When I came to American Samoa, I had a medical emergency. That means a trip to LBJ Medical Center. It is not what you want but when you have a seizure disorder, it happens. I was looking forward to be on US soil to see an American doctor, at least.
I started to have problems while in Samoa. I know the hospitals is there is praised by the Samoans and demonized by everyone else. I went with the “everyone else” option and just waited for my flights on Inter Island Airways to Pago Pago.
The good news is that I was going to an American medical facility. The bad news is that LBJ Medical Center is considered one of the worst in the country.
In all fairness, it might be the worst in America and still be one of the best in Oceania outside of New Zealand.
My LBJ Medical Center experience
I went to the hospital and then ran blood test on me. They did not like my levels at all. My meds were simply not working and they did not have them on island. (A pretty common thing actually) The doctor was pretty concerned about this palagi (white guy from the mainland).
In the end, he wanted to admit me into the hospital for the night to watch me and see what exactly was happening. It was not a big deal to me but he really was concerned.
The hospital rooms was really plain. I say this because most hospital rooms in America have a television, internet and getting hold of staff is at the push of a button.
In American Samoa, it did not have any of that. It was wait until they come by the room to check on you to ask them whatever you needed. There are no internet in the rooms and there was no television.
The next morning, I was released from the glorified prison cell known as LBJ Medical Center.
The second trip to the hospital
A few days later, I was being chased by the crazy dogs on island and got hit by a bus. (not even joking) I got the “joy” of riding their ambulance and having basic surgery at the hospital. Thank God a visiting doctor of Colorado did it for me!
The ambulance was not that bad. It was an 15 passenger van that they had gutted out to make it usable for its new purpose. It worked. I have seen small rural hospitals in Missouri that have these as well. (While living on island, they did get a few brand new “real” ones though)
The operation was painful (dealing with nerves) and then I had to lay down for a week and then come back to have 23 staples removed.
I am happy to report that I can still walk after an operation at America’s worst hospital!
Is it really that bad?
In reality, it Is not. It is bad by American standards but pretty good by Pacific standards. I mean nothing in Papua New Guinea will compare to it.
A big part of the problem with LBJ is the way it is ran. The government wants to make it a community thing. They use the Medicaid money to try and make it dirt cheap for everyone instead of making the Americans on island that are actually in need qualify. It is a bad model that is highly political.
The answer to everything serious seems to be “go to Hawaii.” While that sounds good, it is not practical for a community that is a $700 flight each way from the next closest medical center.