Saturday, September 3, 2016

The reluctant medical tourist

I have the dubious distinction of having been x-rayed in four different countries now. The US any number of times, eastern Germany for my broken arm and to test for TB (negative), Nigeria for my spine (badly misdiagnosed by the radiologist), and now South Africa for my chest.

One of our hosts had the flu that was going around. Then JT got it and we stayed from church that Sunday. Then Princess got it. Then I got it, only I seemed to have it harder than the others. Frau Maska once joked that whatever injury or illness was going around, I always seemed to say, "Ooh, I'll have some of that!"

Next door to the local pharmacy is a doctor and dentist office open 7 days a week, no appointment needed. JT was mostly better by then and Princess had an earache too, so our host most graciously drove us down to the doctor. The doc found that the earache wasn't a formal ear infection yet, gave her some antibiotics anyway, and Princess has been steadily improving since. Cost to take uninsured Princess to the doctor: $25.

My problem was that I coughed so hard and so much every time she asked me to inhale, she couldn't listen to my chest to see if there was a problem. So I got sent off to the formerly-nun-run hospital for x-rays, with another ride from our B&B hosts.

It was pretty easy to find radiology. The waiting room was not packed, but it was pretty full, with more broken legs walking in all the time (poor legs!). I handed them my referral, showed them I had student insurance from my employer, and within 30 minutes was taking some grainy pictures. (Pro tip: If you can't take a deep breath without coughing, you sure as anything can't HOLD a deep breath for the x-ray). 10 minutes later I had a CD and I was back on my way to the local doc. No charge, no fee. The insurance cost UP all of $20 a month. Seriously. I want this insurance back home! Didn't have a copay for the doc either. Oh, and if we had signed Princess up for the insurance, it would run $15 a month.

Doc confirmed my left lung was infected/damaged/something, proscribed the single NASTIEST medicine I have ever taken in my life (which is also used to treat dementia! Bonus!) and some other stuff. The hardest part of the ordeal was the incompetent pharmacist who took over 45 minutes trying to find my prescriptions in the computer. By that point I had been up for hours, hacking over everything, faint, and low blood sugar. I just laid down on the store floor in a curled up ball while waiting for her to get her act together.

Image result for plastic tie
Incidentally, they use these to attach
the hubcap to the tire to prevent theft too!
Check out was interesting. The pharmacist puts your medications in a steel cage and locks it with a plastic tie thingy (pictured). If I'd been a bit more conscious, I would've taken a picture. You take your cages to the register where they bust them open, scan the medicines, and tell you that the numbers don't add up so they need to contact a supervisor. Whelp, guess I'll spend some more quality time with the linoleum! Can I at least have my candy bar while I wait? The supervisor offered to bring me a chair, but it never showed up.

That was Monday. I'm doing much better after my antibiotics. I do have to confess that the nastiest medicine in the world does its job. Fever left and hasn't come back. I've still got a cough that doesn't want to leave which made teaching 2 and 3 hour class sections challenging, but it's all on the up and up.

Really it was one of my best hospital experiences. Faster service than anywhere else. Wonderful insurance. Doctors readily available. And how about the amazing, above and beyond the call of duty service from the grandpa who owns the B&B? 4.5 hours shuttling around a sick guy that he hadn't been planning on and not a word of complaint, asks after my health later. Really nice people. I mean, really, if you have to be sick somewhere that isn't home, it would be challenging to do better than South Africa.