Thursday, April 16, 2009

adventures in medical care

When you think "medical care" you're probably not looking for an adventure but that's what I got in Greece.

Since the first week in Athens my foot has been giving me grief again...swollen, painful, and aching pretty much 24/7. Since we've had such big weekend plans I spend the weekdays elevating and mainly staying put...and yes, it stinks. But, I'd rather enjoy my weekends with the Wife and pay for it while she's at work. Of course my foot doesn't appreciate the 8-10 hour sightseeing days and it has gotten so bad I finally broke down and called SOS to find a doctor.

SOS is a service Coke provides for the international peeps to help find proper health care wherever you may be. I've heard some complaints about it but I found the process easy, the personnel to be pleasant/helpful and I was just happy to have someone else scout out an English speaking doctor.

After dealing with this foot for a year I'm well aware I need to see an orthopedic surgeon not some general practitioner. Apparently in Greece it takes forever to get an appointment with a specialist so I was instructed to go to a private hospital and be seen in the emergency room. They said once they determined it needed to be seen by an orthopedic they would bring one in.

Being American I thought this was strange...first off this is not "emergency" and when I hear the words "private" and "emergency room" and I'm thinking mucho dinero. But, this was what they said to do so I headed off on Tuesday to the EuroClinic.

The hospital was fairly small and it only took me about 4 desks to reach the one I needed to go to check myself into the emergency room. English was limited and I may have had to have the administrator lead me directly into the emergency room after being kicked out of what I think was the cardio wing...but, whatevs, you trying reading Greek signs.

Their emergency room consisted of 3 beds in a room not much larger than our hotel room and our hotel room is not large. The administrator pointed for me to sit on the middle bed and after a few minutes a nurse pulled a curtain around me. The thing that really struck me about the room was how freaking hot it was in there. I'm not sure if they are just unaware of the whole "germs can't live in cold" theory but I was seriously sweating.

I went through about 3 nurses that didn't speak English before the doctor came to see me. He spoke a little but had no idea what "fracture" or "tendinitis" meant. After explaining to him about the "fire in my foot" he decided I needed x-rays. I was asked about insurance at this point and I attempted to explain that yes I had insurance but that I would pay and file with them myself. I don't even know how many people I spoke to about this but the last girl seemed satisfied by my swearing to God that I would pay or maybe it was the tears welling up in my eyes that convinced her. Either way an orderly wheeled me to radiology where I sat in a darkish hallway for a half hour or so before the tech came to get me. After the x-rays he wheeled me back out into the hall and I sat for another 30 or so.

After examining my x-rays for about 20 minutes the ER doctor decided I needed an orthopedic to come look at me. I asked him if the toe bone had healed and he said "uh looks to be healing". To be honest, language issue or not, I don't think this was the brightest of doctors.

So I sat and watched the doctor and a nurse eat pasties in the corner while waiting on the ortho. When he showed up I was pleasantly surprised that his English was fairly decent and was thrilled that he actually knew what "fracture" meant.

He told me that my bone had healed displaced. Which is what my U.S. doctor had been concerned about. Although it sounds silly your big toe takes 30% of the weight and stress with every step you take so having this joint be screwed up is going to cause me issues forever. He prescribed me some mega anti-inflammatory to get the joint inflammation and tendinitis under control and instructed me to stay off my foot as much as possible. So, nothing really new except that on top of my chronic tendinitis I also have this stupid toe joint to deal with too.

After a lot of debating between the doctors and nurses they handed over my bill. It was in Greek so I had no idea how much it was going to be. They had been so concerned about me being able to pay I expected it to be at least over $500 Euros, especially with the x-rays. When I got up to the desk the lady politely requested $157 Euros in total. I couldn't believe they had made such a big can't even buy a pair of shoes in the Plaka for that.

It was raining when I left and 7 taxis refused to take me to my hotel. Seriously, I really hate the taxi drivers here...but walking block after block did allow me to find a pharmacy to get my prescriptions filled.

My foot seems a little less swollen today and maybe feels a slight bit less painful. We leave for Paris tonight and I refuse to miss out on our long weekend. I'm sure I'll be paying for it dearly next week but, oh well..I think Paris is well worth it.


MJ said...

So sorry to hear of your troubles! But, push SOS to get you to a real doctor that speaks English. They can do better than "just go to a private hospital". You probably need more than just drugs to fix this toe!

That, or I can recommend a good orthapedist in Belfast.... ;)

dinosher said...

Isn't it amazing what we take for granted in America when we have decent health insurance?? Luckily, they seemed to help a bit and you actually got an X-ray. A London GP would have told you to take some paracetamol (similar to tylenol) and come back a week later if it didn't help. Hope your toe feels better! -Sherry

Anonymous said...

I hope your foot feels better soon...elevate and relax :)- Lidia