Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Kosovo: Chapter 8, Scene 3 A Trip to the ER Wasn't on My TO DO List

I fainted.
It wasn’t that sweet, Scarlett O’Hara kind of fainting where you wake up, bat your eyelashes and look beautiful. I don’t do that kind. More about that later. First, I need to share what brought this on.

I developed acute bronchitis. (Yes, I self-diagnosed that one.) I started treating myself with a few home remedies such as tea, honey, and the like. 

Curiously enough you can get antibiotics over-the-counter in Kosovo so I started myself on a Z-Pack.  I took the first two of the three-day sequence without much improvement leading me to think my bronchitis may be viral instead of bacterial.  Still, I finished the tablets on Tuesday and headed to school Wednesday morning. 

I had that deep, chesty, “2 pack-a-day” cough even though I’ve never smoked. No other symptoms. No fever or anything.  Starve a fever, feed a cold didn’t apply, so I ate.  Wednesday, I had a light breakfast and went to work.  

I made it through the morning routine, English class, and math class before deciding I would have an early lunch.  My fourth graders were at recess and would be in the cafeteria shortly. I bought the chicken curry and rice (not spicy at all) with a salad and a bottle of water. It was great and I went for a whole twenty minutes feeling normal. So normal, I decided to go back to my classroom to work a bit. My kiddos were coming into the cafeteria for their own lunch.

I stood up. 
I felt dizzy.
I sat down.
I put my head down on the table. 
I felt myself sliding on the table.
I heard a freight train. (All in my head I suppose.)

The next thing I knew, I was surrounded by my coworkers. Some of the people who had been sitting at the table with me were now holding me up and talking while others were running here and there. 

I had fainted. As I said before, I’m not a beautiful fainter. I probably drooled all over the table. I didn’t ask. 

I knew I was on the mend because I felt remorseful. When I’m better I start apologizing. To everyone. I looked off to my side and saw a few of my students just sitting down with their lunches. They were looking my way, shocked and scared. I apologized even though they couldn’t hear me. 

I apologized to my teacher friends helping me. I messed up their lunch. I apologized to Paul and Kelsie who caught me. I should have been thanking them for keeping me from landing on the floor. I apologized to Valmire. She’s pregnant and I didn’t want her upset.

The other sign that I’m better is when I start crying. I’m an ugly crier, too. I can always tell I’m recovering from something when I start crying that ugly, scrunch-your-face-up kind of cry. My middle daughter once saw an old Lucille Ball television program where she gives that big ugly cry. “She cries like you, Mommy,” Danielle said.

I just kept crying and apologizing.

My friend, Ruth is a nurse. She and others came running into the cafeteria like the cavalry to the rescue.  The decision was made. I was going to the doctor. I cried more. “I don’t want to go to the doctor,” I cried. “I don’t’ want to do it.”

At least I smiled.
I didn’t need a doctor. By this time I had figured it all out.

I had just eaten, so my circulatory system was directing all that oxygen carrying blood to my digestive system. My little brain was already short on the big O, so I fainted. I was married to a scientist for over forty years. I know this stuff. I didn’t need a doctor. 

I argued. 
I lost.

My friends helped me to the car. Okay, yes I needed a little help after all. Valdet drove me to the American hospital with Ruth offering me encouragement from the back seat. I actually didn’t feel great but didn’t want to admit they were probably right. I tried to look on the bright side. This was a new experience. (My friend, Gordon says I'll do anything for new writing material.)

We went to the emergency room armed with my resident ID and Insurance card. The hospital was clean and nice. The wait was short.  So far, so good.  

They drew blood. Not my favorite thing. Ruth held my left hand while they put a port in my right one. They took my temperature.  They wrote down what had happened.

No more sticky electrodes for an EKG
While we waited for the next round of inquiry by the medical professionals, I asked my friends to take pictures. A new experience should be recorded, right? 

The first doctor came in. A neurologist.  Really? This was a pulmonary issue. 

He had me perform several tasks such as eye tracking and strength in my hands. He had me pick up my feet and hold them up and several other “tests.” I guess it was my age. He wanted to make sure I wasn’t having a stroke or something. They even did an EKG. Not bad. Pretty thorough.  

The pulmonary specialist came in. She listened to my chest and back and asked me about the Z-pack. She asked me about my allergies and my asthma.  She ordered a chest X-ray. Again, very thorough. The nurses and orderlies were smiling and kind.  They spoke Albanian so Ruth and Valdet served as my translators. This was turning into a positive experience. I was already feeling better.

Stay calm. Let the IV drip.
The X-ray was unlike any I had before, but quick and extremely modern technology.  I was there by myself so no pictures, but it was over before I could have taken one anyway.

Now I had seen everyone. I had been examined and X-rayed, stuck with a needle, given up a couple samples of blood, and interviewed.  They had to review the results of all my tests, the EKG and the X-ray. Now we waited. Waiting on the backside of a visit to the ER is decidedly better than having to wait at the beginning. I felt confident and much better for having come. I thanked my friends for their help.

The doctor’s report offered nothing new. I had acute bronchitis as I suspected. The doctor ordered a steroid infusion to kick-start the cortisone inhaler she prescribed. I was quietly thanking God they had put the port in to draw blood so I didn’t have to face another needle. She also prescribed some meds and told me to come back on Friday to be re-checked. They handed over the prescriptions, reports, and my X-ray. Seriously. I got to take my X-ray home with me.

Now came the worst part of going to the hospital, right? The bill. 

Thank you, Ruth for your care.
My insurance covers thirty percent up front. Then I can turn in the receipts to the financial office and get back some of the seventy percent I had to pay. I hoped the hospital accepted my credit card. The woman at the counter checked everything and typed it all in her computer. 

I know health care is more affordable here, but I prepared myself for the worst. A thousand to walk in? More for the X-ray? The EKG? Then there was the intravenous infusion, not to mention a pulmonary specialist and a neurologist.

I stood tall and braced myself for the damage. 
I did not want to faint and start the process all over again. 

My friend Ruth was offering encouraging words of financial assistance if I needed it. And she lives here.This was going to be bad.

The young woman at the desk looked up and smiled sweetly.
X-Ray, Reports, Prescriptions.
I braced myself or the damage.
My seventy percent of the total emergency room cost came to a whopping €94.90.  I pulled two fifties out of my wallet and went home with change. (And a copy of my X-ray!) My two inhalers and cough syrup came to 13€. 

Total? €107.90. One Hundred Seven Euros and Ninety Cents for an ER visit and Meds? 

I almost fainted. 

Join me in Kosova (the Albanian pronunciation for Kosovo) in Southeastern Europe. Each week I share my experiences. Leave your comments and questions below. I’ll try to address each as best I can. And if you don't want to miss a post, simply add your email address in the box on the right where it says "Follow by email." 


  1. Because someone asked....107.90 Euros is equivalent to $133.64 US dollars.

  2. I am soo glad you are feeling better. I'd faint at a bill like that too. :)

    1. Thank your stopping by, and yes...I feel much better now.

  3. Remember when I saw stars at South, put myself prone on the floor and sent one of my students to fetch you?? I got carted off to the hospital in the ambulance for a CT scan and whatever. Wasn't bronchitis

    1. I had forgotten all about that. Seems like a hundred years ago! I'm glad we're both here now, though.


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