I went to the hospital.

That's right, I did. A Slovenian hospital!

This was about two weeks ago. I was having severe stomach pains and acid reflux that burned my throat. Lisa dragged me out of bed, where I was curled up in the fetal position and crying, and got me inside a cab.

The hospital here is organized like the university. Rather than just one central building, several wards are scattered around the main complex. I stepped out of the cab and saw streets lined with leafy trees fluttering in the sunlight. After entering the wide lobby the entire hospital becomes a labyrinth of slender halls. You can tell the hospital was built in the 70's: the walls are painted in solid mid-tones and corners and edges are rounded. The interior smelled clean, like a hotel room. After asking several people where the emergency room was, an exuberant middle-aged man in a smooth green smock lead us to the reception desk, but not after chatting with everyone he passed on the way.

When we told him we were from Canada, he immediately mimed sweeping the floor. He likes curling.

We sat in a narrow hallway. Elderly patients laid on gurneys down the length of the hall, murmuring to themselves or staring stoically at the ceiling. Someone called my name. I walked into one of the many small rooms adjoined to the hallway and hopped up onto the examination table. A young woman entered the room and pulled a pink curtain behind her. An intern was assigned to me; I got lucky. I'll digress a moment and explain something. In my short thirty-odd years, I've seen the inside of a hospital more times than most honest people. In my experience, having an intern examine you before the senior doctor swaggers in and coughs out his final diagnosis is like nibbling on a garden salad before tucking into foie gras.

I won't extend that metaphor anymore than I have to.

We waited in the crowded hall, shifting our legs to avoid the incoming gurneys carrying groaning patients. After an hour I was called back in and the doctor, in his staggered English, told me I was indeed suffering from acid reflux. He didn't know why. He wrote me a prescription and ordered me to see a specialist. Not just any specialist, but the kind that gleefully slides a fiber-optic camera down my esophagus and probes around my stomach. Everything else was fine. My bloodwork came back normal and the examination found nothing egregious.

I think, objectively, the moment was fascinating. I've never received medical treatment in a foreign country though I knew in advance that Slovenia has excellent healthcare. I found myself taking mental notes on how the hospital functioned; unfortunately, the pain and anxiety distracted me from my amateur observations. If I sit under a tree, with an open book draped over my thigh, my thoughts will have a chance to mingle.


Lisa said...

My favourite part was a toss up between the old man sweeping the floor assiduously with an invisible broom to mime curling and the fact that they called your name correctly. No Yason Veb here, take that Upravna enota!

Oh, and the fact that you are feeling better, that's good too ;)

jess said...

acid reflux....
are you a-ok now?

big hug (for your throat, i guess) :)
jess :)

Jay said...

I am feeling better!

Jess, my throat appreciates the hug.

Camille Acey said...

whew! i am signing up for insurance soon so my ears perk up any time any one talks about hospital experiences here.

We had to rush a friend to the hospital about a month ago. she got called pretty fast by the triage nurse and then she told us she'd be OK to wait to see the doctor for an hour, so we should go on home. she called us the next day and said she ended up sitting there for 12 hours because the doctor told her he couldn't help her if she had a dramina in her system (she'd taken one to ease her pain), she sat there for hours until the drug WORE off at which point the doctor proposed a solution that was going to be far too painful for her to bear. she never actually got her problem solved and just sort of waddled back home after sitting in pain for hours. i guess it all depends on the day and the ailment though.

glad you feel better. sorry about the reflux. i've been suffering from it for about two years now. i think stress, booze, and fizzy drinks (combined with a bad post-nasal drip problem) are the triggers for me. i hope you got a cure or at least something strong!

Jay said...

Camille: Insurance is the way to go while living abroad and I recommend to everyone that they purchase some before leaving (that's the lesson for the other readers!). Unfortunately, my insurance only covers emergency care and nothing else. If I need to see a specialist I have to wait until I return to Canada.

I'm sorry to hear about your friend; I hope she's feeling better. The line-ups are long, though in Canada we're used to waiting. Overall I found the staff at the hospital here to be helpful and thorough. I think you're right: some days are better than others.

Thanks for the kind words! I get a little queasy now and then but I'm good. Although cutting back on booze is painful enough . . .