Back when we first got here, when we were jet-lagged and trying to find our way around here again, Anna woke up with a bug bite. It looked like a typical spider bite, but it was hurting her. We did what I think most parents would do: we ignored it.
Over the next few days the bug bite got bigger and redder, and she cried anytime it was touched or bumped, but we still ignored it. We assumed it would go away on its own. After about 5 days, after the neighbors gave us various medicines, after the pharmacist recommended a cream and an antihistamine, I started thinking maybe we needed to find a doctor. We happened to be having dinner with our friends Rebecca and Eric that night, and they recommended their doctor, who was located in the center of town.
The following morning I called the doctor's office. A woman answered and in my best frenglish I explained the situation and that I'd like to get Anna in that afternoon. She took Anna's name and scheduled us for 3:15.
The doctor's office was tucked into a mixed residential and commercial building, but that implies it looked modern or that one could even tell there were offices there. In fact, it looked like a somewhat run-down apartment complex, with no noticeable signage anywhere. After making some educated guesses, we climbed up some stairs and ran into an older woman coming down. I asked if there was a doctor in the building and she pointed to his door.
We walked into a small hallway with a few chairs along the wall. There was no one waiting, nor was there any type of reception desk. We could hear voices behind a door, so we sat down and waited. After about 15 minutes a couple came out, and we were invited in by the doctor. The room was his office, and he sat down behind a desk with Anna and me opposite him. In the office were doors which opened up onto a tiny balcony festooned with red geraniums (pictured here on Anna's blog). Again, in my best frenglish I explained the problem. He asked Anna's name and birthdate, and if she was allergic to any medications.
His office had an adjoining exam room and we walked the several steps from his desk to the exam table. He looked at Anna's bite, asked a few questions, weighed her, and we went back to his desk. He told us that she had an abscess, and that she needed to be treated with antibiotics. He wrote a handful of prescriptions, including those for the gauze, tape, etc needed to treat the bite. He then charged me 23 euros, which I paid in cash. 23 euros. That's just under $29 US dollars. The prescriptions, which included both oral and topical antibiotics, as well as a lifetime supply of bandages and antibacterial wash, set me back about $40.
No one asked me for more than Anna's name and weight. No one gave me pages of forms to fill out, asked for copies of insurance cards, etc. The contrast to our own doctor's offices at home was stark. There, every single time we go we're faced with a barrage of forms, have to once again show proof of insurance, even give our phone number and address again, even though we haven't moved.
While one never wants to find themselves in a doctors office thousands of miles from home, trying to explain the problem in another language, I found the experience fascinating.
Anna, by the way, is perfectly fine now.