Thursday, May 26, 2011

medical treatment in a foreign country

I've been sick pretty much since I've arrived.  In fact, I think I've seen more doctors in Turkey than I have have in my life.

When I first arrived, I was greeted by warm Turkish hospitality...and a cold.  This is quite normal when first arriving in a new country...change in temperature, different germs and jet lag can all contribute to this.  I no sooner got over my cold when I suddenly had a new reason for why my nose was running.  A pink nosed, white, furry cat who I was temporarily sharing my appartment with contributed to my pet allergies.  After sniffling and sneezing for weeks, my colleagues insisted I go to the campus doctor.  I reluctantly agreed and asked the female Turkish MD for some allergy medication, as I am allergic to my cat.  She cleverly asked if I keep the cat in my house.  I told her I did.  The doctor is now talking to me very slowly.  'So, you have cat allergies, but you're keeping a cat in your house.'  'Yes', I replied humbly, 'I'm saving the homeless cat of Ankara.'  'Might I suggest', the doctor suggested, 'that you feed the cats outside of your appartment?'  By this time, the doctor looks quite tired, and is looking at me as though I have four holes in my head.  I nodded then paused.  'Um, can I still have a precription for some allergy medication?' I ventured.  The doctor wrote out a prescription for a nasil spray and my cat allergies soon subsided.

A sometime later, completely unrelated to cat allergies, I discovered that I had a polyp somewhere that a polyp is not supposed to be.  It would require a 'short proceedure' to remove.  After more examination, it would require a longer proceedure.  After confirmation with my health insurance, it would require a fairly lengthy surgery, in a surgical theatre with general anesthetic and an overnight stay in the hospital.  Ohhh....great.  I booked the surgery for a day my friend Eilidh was off work and set to packing my bag for the hospital.  Tuesday morning, E and I got up early and took a cab to the large, private hospital near our university.  I must stop and explain the difference between public and private hospitals, because this is something we don't have in Canada.  In Canada, all of the hospitals are public, and healthcare is free (er, included in our taxes).  In Turkey, public hospitals are available to everyone, but those with good health insurance or good amounts of money, can go to a, shall we say, nicer, hospital.  I've heard horror stories about public hospitals in Turkey, but since I've never set foot one, so I can't really comment.  I can say that the hospital I went to was alot closer to a 5 star hotel than a hospital.  There are only about 100 beds in the whole place, and they are all comfortably situated in large, tastefully decorated rooms with private bathrooms complete with tiny bags of lavender and miniature bars of soap.  The whole place doesn't even feel like a hospital, because hospitals have a stressy, rush-rush kind of atmosphere about them.  But not this one.  There weren't very many people even in the hospital, that I could see, and there seemed to be more staff than patients.  The staff did not seem to be stressed or overworked (although I am sure they work very hard), they seemed to have the time to chat with the patients and answer questions.  Lots of staff took the trouble to introduce themselves to me and say 'get well soon.'  The hospital nutritionists even came around to ask me about my food preferences and bring Eilidh a tray of lunch.

Recovered from my last visit to a hospital, my body failed itself again.  When I was in Budapest, Hungary last year, I had a pedicure in those Turkish (Hungarian?) baths.  The tools were not properly sanitized, and as a result, I came home with a different kind of souvenir from Eastern Europe...a nail infection.  Super.  It took a while for me to notice (I paint my toes Barbie pink in the summer) and when I did notice, the campus dermatologist mis-diagnosed my nail infection as 'trauma to the nail', you know, from all those athletic activities I do (please note the sarcasm in the italics....those who know me well know that my fitness regime consists of dancing to rock bands and carrying shopping bags).  When I finally got the correct diagnosis, I started a series of antibiotics to help cure my nail, but in the end the nail had to be removed.  I go to the hospital solo on Monday, and have a near panic attack as they begin to inject anesthetic into my big toe(I don't do needles...E can attest that I am cool as a cucumber until someone hauls out a needle and reaches for my body).  At one point, I'm fussing so much, the nurse actually puts a cloth of something smelly over my nose, and I inhale for all I'm worth, hoping it will calm me down.  As usual, I recieved incredible care, the nurse made me stay lying down until I stopped shaking (post traumatic stress from the needles?), had the eczane deliver my meds, called me a cab and put me in a wheelchair to bring me out to the cab.  So, I am short one big toenail, but because the toe is so tender and walking the first couple days was difficult (I had to rest with my foot elevated), I got a week's resting report from the hospital.  My other injured friends who are recovering from other various surgeries (yes, there are that many of us) have set up a 're-hab' center of blankets and books on the lawn outside, and I have been working on my tan (it's getting quite nice).

What we learned:

May you never get a pedicure in Hungary, but medical treatment in a foreign country can be even better than where you're actually from!

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