Why Hawai’i is no country for old men

March 3, 2023



Maui is our fantasy. The vibe is perfection. We daydream about living in the peace and tranquility of this beautiful island.

So we try to visit at least once a year, and this year it was mid-February. An idyllic week on our favorite island with close friends from our home town.

As usual, we had beers with our local Maui friend to get the real lay of the land,  and asked him if medical care on the island had gotten any better.

No. Still the same problem attracting doctors and other medical personnel.

We sighed, and went back to our regularly scheduled program of rest and relaxation.

And then, things took an … interesting… turn.


After a week in Maui, we hopped over to Kaua’i to meet up for a few days with three old friends from our days in Tallahassee, Fla.  One had a condo at Princeville as his second home, so for convenience, we rented a studio condo in the same complex.


Our first full day was a beach day…watching surfers, talking about old times, catching up on current events.

no-country-for-old-menThen, we went back to our condos to…rest up some more.

M and I had been there about 10 minutes when an ominous THUD! broke the quiet.

“Are you ok?” I called out to M.


I ran to the kitchen, where he lay on the floor flat on his stomach. The thud was his head hitting the stone floor, which was covered in blood. I mean COVERED.

“Are you ok?” I asked again, hoping I’d hear “I’m fine!”

“NO,” I heard. I wasn’t sure what had happened. Could he even stand up? Had he broken anything serious? When he stood, I had my answer.

A huge gash on his forehead was gushing blood all over the stone tile. I didn’t panic. I grabbed paper towels and he applied pressure.

It was hard to know how truly bad it was because M is on blood thinners — any little thing makes him bleed. But I was worried about a head injury.

Stand by, I texted our friends across the parking lot. Michael took a fall. He’s bleeding profusely.

“I’m going to text our doctor,” I told M.

“No! Don’t do that,” he protested.

Triage–by a lawyer?

Our local friend appeared at the door with large bandages, Neosporin and a critical eye. For the first time I looked at what lay beneath the paper towels: M had a huge, bloody gouge above his eyebrows. An entire chunk of flesh seemed missing. Exactly in the spot where the bear in the image above is hurt.

“That’s going to need stitches,” our friend said. “You need the ER.” No, he isn’t a doctor. He, like the rest of the group (except for me) was a lawyer. Of course, he’d been a health care lawyer, so maybe that qualified him to assess. In any case, we took his word for it.

They left for the hospital. I stayed back, immediately texted our doctor, then mopped up the blood.

The closest ER was a relatively new hospital 20 miles away. It was empty, so M was immediately evaluated and stitched. Nine stitches. Given his heart condition, the doctor did an EKG. They didn’t like what they saw.

no-country-for-old-menOur doctor was actually on the east coast that day, where it was almost midnight.  She had responded to my text, “I’ll wait up and talk to the ER doctor.” I texted M that info and they called her from the ER. Our doctor was able to discuss M’s always strange EKG, send the Kaua’i doctor his most recent prior EKG (on the spot!) and they determined that the pattern was normal for him.

“You need a head CT scan just to be safe,” the hospital doctor said. “But our scanner isn’t installed yet. You’ll need to go to another hospital for that.” (Seriously???)

So off M and our friend went to a sister hospital, further away. Fortuitously, it was almost as empty. He was taken right into the CT room. Scan was fine. Thankfully.

When he got home, M. mentioned that the first ER doc had sat and chatted with him about the lack of medical care in Hawai’i.

There’s only one oncologist and one cardiologist on the island. The CT scan was being read remotely in Australia because the radiologists all went home at 4pm.

“This is no country for old men,” she told him.

No kidding. In fact, we’ve felt almost trapped in the Bay area, where we are blessed with exceptional medical care (what doctor is available 24/7 on text and waits up for an ER call after midnight?).

At our age, excellent medical care has become a criterion for any kind of move. And, sadly, eliminates Hawai’i from consideration.



Waimea Canyon / February 2023

M was banged up but said he felt fine. So off we all went to gorgeous Waimea Canyon. The round trip drive would take the better part of a full day, and the view did not disappoint.

That night, back in our condo, I realized I had developed a pretty bad sore throat. Oh no! Not good. I thought. It’s always a bad idea for me to fly with an upper respiratory ailment of any kind, since my ears are sensitive to changes in pressure and in fact, I’d lost my hearing twice in recent years and only regained it after massive doses of prednisone. And I do mean massive. Did not want to repeat that.

One timemI was trapped for two weeks 3,000 miles from home because my ENT doc wouldn’t approve flying. I did not want to be trapped in a state with inadequate medical care.

Of course, I hoped for the best, but feared I’d only get sicker. And then…what if I had Covid? No, didn’t want to be here if that were the case.

I swallowed a zinc tablet for immune support and quickly emailed my travel agent ,who was in Texas. I knew he, himself, was heading to Kauai the next day because we planned to grab a drink while we were both there. I inquired if we could get home the next day.  There didn’t seem to be a way. I went to bed hoping I’d feel better after rest.


Rain poured steadily and heavily all night. By morning I was no better. A negative home Covid test would not be reassuring, as symptoms were only 12 hours old and false negatives that early are not uncommon. Could we get a flight home that afternoon?

Weather was due to clear late morning, but it looked really iffy for the rest of the week. This was the best flying day we’d have all week. Chances are that flights later in the week would be cancelled. But. The gods were with us and we got seats on a flight that afternoon. I have never packed so fast.

Our flights were on time. We got home safely. Reunited with the pups.


The sore throat quickly abated, replaced by sinus congestion. No fever. I tested negative for Covid repeatedly and had what seemed to be simply a bad bad head cold with a cough. Our internist offered to call an antibiotic in for me, but I didn’t feel the need — no fever, so why take it? We filled it just in case.

Michael texted a photo of his wound to the Kauai doctor (as she’d asked) who told him it looked good, no sign of infection, no need for an antibiotic.

In the end, everything was A-OK. So how about a shaka sign?


But this turn of events was a lesson. It only reinforced how important excellent medical care is at this stage of our lives. Living on Maui will remain a dream, a vacation we take as often as possible. But not a place we can live as we age.

There’s no escaping that when push comes to shove, the San Francisco Bay area’s where we need to be.

Because unlike Hawai’i,  it IS a country for old men.

And women.

30 comments on “Why Hawai’i is no country for old men
  1. Linda Hobden says:

    Oh dear, that’s a shame for both of you! I hope you are both on the mend. I wouldn’t visit the island of Boa Vista in Cape Verde either- no hospitals at all and a “clinic” on the neighbouring island; if you did fall seriously ill, it would have meant an air ambulance transfer to either Senegal or the Canary Islands, both an hour flight away.

  2. I had a serious fantasy going a few months ago about switching to apartment living. The big advantage was maintenance-free housing, but I was also thinking about year-long leases that would mean that I could move every year, if I wanted — explore the country, a year at a time.

    Then, I started thinking about medical care. Even if I only chose cities with good facilities, it takes months to get in with a new doctor, these days. Switching doctors every year isn’t going to make sense as I age. Like you, I’m now settling for staying where I am with medical care that works for me. I’ll travel to other destinations, if I want, but not count on living in other places.

    I’m glad that you had some good time in Hawai’i before things got dramatic.

  3. Allison says:

    I’m glad you are both OK!!! Scary turn of events there… sending love.

  4. As much as I miss vacationing, I’m still not going into airports.

  5. Laurie Stone says:

    Oh no! What a challenging vacation. Never thought about lack of medical care in certain places, assuming all medical care was as good as we get on the East coast. What an important lesson. Hope you’re both feeling better. Hugs.

  6. Tammy Bleck says:

    Good grief woman, that was harrowing! Medical care was an optimal concern when deciding where to settle in for our golden years. As seniors, our needs are more accute and often more common. We can’t cheat death but we sure as hell can make it fight for us. Fight on!! xo

  7. Kathleen Canrinus says:

    So sorry to hear about M’s injury and your health scare too. Take good care. We are lucky to live where we do.

  8. Rena says:

    My God girl we have to catch up!!! What made him fall in the first place? Did he get dizzy call me this weekend if you can I will be home Sat and Sunday! Glad you’re home safely and didnt lose your hearing again! Love you girlfriend!

  9. Diane says:

    Ohmyword! That’s ending your lovely trip on an INTERESTING note! I’m so glad M is okay! Super scary!
    I remember, years ago, my MIL looking around as we entered a store and saying to herself, “Where’s the bathroom?!” I thought, at the time, how strange that was–needing to know ahead of time where the facilities were. Now I understand! I do it too! In fact, we choose stores based on ‘the-where-and-how-clean’ of their bathrooms.
    And that’s just the bathrooms!
    Now medical care…
    When we travel now, we always investigate, first, just how the medical care is and where it can be found! Wouldn’t have even thought of it ten years ago!

  10. Funny you mentioned Hawaii and medical care. When we lived in Honolulu for 3 months for my husband’s 2014 sabbatical, I got to experience a hospital in Paradise. I think there are more medical care options in Honolulu and Oahu than on Maui. When we were able to travel, I used to purchase medical evacuation insurance. Regular travel insurance will usually only get you to the nearest “appropriate” medical care facility. A travel blogger friend ended up in a South Africa hospital for 6 weeks because it could provide the level of care she needed.
    However, that left her many miles from family and friends.

    • Yes, there are more options on Oahu but that does involve flying out to it and it might not be in time. Wow– South Africa, well, that proves the point, doesn’t it!

  11. Donna says:

    Oh Carol I panicked when you said he was on the ground with blood everywhere. Even though I knew he had to be ok, I panicked!
    If I so much as touch my chest I have to answer a 3 page questionnaire. It is hard to be away from drs. That is our truth. Please tell M I am so happy he is ok. Are you feeling better?

  12. Alana says:

    I winced – badly – because my husband tripped on a sidewalk crack back in 2017 and ended up with a broken nose, damaged shoulders and was very fortunate (per the neurologist he was sent to because of hitting his head) that he didn’t fare any worse. This was two blocks from our home. If we had been elsewhere??? (plus he wasn’t on blood thinners then, but he is now) This is a wake up call for us and future travel plans.

  13. Jennifer says:

    Such a scary thing to happen and so far from home. I’m glad to hear he is ok, and I hope you got over your congestion in a timely manner. But don’t get me started on medical care in different states. In Florida, with so many seniors, you’d think there’d be great medical care…and there is if you pay for it. I’d never heard of a concierge doctor before until I moved here and found out that if you want the best doctor, you need to pay several thousand upfront just to have them on retainer. I will say, though, that since I moved from Orlando to Bradenton, I’ve found that we can get a great doctor without the retainer fee. I guess it depends on the area.

    • Our doctor is concierge. This is a hefty chunk each month but one we invest in because M has conditions that need quarterbacking. It’s paid of more than one. I had instant access to my doctor when I got pneumonia in Sicily one year and any time M has needed her critically she is on the other end of a text, a call, an email. We are just glad we can afford her. California prices…

  14. Meryl says:

    A real issue when older folks travel is the availability of medical care should we need it. Because of that Steve and I have crossed some destinations off our bucket list. We opt for safety.

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