Who would have thought I’d need a doctor in Prague? This morning I did just that. I had thought about going home early to see my physician there, worried about the intricacies of insurance abroad, the expense, and wondered if a doctor here would even let me fly, with what was now clearly some form of pneumonia.
Three weeks ago, I visited my internist in Boston about an incessant cough, fluid in my lungs, general lethargy and recurring headaches. She assured me that it was nothing to worry about, but that I had acquired asthma in my 50’s. What? I asked several times and said, “are you sure?”. It seems odd that it came on so suddenly. She insisted though, so off I went with my two inhalers and began using them with little relief before heading off on my European vacation.
Now, three weeks later, I’ve had one of the most awful trips of my life. Incessant coughing, numerous pounding headaches, fatigue and dizziness. I saw maybe half of what I wanted to see in each city because I moved slowly and couldn’t stay out long.
This morning, Sunday, at 7am, I set out for a local clinic. When I arrived, the person at the front didn’t speak English, so I had to wait until someone came by who did. Once he arrived, it was translated that they only do Dentistry there on the weekends. Oy, I thought, but then, for some reason, I was sent to (what felt like the "magical") third floor. Of course the woman at that desk also spoke no English. I should have brushed up on my Czech before coming on this trip! The office looked like the set of a 50’s Soviet era medical unit. No machines, bare walls and only this one woman at the reception desk. Would they be able to help me? She called to someone who could speak English, who turned out to be the doctor, and I was soon speaking to someone who understood why I was there.
The doctor asked if I had insurance and I showed her all of my US insurance cards. She brushed them aside and asked for cash, explaining that I could be reimbursed at home for the visit. I asked for the cost, 500 Czech Kronas, she said. Reader, you should know that 100 Kronas = $5 US. This visit was going to cost $25 in cold, hard cash. I was ecstatic.
The exam was short and sweet. Not like at home. “Do you have a fever?” (What? You aren’t going to probe me and poke for my temperature, weight and blood pressure?) Yes, I believe I have a fever – as I was sweating into a pool in her office chair. “How long has this been going on?” For over three weeks, I told her. She listened to my chest and moved the stethoscope around like I have never seen. Probably 25 locations in a minute. “Yes”, she said, “this is definitely pneumonia”.
I was given a prescription for an antibiotic, something my home doctor would not do since the x-ray (the x-ray!) they took of my chest showed no pneumonia! Thank god for technology.
You’d think that would be the end of the story. YOU try to fill a prescription in a foreign country at 8am on a Sunday morning! The clinic suggested two pharmacies on a map – both of which were closed. After wandering around for a bit, I got lucky and found one near a grocery story and breakfast place. I had breakfast, did my food shopping and waited until they opened at 9am.
I cannot tell you dear reader, what a relief it was to pop that first pill into my mouth and start to say goodbye to the blahs. I spent today in bed resting up and I was told that I would start to feel more like myself tomorrow.
All of my fears were unfounded about getting medical attention here. They were nothing but respectful and helpful. The language is an issue, but just continue to speak softly and wait for someone to show up who will understand. Someone always does. The cost was $25 for the visit and about $8 for the medication. I think I may not even submit them for reimbursement!