Sunday, March 31, 2013

Nipping my influenza in the bud . . . . . or should that be in the butt?

2002, Padova
When I took a teaching job at the English International School of Padua, Lucio had promised he would provide health insurance for my family, but he hadn’t realized just how expensive that would be. After checking into the costs, he asked me to buy travelers insurance and then reimbursed me. Since my previous plan had been to forgo insurance for the year, I was happy to take what he offered, and I shopped around to find the best coverage at a reasonable price.

The insurance had a high deductible, but we would be covered for serious illnesses or injuries. As it turned out, we never had to use it. However, I did come down with a bad case of influenza that really wiped me out. I knew some antibiotics would help me recover more quickly, so I decided to try my luck at the urgent care room in the hospital. I could have asked Lucio to accompany me, but he was a busy man and I didn’t want to bother him. My Italian was improving, and I figured that some of the hospital personnel would speak English.

I didn’t know if I would be required to pay, but that was not my foremost concern. I just wanted to be get rid of the fever and aches and get back to work. I made it through the first round of inquiries and form-filling, and within an hour I was given directions to a waiting room, which is where my language skills failed me. After nearly two hours of waiting, I realized that the original dozen patients waiting with me had all been called, and the others around me had all come after me. I checked with the receptionist and she didn’t have me on the list, so she got on the phone and determined that I had come to the wrong waiting room. So much for my improving language skills! I was escorted down a long corridor to the right place, and I was seen almost immediately. My diagnosis was the flu, and I was given a prescription to fill at the farmacia across from the hospital. I was never asked to pay for the services received at the hospital itself.

Aren't you glad this is the only picture I'm
using for this post?
When I got home and took the prescription out of the bag, another cultural difference slowly dawned on me. My medicine was not to be taken orally but rather injected into my posterior. Of course I previously had received vaccinations this way from my doctor, but I had also learned to focus my concentration elsewhere so I could receive the needle without noticing the pain. Actually sticking myself with a needle in the butt seemed an entirely different matter; how I could focus on something else while taking care to put the needle in far enough and then squeezing in the medicine? Suddenly I had a new respect for the courage of the Italian people, who apparently received their prescriptions this way routinely.

Lucy somehow knew this was going to happen. She had read something somewhere in one of the tourist books that Italians sometimes use this method of medication, but I must have skipped that chapter.

“You could have asked them for oral medicine and they would have given it to you,” she said. “You could probably go back to the pharmacy and get a new prescription filled.”

Well, too late for that now. I would probably have to pay again for the new prescription, and I didn’t like that idea. But how could I go up the pharmacist and tell her I didn’t have the courage to inject myself. What kind of aspiring Italian citizen says that? If I was going to live like an Italian, I would have to buck up and . . . ask Lucy to give me the injections.

She didn’t like that idea at all, but fortunately, she loved me so much that she did it without complaining. I gave her lots of encouragement and brave talk about how it wouldn’t hurt me at all, and I always kept talking away and managed to avoid flinching when she did the deed so she wouldn’t feel traumatized. I’m sure if I had screamed like a girl, she would have been too shell-shocked to continue the series of injections day after day, which she faithfully did, bless her loving soul. Thankfully, the medicine worked very quickly and my flu retreated rapidly. Now I can say that I can’t believe those wimpy Americans who only take their antibiotics orally, not like us manly Italians who fear no pain.

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