead. 

Working towards Briella's surgery, we have in the past two weeks had another overnight oxygen monitoring test (which Briella actually slept for this time!) and an MRI of Briella's cervical spine. Both of these tests are meant to show her suitability for general anesthesia. I'm pretty sure she did fine in the oxygen monitoring, and I think the MRI should have been clear but we don't know the results yet. We will see the cleft clinic again on October 24 (Lana's 6th birthday) and hopefully will get a surgery date then.

It is currently hard to plan our exact "moving date" without knowing the surgery date as the surgeons have said they wouldn't recommend flying within about 4 weeks of surgery (usually it is safe earlier than that, but they are being a bit more cautious given Briella's small airways). We would like to move before Christmas, possibly around Dec 22-23, but can only do that if we have a surgery date which is in November. If the surgery is scheduled in December we may need to delay our move until January instead. We can't delay too long, however, as school starts in Australia at the end of January and we'll need to find somewhere to live before then! 

Please pray for us during this time! The good and bad thing about having a blog is that I've been able to go back and read about our experience with Maddy which held soooooo much frustration (if you are interested, her repair was in May '12). I'm at least prepared for it and more knowledgeable this time around - but I've learned that is both a blessing and a curse. As with all surgeries, if Briella has a cold at the last minute, the surgery will be cancelled and then we may need to do it in Australia instead. That wouldn't be so bad - but I'd rather it was done sooner than later... particularly if later meant months later!


  1. Wld it not be possible to leave HK now & get to Aust where you can sort things out. Surely the medical care wld be much better & more compassionate. Sounds there the way you parents are treated like sleeping on floor of plastic chair is shocking. So get her cleft done in the comfort of Aust. I'm in NZ & we are very similar to Aust & I wonder what is holding you back just getting outta HK

    1. We plan to be back in Australia by January at the latest - but if we plan to do the surgery there, it will take some time to arrange and we probably couldn't hope for it to be done before March or April at the absolute earliest. While it would be more comfortable, I feel as though the medical benefits of having the surgery earlier are more important than the discomforts and frustrations that come along with the Hong Kong public health system... so hopefully we can do it here. We will see...