A couple weeks ago I had severe abdominal pains which were not associated with Turkish tummy. After five hours of writhing in bed, I realized I needed to see a doctor. (Note: I truly did think, for the first couple of hours, that the pain would go away. The fact that it took a couple more hours to get me out my apartment door was just stupid.) But what to do–it was 4am, I have no car, and I do not speak Turkish well enough to communicate with medical personnel.
I walked out of my apartment and heard a baby crying; knowing that at least one of the child’s parents was mostly likely awake, I hobbled upstairs, bent over, holding my abdomen, and nearly in tears. My kindly neighbor took charge, called another friend to drive me to the hospital, brought socks, shoes, and coat from my apartment to her place, and then helped me down to the waiting car. Off we went to a private hospital which I’d toured in August as part of orientation for new teachers. The emergency room was empty at that time of night so the ER doc arrived quickly to assess my problem. His English was fairly good making communication easy for the most part. The battery of tests included an abdominal xray, an EKG, and blood work. The IV’s pain medication which was great until the last drop came through the tubing; immediately after that the pain started up again. Aren’t the effects of the drug supposed to last awhile? When I requested pain medication to take home, I was told I’d need to see a gastroenterologist at noon and that he’d need to evaluate me with no pains meds in my system. Just great–going back home knowing what I would have to endure for the next six hours. The bright side of my visit was that the tests came back normal.
One really nice thing about this hospital is the assistance given to international (read that as non-Turkish speaking) patients. At least two Turkish employees work in an office right behind the hospital’s reception desk and they both speak English quite well. They accompany patients to appointments in the hospital, sitting in the waiting room to be available for translation. The gastroenterologist I saw at noon had studied in the States so I needed no translation assistance but it was comforting to know that help was available. I had questions later that day about the medications that were prescribed so I called the international office, explained my concerns, and got a call back within a couple hours with the answers I needed.
A followup appointment took place six days after I was in the ER. The pain was gone and my tummy was almost back to normal. My first visit to the gastroenterologist had included an endoscopy with biopsies so I got the results, most of which were normal. Nothing serious at this point. The man from the international patient office offered to have my test results translated and emailed to me which I much appreciated.
I must mention the cost of these three visits–one to the ER and two to see the doctor. My medical insurance covered the majority of the costs but I did have some out-of-pocket expenses. I believe the ER visit cost me 300-500TL; don’t remember exactly. Before I had the endoscopy, it was explained to me that if it was not covered by insurance, my cost would be 600TL; with insurance, my cost would be 200TL. The exchange rate has fluctuated only slightly since I’ve been here but I usually divide by three to come up with the cost in U.S. dollars. Any of you had an endoscopy recently? I’ll bet your cost was much more than the $67 I paid. And to think that without insurance I would’ve paid only $200–I can’t even imagine how much that would cost in the States. A medication that I have taken for years and is available only with a prescription in the States is available here over the counter. My insurance card took several months to get so my cost those months without insurance was $30, the same as my co-pay WITH insurance in Seattle. The doctor wrote me a prescription and that medication now costs me $8 per month. Needless to say, I am most impressed with the medical care I’ve received to date.