Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Lady Doctors, Cowboys and the Gummy Bear Association Part 1

I'm just going to apologise to all the gents out there right off the bat.  You have (probably) never been to a gynecologist and had the pleasure of experiencing just how weird the whole ordeal can be.  In your home country, speaking your native language it is a hassle to have someone "all up in your business," so to speak.  I would wager that not one woman on the planet can say with a straight face, "I just love going to the gyno."  Nope.

What follows is a two-part story of how a tiny problem turned into a trip to the hospital and ended in cowboys and gummy bears.  Yep, you read that right.

Just like all medical experiences in Switzerland, let's just delve into this awkward madness.

First, a bit about basic health insurance and how it works in Switzerland.  It is required for everyone to have basic insurance and most people pay out of pocket for this.  Most employers don't include this in a benefits package, but they are responsible for accident insurance to cover anything that might happen to you on the job or on your commute.  Really basic personal insurance (namely the "cheap" option) is facilitated two ways: using the Hausartz model in which one goes to their general practitioner and they make further recommendations or referrals as needed; or the call-centre model in which you call your insurance's designated Dial-a-Doc and they discuss your problem with you and give you directions (not options - they are "verbindlich"- as in obligatory) on what to do next.  We have the latter.

One afternoon, I noticed that something just wasn't quite right.  No big deal, just noticeable.  I'll spare you the details.  So I dutifully called the Dial-a-Doc expecting the suggestion to wait a few days and if it isn't better, go see Dr. So-and-so and make an appointment for next week.

That is not what happened.

After explaining nonchalantly what the issue was to the doctor on the phone, she instructed me to go to the emergency room at the Kantonspital Baden.  Taken aback, I asked her if I could clarify in English because I was sure that I hadn't explained something correctly if these were her orders to me.  After a short interchange in English, she reiterated, despite my insistence that it really seemed unnecessary to warrant a hospital visit, that her instructions were absolutely necessary to carry out.  Verbindlich.  Immediately.  As in, get your ass on the bus and go to the hospital now.

Instantly my inner hypochondriac became unhinged - a beast that I have spent several years putting in check.  Side note: many librarians are, deep down, all neurotic about sicknesses, operations, and hospital cleanliness.  Got a stomach ache?  I'm looking up how to do laparoscopic appendectomies.  You know it probably isn't the case...but you'll just give it a quick look-up anyhow, right?  You get the picture.

So I got on the bus and rode to the hospital, convinced at that point that I've got Ebola or something equally untreatable and mentally apologising to the fellow passengers that I was certain I was infecting.  Ah...public transportation, what a good vehicle for a pity parade.

Three things about my experiences in the emergency room:

1) The Swiss National Yodelling Championship from 1986 plays in the registration/waiting room television.  Constantly.

2) The expectation to greet everyone and say goodbye to everyone in the room is still upheld, regardless of injury or circumstance.  We were greeted by a woman with a broken leg on a stretcher with a "Grüezi mitenand!" and everyone responded in kind as an orderly wheeled her by.  I actually find this quite impressively civilised.

3)  No one is really shy and your examination may be in a room with somewhere between 0 and 6 other people.  It was my lucky day and I was the only one in mine.

I will say that upon seeing a doctor, I received really attentive care.  After chatting for a bit, I explained that I'm not sure why my insurance had decided to send me to the emergency room for something that ultimately didn't turn out to be so scary after all.  She seemed confused and asked, "Why not?  Is this not done in America?"  I told her that, generally, people in America only go to the emergency room for things like broken limbs, car crashes, shootings, heart attacks, stabbings and such.  Emergencies.  She responded, "Well yes, of course, but what do they do for the rest of the time?"

Wait...what? Hahaha - oh Switzerland.  You're so cute.

What was her diagnosis?  Go see Dr. So-and-so and make an appointment for next week.

Stay tuned for part 2...