Hungary For Some Medicine

, , | Healthy | December 6, 2017

(When I left Germany for a semester abroad people warned me that every foreign student has at least one horror story to tell from their experience. This one is mine. I go to Hungary. All my classes are in English, and most of the people I interact with are fluent in either English or German, so while I only know the most basic Hungarian — introduction phrases, greetings, how to order food — my Hungarian is not good and I communicate in English most of the time. Two months into my stay, I wake up with massive pain in my ears, and they are wet, like liquid is coming out of them. I call my mother, a nurse, who tells me it might be a middle-ear inflammation and that I need to go see a doctor immediately. But since my European insurance only covers emergencies, I have not been to a doctor so far and have no GP in town. I start searching online for an English-speaking doctor I can go to. I eventually find out that my best bets are the so-called “emergency centres” of each town district, apparently some kind of doctors’ offices where you pay cash and later are reimbursed by your insurance company. I decide to call the centre of my district. The person who answers the phone hands me over to the doctor on call. I describe my symptoms and my suspected diagnosis and she tells me to come to them right away. I take a cab to the office, where I only find a nurse unable to speak English.)

Me: “Hi! I called earlier; I am here to see the doctor.”

Nurse: “No doctor!”

(With both of us using translator apps, we end up establishing that the doctor is not here and I will have to wait two hours. So, I wait in pain, cold, with my nose running like crazy, in the “waiting room,” a room completely empty except for one metal bench. The doctor arrives more than 90 minutes later. While she gathers her tools, I describe my symptoms again. As soon as I mention pain in the ears, she stops and turns around.)

Doctor: “You are in the wrong place. You need to see a specialist.”

Me: “I’m sorry, what? I told you all that on the phone; you told me to come here!”

Doctor: “No, you need to go to the hospital.”

(She gives me a paper that I hope describes the reason she is sending me away, and the name of a hospital. The hospital is way closer to my place than the emergency centre is and I am quite angry, sick and miserable as I am, that I wasted more than two hours when she could have told me to go there on the phone. But it is already past noon by now, on a Friday, so I hurry, as normal business hours will end soon. I reach the hospital. The receptionist, again not an English speaker, motions for me that I am in the wrong place.)

Me: *using my translator app* “I was told to come here!”

(The receptionist brings me inside where a nurse can translate for me that I need to go to another entrance, two buildings down. I thank them and am on my way. By now, I am suffering even worse. My head feels like it will split open, my ears just radiate pain, and my nose is basically dripping like a faucet. I reach the right entrance and hand the paper I got at the emergency centre to the receptionist.)

Receptionist #2: *pushes the paper back to me and talks fast Hungarian*

Me: “Please, I do not speak Hungarian. Beszelek nincs magyarul!

(She turns around and ignores me. I use my translator, type in, “Hello. I think I have an middle ear infection. I need a doctor; can you help me?” and hope the app will not mess it up too bad. I show the result to her, but she just looks away. I try to hand her my phone so she can type an answer in the translator, but she pushes it away, too. She ignores all my other attempts of communication. In my desperation, I use my last resort: I call the emergency number. As I am in a European capital, they should have some people speaking English. I finally end up talking to someone that understands me. By now, I am desperate and crying.)

Me: “Hello! I hope you can help me; I need an English-speaking doctor. I went to the emergency centre in [District];they refused to treat me and sent me to [Hospital]. But here, they won’t treat me either, and no one can tell me why! Please, I am in pain; I need a doctor!”

Operator: “That is no problem. I will find the closest doctor! Hmm… Yes… Okay! You need to go to the emergency centre in [District].”

Me: “STOP! I WAS THERE! I JUST TOLD YOU THEY REFUSED TO TREAT ME!”

(I am full-on crying now. I collapse to the floor, sobbing. The foyer is empty except for the receptionist that still ignores me.)

Operator: *sounding angry* “You need to calm down! I cannot understand you when you shout! I told you where to go, so go there! Emergency centre in [District]!”

(Finally, someone notices me. While I disconnect the call, a young med student runs to me, offering her help, and asking me what is wrong. I hand her my paper, explain what I have just been through, and tell her that the receptionist refuses to tell me where to go or to communicate at all. She goes and talks to the receptionist and returns with another piece of paper.)

Student: “Everything is all right. Your doctor sent you here because the ENT-walk-in clinic is here. But the clinic closed at noon. So, you need to go to the surgical ENT-ward. It is really close. I’ll write down the address for you. You go in there, hand the receptionist there your papers, and they will bring you to a doctor.”

(The address is just around the corner from my building. I go there, but when I see the building I lose all hope. I am not standing in front of a hospital; I am standing in front of a fast food place. I just want to go home, but I know that I need pain meds and antibiotics, and the search for a doctor will not get easier on the weekend. So, I enter the next pharmacy I see.)

Me: “I am so sorry, but can you help me? I have been searching for a doctor for more than four hours now. I am in pain, but everyone refuses to treat me! They gave me this address at the hospital, but there is only [Fast Food Place] there! And I know what they say about antibiotics in cow-meat, but I’m pretty sure I need more than a burger right now!”

(The pharmacists rush into action. One leads me to a chair and brings me water while the other one starts using the phone.)

Pharmacist: “Okay, I just talked to the hospital and found out what’s wrong. You need to go to [Address] Square, not [Address] Street. It is about 200 meters down the road. They can help you. Come by after and let us know you were taken care of, sweetie!”

(I finally find the right building. The nurses of the ward won’t talk in English, but with the help of my papers they find me a doctor. He is amazing; he even types up my medical papers twice, one time in Hungarian and one time in English. He even allows me to come back to the ENT-ward the next week for my checkup, so I will not have to go through that trouble again. I go back to the pharmacy to get my meds and the pharmacists hug me and tell me to go home and rest. Sadly, that is not the end of the story. I feel way better after a while. Next Friday I return to the ward for my checkup 20 minutes after they open. I hand the nurses the papers the last doctor gave me, but they seem confused. My translator app message, “Hello, I am here for my checkup with [Doctor]!” is ignored again. A man in scrubs notices me.)

Man: “Can I help you?”

Me: “Yes, I was here last week, [Doctor] told me to come back for my checkup.”

(He talks to the nurses and turns back to me.)

Man: “Someone will be with you in a minute.”

(I sit down in front of the window of the cubicle the nurses sit in and start reading a book. I am in plain sight all the time. I eventually even finish my book. More than two hours have passed. Further communication with the nurses seems futile and I am considering what to do when the man from before comes around the corner again. He sees me, turns red, and starts shouting at the nurses in Hungarian.)

Man: “I am so sorry; a doctor will be with you in a second.”

(As it turns out, that man was the chief resident. My doctor from my last visit had been called out of the ward and the nurses were supposed to tell a different doctor to see to my checkup, but they did not. The other doctor was there in two minutes. I know that I cannot expect all locals to understand English when I am the foreigner in a country whose language I do not speak. But even if you do not have a common language, try to help. Get someone to translate, try to use translator apps, or even use hand movements. But please, do not just ignore a crying girl that is asking for your help!)

Acting Narcotic Robotic

, , , | Healthy | December 5, 2017

(I have an invisible chronic illness, Chronic Pancreatitis, that was caused by complications from gallbladder surgery a few years back. I am on tons of medication on a daily basis just so I can function normally and work a demanding full-time job. One of these medications is a narcotic; because of the multitudes who abuse it, a lot of judgement is passed on those who legitimately need it.)

Me: “Hi there! Just need to get this filled.”

(I hand my prescription over to a pharmacist that I don’t recognize. These prescriptions are very specific for when you can fill them, and are dated accordingly. Everything on mine is legit, as I literally just left the doctor’s office.)

Pharmacist: *takes a long time to look at it, and keeps looking back up at me* “Are you sure it’s time to fill this again?”

Me: “Um… Well, yeah. I just picked that up from my doctor, and the fill date is listed. You can also check your system, because this is the only pharmacy I use.”

(The pharmacist gives me a weird look and says it’ll be ten minutes, so I go sit down to wait. A few minutes later I hear her on the phone, and I don’t really pay any attention until I hear her say my name. Turns out she is calling my doctor’s office to verify it, the whole time shooting nasty sideways looks at me. Okay, totally fine; I know they have to be careful and check these things, so I brush it off. A couple minutes later when I walk up to the counter to pick it up:)

Pharmacist: “You know, this stuff is really bad for you. You shouldn’t be taking this.”

Me: *stunned* “Well, it helps me stay upright so I can work. Haha.”

Pharmacist: “My sister was on this and it was horrible. I would have to tell her all the time about how bad it was and that she had to get off of it, and she was addicted. It was really bad and she had such a hard time. You shouldn’t be taking this!”

Me: “Well, I’m going to let my doctor decide that. Can I check out now, please?”

(I understand how many people get hooked on narcotics, and the rising epidemic in this country, but they do have benefits that people like myself need. I don’t even think this lady was worried about the bigger social issue; I think she just got it into her head that it was a horrible medication from her bad experience with her sister. I’m sorry, lady; you are a pharmacist who should know better, and until you gain your medical doctorate and start practicing gastroenterology, keep your opinions about my treatment to yourself!)

Will Be Getting Ribbed About That Forever

, | Healthy | December 5, 2017

(My uncle has some work-related back pains for which his GP refers him to a physical therapist. The therapy he needs is pretty painful, so when he comes home from a session one day saying the therapist has gotten him good, his wife — my aunt — thinks nothing of it and goes out running errands. When she gets home after a few hours and calls to my uncle to help her with the groceries, she notices he’s moving very carefully, wincing, and not breathing well. When she asks what’s wrong, my uncle tells her his ribs on one side have been hurting bad since therapy, and it isn’t getting better despite taking some painkillers. My aunt gently prods his ribs, eliciting a yelp. Knowing my uncle is pretty tough, my aunt gets worried and pulls up his shirt, uncovering a HUGE blossoming bruise on one side of his back. My aunt freaks out and orders my uncle to get in the car NOW because they’re going to the hospital. On the way there, she gives my uncle the third degree: What did he do? Did he fall? Did he get into a fight? What is he hiding from her? My uncle swears nothing happened; he went to therapy and came back, his ribs have been hurting since, and that’s that. The doctor at the hospital takes one look at the bruise and orders an x-ray, which reveals several BROKEN ribs. The doctor also interrogates my uncle, but gets the same response: all he did was go to physical therapy for his back pains.)

ER Doctor: “Did the therapist work on your ribs as well?”

Uncle: “Well, yes. Wait, are you saying…?”

ER Doctor: “That you should get a different therapist? Yes.”

(My uncle made a full recovery and got a different therapist who cured his back pains. The therapist who broke his ribs is still in practice and also coaches a youth sports team. I was on that team for several years and now hate sports. The guy received a Royal Ribbon for his investment in youth sports.)

That’s One Ticked Off Dog

, , , | Healthy | December 5, 2017

I was working the other day when a client called in frantically about her dog having a tick on it’s leg. I asked the doctor if we had time to fit her in and he agreed to see the dog.

The client arrives on time and we get her and her dog into an examination room. I happen to overhear her telling the vet that she had tried burning the tick off, tweezing it, and pulling it off.

The doctor looked at it for a few moments, looked up, and said, “Ma’am, this is a mole.”

Not Insured Against Bad Attitudes

, , , | Healthy | December 4, 2017

(I am currently working front desk at a private practice doctor’s office. I answer phones, schedule patients, do referrals, etc. This exchange occurs over the phone.)

Me: “Thank you for calling [Doctor]’s office. My name is [My Name]. How may I help you?”

Patient: *with a snarky attitude* ”My name is [Patient] and I need to know if my medication has been approved by my insurance.”

(Sometimes certain medications need a prior authorization in order for the pharmacy to dispense the med. I tell the woman no problem and get her info so I can pull up her chart.)

Me: “Okay, ma’am, it looks like it’s still being processed right now.”

Patient: *with even nastier attitude* “This is ridiculous. I need my medication.”

(I then look to see what medication she is talking about and it turns out it’s Zantac. This is an over-the-counter medicine that you can buy at any grocery or drug store.)

Me: “I’m sorry about that, ma’am, but PAs can take anywhere from one to six weeks. Sometimes medications that can be purchased over-the-counter take longer.”

Patient: *yelling* “I KNOW IT’S OVER THE COUNTER BUT I WILL NOT SPEND MONEY WHEN I CAN GET MY INSURANCE TO PAY FOR IT! I NEED MY MEDICATION NOW AND YOU BETTER DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS.”

(I then forwarded the call to the doctor’s nurse who informed her that she would get to it as soon as possible, but since the patient’s medication was available over-the-counter, she has to work on the others that aren’t. She also gave her a list of stores and other medications that will help her problem if she needs it immediately. Seriously, just go to the store and get some.)

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