Spanish healthcare chronicles: the doctor

Well, I finally did it. When I had some pretty serious heart palpitations, I got more serious about getting my fatigue checked out. In fact, I basically promised my nurse friends I would. That was during lockdown. So I waited. But then it occurred to me that if it was anything complicated, I wanted it sorted out before returning to the States for the summer. So I finally scheduled a video appointment. 

I had jotted down notes in Spanish, but I was still nervous. The doctor appeared, a doting grandfather, who was a wee bit patronizing as if his days were filled with patients who had thought of nothing but their health problems during lockdown.

Regardless, he jotted down a request for an EKG and a prescription for something I couldn’t read to research. When I took it to the pharmacist, she calmly informed me that it was a relaxant to soothe anxiety. I smiled, said, “No thank you,” and continued on my way.

I have no idea how health systems work either in the States or in Spain. I’ve only been to the doctor once in my adult life and that was only to get a paper verifying I was free from specific diseases in order to obtain my Spanish visa. (Unless I count the time my parents hauled me into prompt care after 2 months of my wheezing and slouching around the house.)

Anyway, I braved the clinic in the neighboring town for my EKG. That’s when I found out that the doctor’s illegible scrawls had also requested another analysis and thus, another appointment was set up for the next morning. The next morning, COVID schedule buses insoportable, I walked to my appointment.

The nurses take for granted that everyone understands the healthcare system. It’s unfathomable not to go regularly to the doctor. I asked about my EKG and the blood analysis and what was I supposed to with the results? 

“When you get the results, give them to your doctor.’

Ah! There’s the rub! I let that settle as she stuck my vein and scarlet flowed into the little vials. (It was painless. I drank almost a gallon of water before my 9 a.m. appointment. It worked.)

“I had a video consultant,” I finally ventured. “I don’t have a doctor.”

The nurse’s busy hands stilled as my words sunk in. “Don’t have a doctor?! What? Are you crazy?!” Well actually, she said quite calmly, but with a level of understanding that almost earned her a hug: “Then when you get the results, set up an appointment. We have a doctor here at the clinic every day.”

Since then, I’ve made several returns to the doctor to check on an ineffective vitamin D3 prescription and blush over my cholesterol numbers (due to a volatile marriage of genetics and cheese). A waste of time? Maybe, but it feels more like a journey to grow confidence in the Spanish healthcare system and to eradicate hypochondria.

But my stomach seems a little distended of late. Is it Christmas leftovers… or a tumor?

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