Sheryl from https://www.achronicvoice.com is hosting an Invisible Link Up. When Sheryl tagged me in this I was like yes please I will do that. A great way to learn what it is like for others living around the world with a chronic illness. I have several chronic illness along with a couple of rare diseases. I have learnt over the years to work around them but some days it can be hard. So here are my answers to the questions.
Q&A: What’s the Quality of Life Like in Your City with an Invisible Illness?
Best thing about your city for living with chronic illness?
Melbourne has been voted on many occasions as the most livable city. We have an excellent rail system and trams and busses. If you have a chronic illness and are on disability pension you get a health care card which gives you cheap travel. Melbourne is also known as the sporting capital of Australia. You can choose from Australian Rules (which is the only sport in my mind), Rugby, Soccer and Tennis. We have the grand prix of racing in March and the spring racing carnival for horses. The Melbourne Cup the most watched horse race in Australia and a public holiday for Victorians is on the first Tuesday of November.
Melbourne has several major hospitals all with excellent specialists.
Worst thing about your city for living with chronic illness?
Melbourne is known for its 4 seasons in one day. Start the morning with a light coat by lunch your sweltering and by afternoon its a thunderstorm. It’s also know as the asthma capital of Australia. A couple of years ago quite a number of people died when there was one of the worst “asthma thunderstorm”.
How accessible do you think your city is in general?
Public transport for the most part is brilliant for wheelchair etc access. All stations have lifts if required. A lot of trams and tram stops have been redesigned so everyone can easily access. Busses have an option that the side of the bus goes down so the step is fairly easy. However, some trams are still the old clunky ones with steep narrow steps. Streets. The pathways are sometimes cobblestones depending on which part of Melbourne you’re in. Not all buildings have ramps. I soon learnt how hard it is to get around Melbourne when I did my ACL, MCL last year. The old trams are lovely but on hospital routes?
There are plenty of disabled toilets in the city. Our public transport has certain sections set aside for people with walkers and wheelchairs. There are also signs everywhere to give your seat to a disabled person. Makes it hard for those of us with invisible illness’ as we usually “don’t look disabled”. You can apply for a disabled sticker for your car via your doctor and that allows you to park in disabled parking spots.
How educated is the public on chronic illnesses there?
They do understand to a point. If you keep saying no to going out, they get sick and tired of it and stop asking. Those of us with a chronic illness all understand the “but you look good” or “still sick, I thought by now you should be ok” I try to stick to friends who do understand and do get it. Often when parking in a disabled parking space with the sticker, you can come back to your car with a nasty note saying “you look fine, you shouldnt be parking there”.
If you could pass one new law in your country, what would that be?
To allow dogs on leads on public transport and in restaurants and cafe’s. We are so behind the rest of the world. Service dogs are already allowed.
Which is your favourite city or country (other than your own) and why?
Paris. I fell in love with her two years ago and I had to go back last year as my heart was aching. Paris has wonderful people, cafes, history, architecture. Last year I fell in love with France. Such a stunning country.
Where in the world would you visit, if disability, illness or level of fitness weren’t an issue?
Anywhere in Europe, in fact I would move there and travel to my heart’s content.
What sort of alternative treatments or therapies wouldn’t raise any eyebrows there? (Perhaps it’s ingrained in the culture, totally legal, etc).
There really isn’t any that people wouldn’t raise their eyebrows at. I find when I mention I don’t eat pasta or breads, people think your missing out. I wish people would just understand that everyone is different and what works for one might not work for another.
Which are the most and least affordable therapies there? How much do they cost in general?
In Australia for those of us with a chronic illness we can get whats called a chronic health care plan where we can get “free” therapies. You can choose from physiotherapy, Podiatry, Dietician, Osteopathy. Here in Victoria you can also get 5 visits with a counsellor under the Mental Health Care Plan. Unfortunately our government is trying to take these away. *keep us sick*
Most shopping centres have massage shops where you can just walk in and get a 20 minute massage for $20. Physiotherapy can cost from $50 to $120 depending on where you go and how long it is for.
How expensive is it to live with a chronic illness there? Any stats you’d like to share to give a clearer picture?
Medications are extremely expensive. A lot are on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme which does bring the price of medications down. If you have a health care card – to get one you must be either on a disability pension or a low-income. If you do have a HCC then you can get most medications for about $5.20. Specialists are very expensive or one can be put on our waiting lists for public hospitals however the waiting lists can be anywhere from 6 months to 2-3 years.
What are the hospitals like in terms of service, quality of care, emergency room protocols, etc?
We have some outstanding hospitals here in Melbourne. I should know I visit two of them regularly for my Tuberous Sclerosis and Lymphangiomiomatosis – Lam lung disease. In fact the Alfred Hospital has a Lam clinic and women from other states visit the clinic on a regular basis.
I think the quality of care etc in our hospitals for the most part is brilliant. I’m sure though that there are the odd occasions that it falls below par. When I injured my knee I was triage very quickly and given pain medication. Within 5 minutes I was being wheeled into the emergency room. I couldn’t fault it.
What should foreigners be aware of in regards to healthcare, if they want to visit or work in your city?
Travelers should have travel insurance if coming to Australia. We have a system in Australia called Medicare for Australian Citizens and permanent residents. A lot of doctors however charge over the standard rate for a visit so even those of us Australians still pay the difference. If you’re a New Zealander citizen and have lived in Australia for 6 months or more can get a medicare card. This enables you to visit a doctor that bulk bills, which mean you pay no fee.
Tourists can stay up to 3 months in Australia. If they wish to work they are required to get a visa before entering. Customs can send you back if they think you might be entering the country to work and you don’t have a visa.
Working Holiday Visa gives you 12 months to travel to Australia from the date the visa is granted, and allows you to stay in Australia for 12 months from the date you first enter Australia.