The medical adventures of a Russian woman in the US
"When I was living in Arkhangelsk, I was cursing the Russian healthcare system. Now I have found myself in the country of the almighty insurance and rich doctors. I was a fan of the ER television series. I sincerely believed that the healthcare situation in the States was the same as it was portrayed in the series. As it usually happens, the reality surpassed all expectations.
To put it in a nutshell, my child had a swollen toe, then she had a fever and the toe started turning red. If I were in Russia, I would simply dial 03, describe the symptoms and then wait for an ambulance team to arrive. In any case, a doctor in the house always gives a good hope for the better. I did not have an idea of what to do about it in America. As I have heard from other people, one should not call 911. It is much better to call someone for help, to faint and to let the helper dial the number. It would be also good to call relatives or friends to ask them to take you to a hospital. If you call a rescue team - they will definitely arrive very urgently. To be more precise, there will be more than just one team: an ER team, a team of firefighters and police officers. After you cope with all problems, you will receive an eye-opener - a bill. This will be the time when you will have to call 911 again because of the nervous breakdown.
I called a friend of mine - a nurse - told her about my problem and asked for advice. A Russian nurse would give me a profound consultation and guidelines. The response that I heard was absolutely American: "I do not have a right to consult you." First of all, she is just a nurse. Second of all, what if I were taping our conversation? She would have to work to pay the fine for the rest of her life because she would violate medical practice rules.
Friends of mine agreed to take us to the hospital that our insurance could afford. At 11 p.m. they delivered us to the hospital, told us to fill up an application and went away to find a parking space. When they came back, we had been wandering about the casualty ward for 20 minutes. Here is what we found there: one soda vending machine, one chips and cookies machine, two toilets, many comfortable couches and zero nurses and doctors. The medical personnel included: two big security men and one secretary. In about an hour and a half we heard a nurse calling our name.
Me and my child were shown to a cozy office filled with electric things. A sweet fatty woman weighed my child, measured her temperature and asked me about the symptoms. I thought that she was a doctor so I started describing every single thing that I could say. I expressed my suspicion of a spider bite. The nice lady put everything down and showed us back to the corridor. As it turned out, she was simply a nurse to register patients' complaints.
I was running out of patience. In about an hour, I saw a gentleman wearing a suit. He pronounced my name and asked us to follow him. We entered a light room with comfortable armchairs. He smiled to me and asked me to show him the insurance, the social security number and my ID. About 15 minutes later, they gave me a questionnaire. A lot of questions were about my religion. When the formalities were over, they asked us to wait for a doctor.
My husband and my friends were already asleep. I was very tired as well. When someone pronounced my name again, I was simply unable to react immediately. We entered a room with an armchair in the middle of it. And then I finally saw him - the doctor. He was a very young man. He immediately rejected my spider bite supposition - he said that it was simply a scratch and the swelling had been caused with dirt. It took the young man seven or eight minutes to examine my child. The doctor said that a nurse would come in just a minute and bring us a prescription and medicines. Our medical adventures were over at about 5 a.m.
It goes without saying that the medical aid can be rendered faster. Variant 1: you are about to die (very unpleasant). Variant 2: you have a very good and a very expensive insurance (very pleasant). Yet, it is a completely different story.
The majority of Russian emigrants prefer to undergo medical treatment in Moscow, St.Petersburg, Kiev and Minsk. At least, doctors will not cut something off there. In the US, a surgeon's wages depend on the number of cut organs.
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