Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Kosovo: A Visit to the Doctor, Chapter 2, Scene 2

 One of my hesitations about moving overseas was the fact I have a problem with my right knee. I have to get a cortisone shot in it every three months. I was assured I could get the shot in Kosovo. Or, if I wanted a little side trip, the shot is also available in Greece.

I considered Greece. It sounded like fun. However, as the date approached, the logistics wouldn’t work out. I had a short time frame to get that much needed shot. I decided to stay in town. Caleb, a colleague from school made the appointment for me for Saturday morning.

What would I do without
my sweet friend, Arijeta?
My sweet friend, Arijeta, a truly gifted art teacher at Prishtina High School, offered to drive me to the orthopedic center. Here’s how our day went:

We arrive on time at the hospital to meet the orthopedic doctor. The facility is clean and nice and the people at the reception are friendly. It is what we in the States would think of as a medical center but I’m told it is actually a private hospital.

There is no wait time. Okay...that's cool. Then the doctor reviews my paperwork and asks me if I have the drugs. It turns out in Kosovo, if you go to the doctor for anything, including going into the hospital for surgery, you or your family has to go to the pharmacy and pick up the meds to be administered. Yep...didn't know that one.

The doctor’s office has 40mg of what I need available and my prescription calls for 80. I ask if he can give me two shots. He's worried about possible infection if he uses two needles in the same site.

I’m so glad my friend Arijeta with me. She is interpreting his Albanian into English for me. We leave and drive all over the city looking for 80mg of the drug. No luck. It is a drug produced in Serbia so we are finally informed there is a Barnatore (pharmacy) in a Serbian town nearby with a name I can't pronounce. They may have it.

Yep, a Serbian town in Kosovo complete with Serbian flags, language and everything. It is a fifteen-minute drive from Prishtina. Undaunted, Arijeta drives me there. It turns out Arijeta is fluent in Serbian as well.

It seems there's a pharmacy on every corner.
The Serbian pharmacy doesn't have it either but can order it for us and maybe have it Monday. Or Tuesday. Or sometime next week. I'm ready to cry. Arijeta is too. I can tell. Arijeta calls the doctor’s office back to tell them we can’t find the drug. She asks for direction on what we should do. It turns out the doctor is in surgery and will need to call us back.

It has been a long morning so Arijeta and I take the logical next step. We go to the mall and self medicate with KFC. Yes, it turns out the colonel is in town and it is delicious. It tastes like home. The receptionist at the doctor’s office returns the call while we are finishing up our fries. She tells us to return to their office.

My doctor and his colleagues have discussed the problem. They have decided on a plan to inject one of the ampules in my knee, leave the needle in and attach the second ampule. The three doctors hover around as my doctor makes the injection. Arijeta is reluctant to watch so she interprets for me from across the room. Meanwhile, I sit on the examining table praying silently through it all.

I’m a little scared. This may not be like it was when my doctor in the States did it. What if I pass out? What if…? I know I can go down a long list of “what ifs” but what good will it do? I decide to simply pray and trust this will all work out.

Because "Everybody needs a little KFC!"
And it did. It felt like it did in the States. It didn't hurt any more or any less and it seems to be working. Before I leave, the doctor assures me he will have the drugs ready for me in December. I smile and say, “Faleminderit.” At least I know how to thank the man in Albanian.

Arijeta and I make our way to the receptionist. There is the bill to pay.

From experience I know paying the bill is usually the most painful part of any medical procedure. I have insurance through the school where I teach. I approach the receptionist, still not altogether sure they will accept my insurance. I brought my Visa card in case, but I’m hoping I have enough cash on me to take care of the bill. I’m carrying all I have.

At home I pay the $20 copay up front before I ever see the doctor and after the insurance is billed and pay their part I still have to pay $65 or so for the shot.

Here it is a little different. The office accepts my local insurance card and I pay the balance. Five Euros and 40 Cents. Yes you read that right: $5.40. Not bad.

Well, there was all that gas we wasted… or was it a waste? I spent time getting to know Arijeta better, indulged in a little Kentucky fried, visited a town I didn’t know existed, came home with a whole new perspective on health care, and I can walk without a limp. All-in-all it was a great day!


  1. Whew. Glad that was a good experience for you. :)

    1. It did turn out good, Bethany. Just praying I don't get sick. A would dread an emergency room visit.

  2. If you ever need to go to Greece for medical care you can come with us. We go to St. Luke's every three weeks. This is why Isabella came to school with her suitcase. She was staying with a friend while we went.


Leave your comments here. I look forward to hearing from you.