Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Terka's US citizenship and Jeff's first visit to a Slovakian hospital!

A few of you probably know that Terezia had to fly back to the US this week to take the citizenship oath, her final step in becoming a full-fledged US citizen! The ceremony was held this morning at the lovely Paramount Theater in Oakland, and there were over a thousand people there obtaining citizenship. This is a huge deal for her, and I'm sad that I wasn't able to go back to the US with her to witness it (and celebrate). I'm also envious that she gets to hang out with my family for the week. She's obviously really happy about it, so send her an email to congratulate her, if you get a chance!

A few of you probably also know that I have a defective lower back. Every now and then, I throw it out, and then I'm in excruciating pain for anywhere from a few days to a week or more. My back went out Monday morning. I'll spare you the details, but I didn't do anything in particular to trigger it - it just happened when bending over. But this back blow-out has been really bad. It's been excruciating just to even walk, and my torso is jutting out from my waist to the side at a rightward angle! I haven't had one this severe in over four years, which was the last time I saw my chiropractor. Given that I'm now half way around the world from my chiropractor, and I currently have no health insurance, you're probably wondering what the hell I was going to do.

Luckily, Terezia's brother Tony stayed home today and offered to help. We called a local chiropractor, but he was booked until Friday. However, he said that it would only cost a mere 30 euros to visit him uninsured. Wow! What a bargain! Back in California it was usually $100 per visit to see a chiropractor sans insurance.

Next, we called a hospital in Bratislava, and they told us to come on in, saying they could see me and that it wouldn't cost all that much (for example, they said an x-ray would cost 7 euros!), but that there'd be some paperwork. So, we drove to the hospital, which is housed, of course, in a by now usual, bleak (but super clean), older communist building.

We found the urgent care clinic for people with injuries similar to mine (bone/joint-related, I think). It was basically a narrow, orange-colored corridor with several people sitting in chairs on either side, waiting. At one point a young nurse came out from a room and Tony approached her and explained our predicament. They motioned for me to come into the room, and before I knew it, I was pulling my pants down and being given an injection in the side of my ass by a young, blonde nurse. Basically, they decided it was too much of a hassle to fill out the necessary paperwork to treat someone with no health coverage, so they used Tony's health card. They also decided that since it would take approximately 2 minutes to deal with me and whisk us out the door, they simply treated me right then and there! So, no waiting! They also prescribed two types of medication - Dorsiflex and Almiral - which are more heavy duty pain-killing, muscle-relaxing, inflammation-reducing pills, apparently. They used Tony's card for this as well, and it cost me a grand total of 4 euros.

Let me just say that while I understand the Slovakian health care system apparently isn't exactly a model one, I was shocked and amazed at how radically different (and better) this experience was from American health care. In the US, I would've been stuck in the urgent care waiting room for at least a couple hours, and if I had no insurance, the bill for the injection and prescription meds would have been exorbitant. And no, I highly doubt any US health facility would have been willing to use a friend or brother-in-law's insurance card to cover another, uninsured patient. Furthermore, the couple times I went to the doctor (not my chiropractor) in the US for my back pain, the MOST I ever got was a referral for physical therapy, and absolutely no offer of anything that would actually ease the pain. The injection and the pills have already made a big difference. At the time of writing, I feel really relaxed, and I can walk, get up, etc., with relative ease again (although I'm definitely not yet back to normal). I realize the nurse's main objective was to get us out of their hair, but wow, they actually did something that helped! America - take note!

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