Friday, April 20, 2012

Spanish Doctor Visit

I had heard that getting medicine in Spain was much easier. In the fifty-something page booklet of information Auxiliars read before even being accepted to the Auxiliares de Conversacion program, healthcare is mentioned. We are provided insurance through our work which means we do not have to pay anything to see the doctor. However, medicine is not included. According to the book, medicine in Spain is cheap and it is like buying it in the United States with insurance.

So it may be free to see the doctor and cheap to get medicine, but that didn't make me want to need that service any more. It is mid-April 2012. I have been in Huelva since mid-September 2011. I only have a month and a half left of this grant. So I thought I was home free. Spring is here so I shouldn't be catching the cold or flu. So I shouldn't need to visit the doctor. That was great. I don't like to go to the doctor even in the United States where I can easily speak the language.

But last Friday (which just happened to be the 13th) after taking a nap, I woke up with lower back pain. I dealt with it for several hours and then finally went to bed just to sleep it off. Unfortunately, the next morning I woke up with the same pain. That was odd, I can usually sleep stuff away. Later Saturday I noticed that I would scratch an area on my side and it would feel better, or other times if I added some pressure it felt better. On Sunday I began noticing a few spots and so I started researching what it could be and determined it was shingles. I had the back pain, the itchy feeling, I had experienced a few headaches, and some of the other symptoms.

Of course, I am no doctor so I mentioned it to some family and friends. Their first impressions was also shingles. But my case was minor. There was no rash, just a few bumps here and there and the pain. My pain was only minor so there was no need to get the doctor involved, I would just let it run its course. Then Monday a small rash began to form; it still didn't concern me. Until Tuesday night when it began to hurt me to breathe and I finally decided to go to the doctor the following day after work.

I was nervous. I had heard several people complain about having to go to go to several doctors until one would finally admit they had a sinus infection and give them a prescription. But I prepared for the doctor by writing out some words such as "rash," "shingles," and "chicken pox." The work paid off. The receptionist asked what I wanted to see the doctor for and I told her I thought I had Herpes Zoster. I was soon called into a small office.

Inside the office the doctor sat at his computer. When I entered the room he asked me what the problem was. I hesitated a little, not knowing whether to tell him the whole story from Friday to Wednesday or what. I decided to give the brief story: My back hurts and itches on my left side. There are also some outbreaks on my stomach and left side. He asked me to show him my back and I did so. Then he wrote a prescription. He never touched me. He never took my temperature or blood pressure. I never had to tell anyone my height or weight. I was in and out in less than 30 minutes and it was completely free.

Unfortunately free didn't last for long. I went to the pharmacy and expected to get maybe two medicines based on the report he gave me. But it turns out its four. But even at four I don't expect to pay more than 30 euros. A pain medicine that dissolves in water, a herpes antiviral pill, a cream to put on the rash and a rusty-colored liquid ended up setting me back about 150 euros. That isn't what I expected.

On the bright side, it doesn't seem to be anything serious. And I am able to go about life normally with the exception of having to medicate every eight hours. Luckily, although it is the same virus as chicken pox, shingles is not contagious. Life shall be fairly normal.

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