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.