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other days

28 Jan

 I love Slovakia. I love the people. I love that my kids get to grow up here. I love that I learned how to cook here. I love when it snows so much that you can hardly drive. I love that I can say, “my kids go to Slovak schools.” I love that my kids speak way better Slovak than me, and that in many ways this is home to them. I love that I feel safe enough to let my kids walk around the city without me, or take public transportation by themselves.

Many of my Slovak friends are surprised by all of this “love”. I’m not sure why they find it so hard to believe. Maybe they can’t believe their county could be so lovable. or maybe they think, my country is so much more lovable.

But then, no matter where you live geographically, there are always “other days”, when anyplace can be not so lovable! and so here’s my experience today. I’m not sure if I’m writing this to vent, to get compassion (maybe both) or to just give you a glimpse of life for me! one thing I do know, this experience that i had today isn’t because i’m “american” living in Slovakia (well, at least not all of it), Slovaks share with me the same frustrations of this experience.

Gwyneth has surgery this Thursday to have her metal rods and wires removed.  So she needs “pre-op” bloodwork;  easy enough. I have the paper from the surgeon, detailing what she needs and so we strike off a little before 7 am to get this done before her school-day begins.

Let me stop here, and just explain how “appointments ” work here. Basically, they don’t make appointments! You go, you wait your turn and try to remember who came first, or after you and then fight your way to the open door. It’s true. It’s a very aggressive scene, one I had to learn. There are, however, occasions when you can go before your “turn” (as in the case of bloodwork) but it still involves fighting your way to the open door (the open door is to the doctor’s room). Back to my story.

So Gwyneth and I arrive  7 am-ish. 9 people ahead of us, 4 and counting after us. With every cough, and snort, I am cringing, wondering if she will make it through this experience without getting sick  and then not able to even have her surgery! I’m so nervous about this, I move her to a window, open it, and stick her face into the fresh air. I start to get looks about this time, the open window and all. I try to ignore the looks.

The door opens, people exit and faintly I hear the word, “dalej”, which means “next”. It’s so crowded, I can’t get anywhere close to the door. A few more door opens later, the nurse comes out. I quickly move toward her and hand her Gwyneth’s chart (“shove” is probably a more accurate word).  I try to explain that we are only here for labwork. More looks, and she goes back in, tells me to wait.

She opens again and asks the crowd, “who is next for labwork.”  I scan the room, trying to remember the order i arrived. Uncertain, I  hold up my hand, and look around. I see another hand up and all at once I am CERTAIN!  I was there first and so I start walking in, not waiting for approval!

We go in, the nurse determines what vials she needs. You know, I worked for a doctor for 7 years, (13 years ago) and even “then” vacutainers were a no brainer. Here. Nope. Nada. Nic. Gwyneth is stuck with a needle while the nurse holds open vials under the “stream” until she is satisfied she has enough.At this point, Gwyneth is milky colored and saying she feels dizzy, I’m coaching her, “deep breaths”, “look away”.

Vials capped, each labeled with her name,  forms filled out. Then they are handed to me, with verbal instructions  where to take each one.  (And no not somewhere in the building).  Why do I find this so shocking? why does it seem so risky? No special bag or handling container, just the tubes with the blood,  in my hand. On to delivery.

Now today is a pretty snowy day. One of those days when the snow plows seemed to have the day off,  so everyone is driving extra slow and walking with extreme care. And so I start my journey of delivering each blood sample to the appropriate place.

 

To complicate matters, I’m “samoplatce” (self-payer) so the process of delivering the goods isn’t as straight-forward, apparently. At each place there is a drop-off window, but for me,  I need to pay cash, I can’t just leave the blood. This idea of self-paying makes me an enigma. So I wait. In most cases,  I am guided to an inside  room. I feel pretty special at this point, “behind the locked doors” on the “inside”. I wish I had enough courage to take pictures of what I see. But I don’t. I’m way too different as it is, much less, taking pictures to draw more attention to myself.   I wait some more  for someone to come, tell me how much it will be, pay and then wait for a hand written receipt.

 

Comparatively, it’s not expensive at all like labwork in the States. and I even admire the fact that they require this payment (no matter how big or small) before they do the work. I just wish it didn’t have to take so long. And especially when I’m told to come back in 1 hour to pay (which I didn’t do)!

So it’s 10:00 am, i’m finally on my way back home. All blood samples delivered and paid for (except for the 1, which I go back to pay at 2,30, when I am out again). I’m pooped. Mentally and physically, but mostly mentally because I realize tomorrow I have to go back for all the results, meet with the doctor, AND get her seen by an anesthesiologist.  This was way more complicated than I imagined it to be!

 

 
 

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