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The Emergency Room While On Vacation

Imagine for a minute. You have saved all year for your vacation and are planning a trip out of the country. You feel fine - never better - and your tickets are purchased and everything is all set. Your bags are packed, you've taken your shots, and the weather is supposed to be absolutely beautiful.

What you don't know, as your plane touches down, far away from home, is that in 11 days you will be taking a cab to the emergency room. You will have a terrible pain in your side and can't think of what it is or what is even down there that could be causing the problem.

This was my story in May. We were going to have a great time. All the expenses of getting out of the states - airfare, hotel, transfers, a rental car for one day, you name it, had been saved and paid in advance. There would be no credit card bills waiting for us when we got home, which was the best part. All we were spending money for was food, drinks and a few little trinkets to bring home for the cat sitter.

We were having a great time. Everything going as planned - like German clockwork - tick, tock. On the morning of the 11th day, we were headed for a little pastry shop near the hotel for a light breakfast of fruit, warm bread with real butter and espresso.

All of a sudden, I had a sharp pain in my lower side. I had trouble catching my breath. It only felt a little better, when I bent over to touch my toes. "I have to get to the E.R. as soon as possible", I told the cab driver we flagged down, as I crawled into the back seat. It was five minutes and we were pulling up to the E.R. doorway. My wife whispered, "I wonder what this will cost?", as they helped me into the hospital.

You probably know the drill. I was moaning in a fetal position on a gurney, while my wife was answering questions about allergies, medical history, and all of my life's details from the time I was two years old.

Mr. Fortune, you need an ultrasound. "I need an ultrasound?", I asked my wife. She nodded. X-rays too? Yup. IV drip, blood work, drugs; it was all adding up. By 10:00 AM, I was feeling better. Not on top of the world, but able to sit up and listen to what the E.R. doc had to say.

She told me, in perfect English, that the ultrasound confirmed her belief that I had a kidney stone that was trying to pass. It got caught coming out of the kidney and was causing the pain. The meds were helping to make the pain managable. "Pain?", I asked her. "What pain?" I said smiling.

I got enough meds for a week. And of course I asked, "Can I still drink wine while taking these?" and the doctor said I needed to take plenty of water but that alcohol would be no problem. "It might even help", she said with a smile.

They were calling a cab as we walked over to the billing desk on the way out. I gave them my medical insurance card, which the clerk barely looked at. She told me they did not accept US insurance. I would need to pay cash or credit card and would have to file with my insurance company, when I got back to the states.

Next, I asked the big question. "How much do I owe you?". $327 US dollars she replied. $327? Was that for just the pills? No, that was the entire bill as shown on the itemized statement she printed out. If we needed more info about the price, we would have to go back and see the E.R. doctor. So we did.

The E.R. doctor us that they have socialized medicine and patients are only charged for the actual goods received at cost - no markup. Meds, IV drip tubing, saline, etc. Whatever I actually used but not for the use of the E.R., the salary of the people who worked there, the equipment, and so forth. Just what I used while I was there. My cost was $327 US.

We went out and I paid the bill and we got into the cab. We enjoyed the rest of our stay. I took my meds and plenty of water, and wine. Two days after I got home I passed the stone, at night, before I got an appointment with my primary care doctor. I heard a loud "CLINK!!" drop in the toilet bowl, confirmed it as I looked in the bowl, and that was that.

I now have one more thing on my list to check before leaving the country on vacation. What are the medical arrangements in the country where we will be visiting?

Despite the economy I hope you are travelling and enjoying yourself. Until next time, let me know what is on your mind, and how you are doing, O.K.?

Jim Fortune - the Bella Budget Travel Guy

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