Sunday, February 21, 2010

Getting Sick in the Village

image I learned that as a first year teacher, I was bound to get ill often, and as a first year teacher starting her career on a different continent, I would get ill very often. Mutated germs, I guess.

I learned that the school did not register me as an employee, so I had no right to go to the doctor or to get L4 (sick leave). Every “sick day” was deducted from my already meager pay.

I learned that a thermometer handed to you from the table by a doctor should go under your armpit and not in your mouth.

I learned treatment of a bladder infection po polsku is warm underwear and not antibiotics.

I learned that at the pharmacy all medicine (OTC and prescription) and anything else you want to buy is behind the counter and has to be given to you by the pharmacist.

I learned from a friend that vodka kills germs ;)

I learned that when you get a physical exam you should bring your urine with you.

Ok, that one requires a bit more explanation.

image To work as a teacher (anywhere I guess, in the US and in Poland) you have to undergo a medical exam every so many years. My school figured out that I, too, should undergo the same tests after I had already been working there a couple of months. Knowing that it was not something I could manage myself, the principal (the one married to the student he got pregnant) asked Misiu to take me. Not the most obvious choice, but the female English teacher who had been responsible for me was on a 2 or 3 month sick leave. Misiu explained that he’d take me to the doctor for a blood test, a urine test and a chest x-ray. The chest x-ray was supposed to check for TB. I had brought my latest TB test results with me just in case (we need them to student-teach in the US), thus, getting myself out out of a quite unnecessary dose of radiation.

Misiu picked me up from PZU as planned (in case you are just joining us, I lived at PZU) and walked with me to the doctor’s. When we arrived, I saw that there was a long line of people waiting to talk to the lady in the window, the kind of window like in the post office where you have to bend down so the lady can hear you. I supposed she was the receptionist. Actually it was a lab, not a doctor’s office.

We went to the end of the line and waited. Finally, it was our turn and Misiu explained why we were there. Misiu turned to me and asked, “Where’s your urine?” How rude, I thought. Well, I don’t know where you keep your urine in Poland, but mine is in my bladder. “Uh, inside me. Why?” I answered. “You have to bring it with you,” Misiu explained. I explained that in my lab in the US, they give you a container so you can give a “fresh” sample, so to speak. After some explanation, the nurse handed me a container, “organized” me a container would be a better description, and directed me to the WC.

I fought my way past the disgruntled folks waiting in line until I found the WC. I got in there, locked the door, took my pants down and then looked at the container. It was a small glass jar with a cork top, the opening of which had the diameter of about 1/2 centimeter. It looked like it should hold magic potion not urine samples. I am a whole lot of talented, but even I didn’t attempt to fill it. I pulled up my pants and reported back to the nurse that my urine sample was a no-go. That’s when I noticed the other people waiting in line with their samples in little jars, jars like from jam or some other food product. There was even one ambitious young man who had filled a pretty big pickle jar. It was so big it didn’t fit through the opening in the receptionist’s window and she had to come out to retrieve it. The nurse advised me to buy some jam in a jar, empty it, clean and boil the jar and lid and deliver it full of urine, my urine, back to her.

After my blood test, Misiu and I walked to the store, bought some mustard, returned to PZU, emptied the mustard, and washed and boiled the jar. I did my business, labeled the jar and Misiu took it back to the lab for me which then I took as a small glimmer of affection for me, but was probably just his wanting to get away from me for the rest of the day.

PS We have urine sample containers now in Poland widely available at every pharmacy for about 1.50 PLN.

PS2 To “organize” something czyli organizować means to arrange something. In this case, it means to arrange something with a little difficulty.


Hjuston said...

Well, I am 30 and don't remember doing nr 1 to the jam jar. We always used the plastc cups from the farmacy. As for bringing urine with you, in my opinion it is better then fasting till 8 am and have your urine collected at the lab.
Now the gross part- last year I was tested for thyroid problems (here in Houston). I had to collect 5 days of my urine in one giant container. Then I had to put it into the plastic bag and bring to the hospital. That, in my opinion is worse then jam jars :)

Stardust said...

I don't know about pharmacy cups. I left Poland 25 years ago, never heard about them. But there are more important things, then that:) Chris, you lucky they didn't ask for a poop:)) I remember collecting that also:)

Hjuston said...

That is so true stardust! I remember that too :)

Ania said...

Some Americans think that health care in States is not good and require improving. I'd say to them: do not fix something which is not broken, just go to other countries to experience "blessing" of socialized medicine. Maybe it will open their eyes.

Stardust said...

Ania--> Have you ever heard about milions of american families who don't have insurances? Nobody is talking about socialized medicine, but it doesn't mean american system is good. Have you heard about pre exisiting condition? have you heard of decline to pay? or tell me what are you smoking, I want some.
Please give mi a break.

Chris said...

I don't think there is anything intrinsically wrong about socialized medicine. I think what people complain about is poorly organized socialized medicine.

I took my kids to the dr on Friday and made an appt.for myself too. The prescription meds were pretty expensive but I didn't have to worry about paying for the visit. I mean it is paid in our taxes. If we needed to go to a specialist, that'd be another story. I think a bigger issue in Poland is the people who don't pay into the system or those who have privileges for ex krus.

We were planning to return the States about the time Rosie was born until we realized that our out of pocket monthly health insurance payment for our family would be about 3,000 USD with a $10,000 deductible and an 80/20 co-pay.

I have had a lot of experience with the medical field in Poland, and I encountered problems but that's for another post.

Ewa said...

HaHaHaHaHa...I remeber poop's test as well. Chris, good experince on the start? Isn't it? Welcome in Poland hehehe It is really great story!!!!!Anyway, I prefere the Polish way then Irish one...Every few months I examine myself in Poland ...with a plastic urine jar holding in my hands;-)

Tabdel said...

PS1 Hjuston you are too young to remeber this kind of examination. I am over 30 and I remeber this very, very well. I remeber when my mum had to arrange the empty jar for my urine test... By the way, the first plastic jar I bought in a phamracy 20 years ago...After the communist's era...

Chris said...

Poo test I remember very well, but it was in hospital in Gdynia. They gave you a plate (!!!!) with your name on it and you left it in a magic window in the bathroom.

Smacznego ;)

Ania said...

Sturdust, yes I have heard about those situations. I do not have insurance. I canceled it 15 years ago. Since than I had two surgeries and I payed for them in installments (no interest). I pay cash for my doctors and it is much less expensive than insurance policy monthly payments and yes I do smoke. My three kids are on medicare through adoption subsidies.
I have a comparison of two systems at home. I take my kids privately to the dentist and pay cash, because dentists who take madicare are lousy and one has to wait long time for appointments. I had to find a psychiatrist for my daughter outside of medicare as well. I went through hell going to two state run mental health clinics.

fajny_nosorozec said...

Hate to admit it, but I remember jars for urine test and I'm around Hjuston's age..I'm still trying to figure out which medical system is better..Socialized is not perfect, but I truly hate insurance and medical expenses here in the US..

małgośka said...

Słoiki i butelki z 'moczem do analizy' to niezapomniane chwile :)
Wśród znajomych krążył dowcip jak to dwóch studentów wymyśliło żart.
Jeden z nich nalał do butelki po wódce żółty roztwór witaminowy i z radością postawił w takim okienku o którym piszesz.
Za nim stała długa kolejka.
Pielęgniarka się zdenerwowała, że dlaczego aż tyle? Niech coś z tym zrobi.

Na co student mówi: "Za dużo? Ok!"
Wziął butelkę, wypił połowę i pyta: "Tyle wystarczy?"

Chris said...

Na zdrowie!

Bee said...

Sure you can cancel your insurance and hope everything will be fine and it might be as long as everything you or your family need are visits to a GP, dentist or minor surgeries. But there are surgeries you can pay off with small installments and there are surgeries or treatments that even your kids would have to pay for long after you gone. Think about long term cancer treatment, organ transplant or a few months stay at ICU after a serious accident. So I agree with Chris - there is nothing wrong with socialized medicine as long as it is well organized. And our's in Poland isn't but look at France, Canada or Denmark to name a few. No such thing as perfect medical system though.

On a less serious note - Chris I once, not so long ago, had to pee into a plastic bottle with rather small opening and it's doable! But you'll have to leave room for mistakes and do it in the shower for example not in public toilet ;-) The things we do when we have to...
I too remember those self-sterilized sample containers/jam jars, thanks god those days are gone!

Chris said...

You are right, thank god those days are gone but I am glad that I came to Poland early (or late) enough to experience a bit of the "old days". I feel that I can understand a little bit better what people are talking about when they say "back in PRL..."