Story by Emmjay
… after a week of self-medication with asthma puffers and nasal lavage for a nasty sinus infection and a persistent chunky cough, on the day before Christmas Eve, I decided that enough was enough and I would chance my luck in the hands of the dreaded American (Hawaiian) medical industry.
I am absolutely not saying I got a virus on a 9-hour sardine tin Jetstar flight full of school kids. No way would I suggest that was the case.
But I was worried that since we were set to fly home on the 27th of December, that I was becoming too unwell to fly – breathing being one of my favourity things.
It was about 8:00 pm and I wandered down to the hotel reception and asked them how to see a doctor. They gave me a nicely printed card introducing the services of a clan of peripatetic medicos who would deign to attend me in my room. Man ! What service.
For some reason I had soaked up the understanding that it was going to cost a couple of hundred dollars to see a GP and being at death’s door, what could go wrong with that ? After all, if it turned out for the worst there would simply be a little less in my already bare-arsed estate.
The man of medical science – a Korean man, he was – arrived about an hour later. He peered down my throat, felt my enraged sub-maxilliary glands and listened to my chest (not with a stethoscope – he just listened) and said that in the interests of nailing my ailments quickly, he wanted to inject twice into my buttocks and once into my arm.
He nominated an industrial grade antibiotic, a steroid and an anti-inflammatory. Honestly he could have wanted to remove my lungs and have them dry-cleaned and I’d have agreed – I was feeling (searches for most appropriate description)… totally shithouse.
He mixed up the antibiotic cocktail, thoughtfully adding a tad of somethingcaine because injected antibiotics hurt otherwise.
It was at this time, FM (who was somewhat under the hammer herself) inquired as to the likely size of our investment in American voodoo. He was a bit evasive, indicating, I was led to believe, that the bill would be made up by his employer – somewhere in Florida. He got us to confirm that we had travel insurance and he was adamant that we would have no trouble being recompensed.
I mean he’s got a medical degree from the University of Seoul – he’s no dummy. He ought to be able to do a little mental arithmetic and add up the bill roughly. So FM tried to assist him.
“Will it be in the hundreds ?” He looked shocked. “Thousands, then ?” she persisted.
“Low thousands” he said. “Oh, great”, my smarting arse said.
He completed delivering the other two liquid miracles into my saggy muscles and the bill came in from Florida via an Email.
The break up of the bill was this – in round (very round) US$s:
- Dropping by: $450
- Diagnosis $200
- Giving injections: $200
- The antibiotics: $675
- Sterioid: $575
- Anti-inflamm $575
- Tablets (6) $200
Grand total – US$2,875 – or a tad less than A$4,000.
No wonder sick Americans crawl over the border to Mexico or Canada – all hail Medicare and the Australian pharmaceutical benefits scheme !
I have to say I was shitting blue lights at that stage and increased my mortgage to cover the MasterCard hit.
Next morning, in a lather, I read the fine print on our travel insurance. They said I had to phone their 7 X 24 helpline. So I did. The good folks at NRMA sounded very re-assuring. I had interrupted their Christmas dinner, but nothing for them was too much trouble.
They said the most important thing was to get better and that I would need to get my GP to write them a letter to confirm my trouble wasn’t a pre-existing condition. He did, and they paid up 8 days later less $100 excess.
I was, and remain unhappy with the hotel for pointing me in the home visit direction – which probably added US$1,000 to the cost of simply walking down to a local clinic. The hotel people probably wanted to minimise the risk of me seeing a witch doctor and suing the hotel. Had I called the helpline first, the NRMA people could have pointed me to one (an accredited clinic, not a witch doctor) – but then one probably doesn’t make the best decisions when one is coughing up bits of lung.
Just a word of warning – unless you’re leaking claret all over the floor with multiple gunshot wounds and broken bones (an every day event in America, it seems), DO NOT GO TO THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT OF AN AMERICAN HOSPITAL. That is infinitely more expensive … “Mother’s maiden name ?” – $100. “I’m sorry, how do you spell that ? Another $100….. sparkling or still oxygen ?
Just by the by … a month later I’m still recovering – it’s apparently some North American super virus that also attacks the gut as well as the respiratory tract. That – or the industrial grade antibiotic killed all my gut flora and some other pathogens moved in. I feel a lot better, and hope to be in top form before this year’s City to Surf. (No way am I running…. it’s just a November date reference)
But what a joy it was to return to Australia. To my own GP and be bulk billed. And then have to fork out for the medicines – TENS of DOLLARS !
May the goddess bless our South Sea paradise.
… I forgot to thank the lovely Australian lady who apologised for overhearing my discussion with the hotel manager the next day “Sir, we never recommend doctors”, “Really ? What would you suggest your printed card was, if not a recommendation ?”
That kind Australian lady offered to give me some of her stash of Australian amoxicillin – to tide me over, but I was already medicated to the gills. Bless her for her thoughtfulness, generosity and kindness.