I will miss affordable care for everyone

I love Spain for their accessibility to healthcare, dental, eye care, affordable pharmaceuticals and educated pharmacists. For the most part I have had great experiences. Normally, in the states I’d have to make an expensive eye appointment to even see an optometrist to get my prescription information and they’d try to corner me into buying something new and if I were to see an opthamologist the price escalated. Here I can walk into an optometrist’s office, bring them my script or if I’m a regular they will pull up my file on the computer and order my contacts or give me my script for no added cost, no sales spiel, nada; I’ve even had them give me free samples so I can try a more economical generic brand.

I can walk into any pharmacy, tell them my symptoms and they will give me the most affordable cure, and they know what they are talking about!  So much is accessible without a prescription; this is great because half the time we know our symtoms and have had this same problem before and know what we need without the hassle of going to the doctor.  Or course it is always good to get checked out by a doctor but sometimes it is just a hassle to have to make an appointment with your doctor to get a routine prescription.

You can get the morning after pill ( la pildora del dia despues) at the pharmacist for cheap, birth control pills cost between 2-12 euros just show them the brand you used in the states and they don’t need a prescription. If you use an inhaler back home and forgot it on your trip, no problem 2-5 euros. The list goes on, it is wonderful. And there are other natural health stores if you prefer that. Of course if you are really sick then go to the doctor and the pharmacist will probably tell you to go because they know what they’re talking about. And with the insurance I’ve had here I’ve never had to pay for anything at the doctors, dermatologist, dentist…no co-pays no surprise fees, this is the way life should be.

Recently, my partner and I have been dealing with getting our immunization records from the states transferred to the grad schools we will be attending in the states, nothing that should be too complicated, right? And guess what! Our doctors want us to come in for a paid appointment just to pick up an old immunization form from when we were babies. A signature could cost us between $50-200. Thank god some loop holes still exist in the states and we could convince our high schools and universities to transfer our old records. I know there are good people out there, good doctors , nurses, etc. who bend the rules, have the time or just really care about their patients and help them make right and economical choices but they can be held back sometimes by rules, regulations etc. And I don’t know anything about how their world really works. All I know is that in other countries people’s well-being (for the most part) is a priority, not money.   And if you can’t find the help you really need at the least meds and some care are still affordable and accessible until you find the help you need.  Why is it that money can seem more important that people?

I guess I’ll soon find out what Obamacare really is and offers.  I hope it is as great as Spain’s universal coverage even if I have to wait in long lines.


1st Spain Hospital Visit

eyelid cutSo with every new city for me comes a new disfiguring injury. I’m accident prone or just cursed because almost annually between May- July something bad happens to me.

This year I fainted. It was 3am and I awoke with stabbing stomach pains. I was scared because it was like nothing I have ever felt before. I felt dizzy in the bathroom which made me more nervous, I went for water in the kitchen and everything went starry dizzy. I awoke under my living room table bleeding from my eyelid, utterly confused and deaf in one ear.
Once I gathered myself, I tried to put the pieces back together but nothing made sense. Eventually I crawled my way back to the bathroom to check out my face…horrified I had cut my eyelid pretty bad. When my strength came back to me I woke my partner and we patched up my eye. Since it was super early and I was still shaking we decided to wait until transportation was in full mode to head to the hospital. I was worried but from past experience I was pretty sure there wasn’t much damage to my eyeball.
At 9am we were at the hospital, Hospital Nuestra Señora del Rosario to be exact. They were nice but proved to be like many emergency rooms all over the world, slow and lacking. I waited 2 hours to be seen; I was counting on my partner coming in with me because he speaks better Spanish than I do, but they wouldn’t let him in. I think it was domestic violence protocol, which is great but it just made me more nervous not having him with me. Everyone who worked there was helpful, they weren’t comforting because they seemed stressed out but they were helpful. They did the usual protocol of what happened, then a quick examination, heart exam, blood test and shooed me off to the waiting room again. They didn’t clean my wound or give me a tetanus shot which I found weird but the last time I was cleaned up in a hospital in Portland, OR I got an infection from the hospital and almost lost my leg; so I guess it is better this way.
After 5 hours I got my lab results and could finally leave; nothing was abnormal. Next Wednesday I have a follow-up with internal medicine and an in depth follow-up on more lab results with my own doctor. So I lucked out and the healthcare system here has been good to me. I’m lucky that Cigna healthcare, which is provided to me through my program Auxiliares de Conversación, will cover all this. After the hospital I went to the pharmacy to ask for more help. They gave me everything I needed; stuff for cleaning and sterilizing the wound, pain killers, and bruising ointment. Here is a link I found while searching for vocabulary to use, which I found very helpful. Please, feel free to share any hospital visits in Spain on this blog. I definitely wouldn’t recommend going to one if it can be avoided, go to your general practitioner if possible because hospitals are a hassle.

Dentists in Madrid

I am so over taking advice from the Auxiliar de Conversación Facebook Forum.  I have reached out to different forums and found the good with the bad but when it comes to searching for a dentist in Madrid you just have to try them all out yourself until you find one that is up to your standards.  Last year I went to a dentist who was highly recommended by multiple young girls ( I should have known better) and I went to him to get a routine cleaning and ask about wisdom teeth.  He arrived a half hour late to my appointment and spent 10 minutes ogling over my fake tooth (from a past bike accident) he even asked his assistant to come look at it because he had never seen anything as nice as it before.  The cleaning consisted of fluoride put on my 2 front teeth and little use of a water pick which he asked if I had seen one before because most of his foreign patients were amazed by it…I was disappointed.  My teeth didn’t even feel clean after the visit.  And when I asked for an x-ray he said he didn’t have the capability of doing them in his office if I wanted to find out about my wisdom teeth.  Instead I would have to go to another clinic and then have the x-rays sent back to him.

Overall he was a nice guy, good looking (thus the defensive young girl recommendations) but he obviously lacked experience.  Most people go to him because he supposedly speaks English, honestly that is why I went to him but he never spoke a word of English during my appointment, he seemed very shy but said if we needed clarification he would try to use English yet never did.

This year I tried a couple new dentists and found one that I really like.  They are located above Retiro Park, Dentyclass.  I called and made an appointment but apparently you can make one online and some nights there is an English speaking dentist.  I went to a Spanish speaking dentist but he was great.  First I made an appointment for a cleaning and it was wonderful, my mouth felt amazing afterward.  Then I made a separate appointment to meet with a doctor and get x-rays at the same clinic.  The x-rays were digitized, they put them on a CD for me to take to another dentist if I wanted and it all got done within 10 minutes.  The doctor was very experienced and he knew exactly what was up with my wisdom teeth and he knew my insurance wouldn’t cover the work so he wrote a letter to the company stating that I needed oral surgery because of this that and that.  I haven’t gone to my insurance company yet to see if they will cover me in an emergency situation, I just haven’t had the time off work to go through with it but I appreciate the effort that this dentist went through to help me get the work I need done and covered by my insurance.

  And I would recommend them to anyone in Madrid looking for the right Dental Clinic.

Last minute shopping

We had some last minute gift shopping to do before heading back to the states so we hit up some markets.

Plaza San Francisco market is a great starting point because it is near Parque Calderon  and close to other shops that have good souvenirs.  But at the market you can always negotiate a good price.  I usually avoid the main part of the market which is just Otavalos mostly selling “made in china” products. But on the sidewalk (round the corner from the flower market) there are vendors selling ponchos, blankets, table cloths, intricate sweaters, scarves, hats etc. But if you are looking for something smaller, things like jewelry or trinkets then head over to La Casa de La Mujer which is at the end of the block @General Torres 7-33 and Presidente Cordova.

La Casa de La Mujer is a building with a number of shops all selling different artisan crafts.  There is a lot of variety here; from paintings, jewelry, leather, hats, baskets and other woven products, clothing and toys.  One of my favorite jewelry shops can be found here on the upper level called Tagua.  If silver is your thing, there are some shops here but I would recommend taking a day trip to Chordeleg, the silversmith village about 20/30 min. from Cuenca.

If you are on a tight budget but would like to bring home some cool jewelry for friends and family then stop by the hippie market; it is somewhere around Mariscal Lamar y Benigno Malo on a corner.  Here there are a few tents set up with roughly the same merchandise.  Most of the jewelry or pipes etc. are made out of Tagua or bone and they will offer to carve a name, word or sometimes a design on certain things for sale.

And if you head down to Mercado 9 de Octubre then visit Plaza Rotary which is down a little alley in the middle of the block; if you take a taxi then ask for Gáspar Sangurima y Vargas Machuca because most are baffled by the name Plaza Rotary. There they sell woven products like baskets and mats, the blacksmiths sell weather vanes and other stuff, and you’ll find a number of stands selling roughly the same types of trinkets like keychains, purses, toys, ceramics etc. While living in Cuenca, I frequented this spot to buy things for the home like flower pots, hampers, cutting boards, wooden mixing spoons and such; which was more affordable than buying the same types of products but in plastic at hipermercados.  Most people tell you to avoid the area near Mercado 9 de Octubre but I say check it out.  Yes, you will see a few prostitutes on the sidewalks here all day long and probably your share of drunks but it is fairly safe during the day just don’t whip out a wad of money or an expensive camera and you should be fine.  At night it is a bit sketch so you can avoid it at night; but don’t avoid the area entirely.  And on Fridays the indigenous shamans set up a spot in the market where they offer up “limpias” or cleansings for a small price.  A word of warning to prepare you if you get one, they will spit alcohol in your face as part of the ritual and put ashes on your forehead and back.  So don’t be surprised if they ask you to pull up your shirt.  You should feel great after some good ol’ chuca chuca.

Rayos X y Examenes de Sangre

So I went to the doctor finally.  In fact, I went to the Hospital Universitario Del Rio which according to many locals is the best hospital in town.  I thought it was great, it is new and clean and reminded me a little of my favorite Portland Hospital; Providence.

I went here because I know one of the doctors, so he helped me cut corners a bit.  But without him it would have been easy for anyone to navigate and get an appointment; It seemed like everyone was a drop-in.  You can always go to a clinic if you are sick and they are really affordable but my cough was a month old so…

I had an x-ray done of my chest (thorax), blood work, and had another doctor check me out since the lung specialist was on vacation.  Luckily, it turned out the worst of my sickness was over and I just had some minor bronchial inflammation left over.  But the reason I still have a cough is because of allergies!  So I have to quit all my eucalyptus remedies just because that may irritate it some more and start taking allergy meds like Alercet D.

So always go get checked out!  Don’t be intimidated of going to the hospital, they are great here.

Eucalyptus Relief

There are eucalyptus trees everywhere!  Apparently they were brought to Ecuador after many of the pine trees became scarce but now they are all over.  I’m loving it because we both have lagging colds and the eucalyptus is very soothing.

I boil a little water and then pluck a few leaves off (maybe 15+), add them to the water and cover for a bit.   Then I turn off the stove and breathe in the minty steam; it smells like Vicks Vapor Rub and has the same effect.

Some people also like to take it into the bath with them.  Unfortunately, we don’t have a bath so I hung some in the shower and with the steam from the hot water it worked pretty good.  Next time I may put a few leaves in a meshy bag and hang it under the faucet and see how that works.  If you have Eucalyptus trees near you, try it!

The Ultimate Cough Syrup

An update to my first medicine post.

Whether you have a dry cough or a wet cough with flem in your lungs you should pick up Flemex J.A.T or Flemex Forte (for adults) in Jarabe form (syrup).  It’s not natural like Arkovox but it will fix you up quick.  In it you’ll find Codeine and Pseudoephedrine and some other stuff that is probably bad for you in the long run.  But it works.  Take 1-2 tsp. every 8 hours and you’ll be on the road to wellness.

And sick :(

Anyway, if you are sick and waiting things out til the doctor’s visit, these are some medicines that have been super helpful for me while in Cuenca:

Alercet D (Cetirizina 2HCI 5 mg + Pseudoefefrina Sulfato 120 mg) = it is like Sudafed, so if you are having nasal drip or some kind of sinus problems even allergy related this works pretty well.

Sinutab Plus= is another sinus congestion reliever, like a Tylenol cold/flu pill

Ibuprofeno= you can find Ibuprofen in all sorts of high doses, super helpful

My favorite: Arkovox Jarabe= if you have maybe a lung infection or just some mucus in your lungs this is a great natural expectorant that will also soothe your throat.  It is all natural (as far as I know) it is bee salvation! made from honey, resin, wax, pollen, etc.  This is what the company has to say about it through my bad translation:

“The use of this substance as an antiseptic dates back 2,300 years ago. When the nectar and pollen are still abundant, bees collect these substances from the bark of the trees to harden the inner walls of the hive. In this way, they repair the breaches and, above all, protect their ‘home’ from dangerous intruders and germs (bacteria, fungi).”  Sick!, right?

Basically, if you have a horrible cough and it is killing your throat then get this stuff because the eucalyptus and honey really coat and soothe the throat like no cough drop could do.

Also keep up on your vitamins.  Some are hard to find here and you can only find B12 in liquid form and vitamin C in chewable form but it is worth it.  Research your multi vitamins as they don’t always include essentials.  However, you can find a good affordable multi vitamin here.

Since I am working with kids I expect I’ll catch a few colds so as I discover more medicine I’ll keep updating.

Please, feel free to leave comments about some remedies you’ve discovered.