Countdown 2011: Number Four-International Health Care

2011 has been a year of discovery on a lot of fronts. This year has taken me from Brooklyn to Kansas City, MO to visit family, to deep in the heart of Texas to support Dr. Brown at her dissertation defense, to England for a seminar on race in the US, to Istanbul for cultural exploration with a good friend, to Paris for some “me time,” and to MIA for even more “me time!” Traveling to all of these locales has afforded me with many memorable moments. So join me as I countdown my top five travel memories of 2011!

Number Four: Health Care

Health care is a human right. 2011 proved to be a difficult year health wise. Swollen tonsils: check. Post nasal drip: check. Burst ear drum: check. Loss of hearing: check. Unfortunately, it all happened at once for me. Never before had I had any of these ailments before this year, and I definitely had never been sick overseas. Well, there is a first time for everything.

Upon landing in the UK, I stopped by Boots (it’s a great store if you’re ever in the UK) to pick up some essentials and cold medicine was on the list. I could feel congestion coming so i thought it better to be proactive rather than sick. The women at the pharmacy counter explained the medicine best for my symptoms and how else to treat my symptoms. Great service. Felt great for the next two weeks.

Upon my departure from Istanbul, on my good friend Shannon’s birthday nonetheless, I came down with a terrible cold. So I stopped in a local pharmacy while she was buying perfume from a harassing salesman and got some cold/flu medication. Took my first dose and the party is back on!

Upon my arrival in Paris, things went downhill quickly. I was running a fever, sweaty, tonsils were swelling up, and I was dizzy, but I’m in Paris so I carry on. I will spare you the gory details, but after two days of lost hearing out of my left ear, increasing dizziness, and extremely swollen tonsils, I thought it best to receive medical attention. Thank goodness for my friend Laure, who made an appointment for me at a local doctor that spoke english. I was in and out of the office within 20 minutes with a prescription for an army. After paying him €25, which is lower than some co-pays in the US, and paying €30 for my two weeks of prescriptions, I was starting to be back on the mend. Or at least I thought.

Upon return to the great country of the good ole’ USA, the entire health care situation was pitiful. I made an appointment to see a doctor three blocks from my home in Brooklyn for a follow up to make sure everything was improving. I was also looking forward to seeing this doctor to support black health care professionals and businesses. What I got was a medical office with a staff that wasn’t sure of how to draw blood, work medial equipment or let alone know how to turn it on, and had the nerve to tell me to take some Zyrtec and that will clear it all up, all the while they applauded the prescribed medicines from the Parisian doctor. I will chalk this visit up to me being young and dumb, but never again. After growing tired of having to always be on the right-hand side of the conversation in order to hear, I kicked things up a notch and went to the ENT. While at his office, he too applauded the previous prescriptions and placed me back on a steroid to clear up my hearing. He also prescribed a nasal spray. While attempting to get these prescriptions filled, the pharmacy said that my insurance will not cover the spray and it alone will be $140. Again, I started checking for flights back to Paris.

All medical issues cleared up by mid-fall, but what has not gone away is the principle that health care is a human right. While some decry Obama as a socialist, or having leanings in that direction, for now signing the health care bill into law, what is wrong with the basic idea of making sure that everyone has medical coverage? While I might disagree with some for the finer points of the law, I do not disagree with the principle. I was treated like a person, a human overseas while speaking with doctors and pharmacists. While home in my native country, I was treated like a $ with little regard paid to my actual health.

I am still looking for flights to Paris…

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