Since moving to Ibiza, I’ve gotten sick several times. I don’t know if it’s the extremes of the weather (warm during the day, cold at night), the humidity, or not wearing house slippers and scarfs as much as people tell me I should.
Unlike in my hometown or in Argentina (where the doctor comes in a brightly decorated van and sees you in your own house!), I have found that with my health insurance, getting fast medical treatment is a simple task.
For example: One day, as I was starting to feel like I was getting a sinus infection, I was walking around Ibiza Town and saw that there was a small clinic open. I walked in, asked if they took my insurance, and after I positive response I was ushered to see the doctor. I told him what I felt and he wrote me a prescription. I was in and out in about five minutes.
Aside from the time I came across the small clinic, I have gone twice to Urgencias at a large medical complex in Ibiza Town. The process is quick (as long as there isn’t a long line) and simple. Without an appointment or having to pay any copays or fees, you walk in, hand the secretaries your insurance card, and then they tell you to sit in the waiting room. Each time I went, I have been called within a few minutes.
The waiting room is equipped with a Lavazza station and gorgeous mural sized photos of Ibiza on the walls. It’s almost taunting as if it’s saying, HA! You’re on a beautiful island and you can’t even appreciate it…
Similar to when last week I was retraumatized regarding the chicken accident, going back to the emergency room this morning jogged my memory about my first visit.
The first time I went, it was mid-October. Having the same symptoms as I had this morning – feverish, painful sore throat, congestion- I called the mom and begged her to take me to the doctor. This was pre-driving, and without the mom driving me places, I was stuck.
The mom wasn’t so excited to do it. I don’t think she was aware of how much pain I was in. I’ll give her a break, though. After having chronic UTIs her whole life, allergy to caffine and glutin for years without it being diagnosed, and surviving a near-fatal car accident (we’re talking about months of surgeries, tons of broken bones, bones bulging out of her skin), she has a high pain tolerance, and doesn’t seem to take pains seriously when other people have them.
After finally convincing her to take me, we were in the car when she made a call over the speakerphone (this is typical- I’ve listened in a many conversations that I probably shouldn’t have) to her nephew, who I refer to as “the cousin.” Speaking in quick Ibicenco, I didn’t get every detail, but realized that he was going to pick me up after I was done at urgencias.
The cousin is like a kind-hearted, less-tan, Spanish version of Pauly D from Jersey Shore. He loves to go out, and we had a long streak of always running into each other at clubs. He always wears tight half-way button shirts, lots of gold jewelry, and his hair always has a lot of gel in it. Similar to his grandmother, he also drives like a maniac. His preferred incorrect habit usually centers around driving so fast over speed bumps that your head hits the ceiling of the car.
Once the mom dropped me off at the emergency room, I was quickly seen by the doctor, and given my prescription. He said I had anginas, which is what they call strep throat, so he prescribed me antibiotics. During this part of the process, it is common to have many different nurses and doctors open up the door, talk to each other, either about work related things or not. Doors will open and close, people will shuffle in and out.
I had just texted the cousin to tell him to come get me because I had finished, when on the way out, one of the nurses grabbed me and asked me if I wanted a quick injection meant to help the inflammation I had. Obviously willing to do anything I could to make the pain subside, I said of course. She assured me it would only take a couple of minutes.
She took me back to a few dark rooms where other patients were. There were several elderly men getting some sort of treatments done in a line. They all stared at me intently as old men tend to do. There is virtually no privacy, or division, between beds or patients, so one can see everything.
I walked into one of the empty rooms with the nurse and on one of the two beds there was some intense blood stain. I guess they didn’t have time to clean it up yet. This particular shot was one that they put on your glute – my favorite.
She shoved it on my butt cheek and I was already on the move to check out when I started to get really hot. There was a line to checkout, and I was waiting, and with each passing second I started to feel stranger and stranger. Then as the woman in line was getting her insurance card back, I noticed I couldn’t see her anymore. There were dots and a big white sheet over my eyes.
I said to the nurse, in surely what I can imagine only sounded just like a line in a dramatic movie, “Estoy.. un… poco… mareada…” (I’m a little dizzy).
Right after that I semi-keeled over and felt a nurse behind me. Someone was taking of my sweater and another nurse gave me water. Things were black for a while and the way I imagine myself handling the situation is saying things in a loopy voice with my eyes closed and heavy breathing. Because I had sent the cousin the message, I kept saying “someone is waiting for me, I have to call him.” The nurse said “I’m sure he can wait a few more minutes, it’ll be fine.”
They then pushed me in wheelchair, past the elderly men (who were even more curious this time), back to the room with the blood soaked sheets (I was placed on the other bed). They had me wait around a half an hour before they felt comfortable having me leave.
In my defense, they later told me that I was the third person that day to faint from that shot. What?
After I left the clinic, I tried to call the cousin several times. He wasn’t picking up. I saw a few missed calls from him from a half an hour earlier, and was worried he got confused and left.
I laid down outside against the wall. When I heard a “QUE TE PASA” (What’s happening to you?). I knew it was okay. The cousin hadn’t given up on me. He drove me back to the house, just as I had expected. I was feeling so lousy that I couldn’t handle his driving, but didn’t have the strength to say anything about it either.
On this particular visit I just had, since I had gone through the process before I felt like a pro. They offered to give me a shot and I told them what happened last time. Instead, they hooked me up to an IV and pumped some anti-inflammatory liquid into my veins.
The process took around 10 minutes, and during this time I felt like I got clued in on some of the hospital drama. I love overhearing conversations, especially when it’s about people’s coworkers. “He sent me this text, she responded this…” and other tidbits.
The IV in my arm had two different sides, so one could put two different liquids through it at the same time. There was a valve on the top that controlled the opening. After the liquids had been pumped into me, the nurse removed the attachable liquid tubes, but did not “turn off” the valve. She turned away, and within a couple of seconds my blood was squirting out of the two openings and getting all over the chair and the floor. Again, since I was exhausted, I could barely say to her “hey, my blood is getting everywhere.” It was an inappropriately delayed reaction to the red liquid tattooing my entire area.
She let out a slight laugh and turn the switch to close the IV. Her supervisor came over to me and after she had left, made a scrunched up “thinking” face and made some hand gestures that made it seem like he was trying to remember if you opened it by turning it this way, or closed it by turning it the other way. A few minutes later she came back wiped some of the blood off my arm and chair.
At least I didn’t faint while I was bloody.
There are things that I appreciate about my experience at this hospital. It’s a humanness and closeness between the patients and staff that I haven’t had anywhere else. I’ve never been treated by a mean doctor or nurse, but the way people have treated me here is much warmer than other places. The secretaries give you sympathy and wish that you feel much better soon; the nurses who caught me after I fainted and give me water and rubbed my back in a caring way; and the nurse this morning who gave a hand squeeze when I told her these things make me faint a bit. All examples of how they make me feel more welcome and comfortable.
Even the lack of privacy, which may signify a lack of space, makes it feel more familiar. If all of the doctors and nurses are there to help you, then why should you be hidden from them? It reminds me of the differences of getting a bikini wax in the states and in other countries. Why in the states do they leave the room as you remove your clothes, when you know they are going to see your vulva and rear end anyway? In other countries, they just say “take it off and get on the table.” Simpler.
What have your experiences been like getting medical treatment abroad?