It was bound to happen. Someone in our family would eventually need the services of a doctor while in India. As of today, both Ender and I have had doctor experiences to relate.
I alluded to Ender being sick a few weeks back, but didn’t give details, so here it goes. He began complaining of a stomach ache. At first I didn’t think too much of it, but when he started having diarreah along with it and it went on and on for 2 weeks, I figured we needed to get it checked out. I got the name of the physician from a fellow expat and called that day. I was told to “come right in”. However, I couldn’t leave right at that point, so I asked for an appointment the next day. That was when I learned that in India you don’t make Dr. Appointments. You just go in whenever you want.
The next morning, Ender went to school for the first couple of hours, because the Dr. Office didn’t open until 11. I casually mentioned to some of the teachers that I was taking him in, and explained the situation. At this point, one of the teachers spoke up and said “Well, have you dewormed him lately??” I doubt that there has ever before been a look of such shock and horror on my face as there was at that minute. They laughed and said “Don’t look so shocked…we do that all the time!”. The conversation devolved into them arguing about the right schedule for family deworming…once a year, 4x a year, or every month. Apparently, the majority of them “deworm” the whole family once a year. Happy New Year! Now, let’s get those worms out!
I went to the appointment with a heavy heart, now totally convinced that my son did in fact have worms and that he would need a good deworming, much like we do to Beauty on a monthly basis.
The doctor’s office was located in a male fertility clinic. I knew this from talking to people, but was still kind of freaked out when I saw pictures of the Statue of David and other masterpieces depicting the male form on the wall. Apparently, the doctor is the wife of the physician who runs that clinic, so she uses one of the rooms as her office to run a small pediatrics practice. I don’t think Ender noticed the art.
The waiting room was empty, and we were ushered directly in to see the pediatrician by the secretary. The pediatrician works out of a room the size of smallish bedroom. In this room, she has her desk, medical books, assorted odds and ends, a few old toys, and a small exam table. It was cramped and crowded and felt like were were walking into the well-worn study of an eccentric writer. It all felt very strange to me, but most of the things I encounter in India do, so I tried to take it in stride. The doctor was very nice and personable. She made small talk with me about what we are doing in India, how I liked it so far, etc. The usual. She asked questions, jotted down answers, and gave Ender a quick exam on the table.
She explained that there are 3 possibilities… a virus of some sort, a problem with his intestinal bacteria, or, of course, worms. She assured me that all three of them are fixable, and I shouldn’t panic. She prescribed 2 medications for him, and requested that I take a stool sample to the lab for testing. The medications should take care of the intestinal bacteria and/or stomach virus issue, and the sample would tell if he needed further treatment for the worms. If that was the case, she would like to treat the whole family for worms, just as a precaution. 🙁 She gave me the note paper she had been writing on, with the prescription on the bottom. No records were kept of our visit.
I decided to get the “sample” from him in the evening, so off we went to the pharmacy to get his medications. This is where I learned a few things. First, not all pharmacies carry every medicine. I had to go to no less than 4 to collect the two medicines that I needed. Next, nearly ever pharmacy looks something like the back room of a tavern where the bookie does his business. They are small, they are cramped, and the medicines are precariously stacked on dusty shelves, easily within arm’s reach of the customers. Lastly, they don’t take your prescription. They gladly hand over the medications prescribed and send you on your merry way, prescription still in hand. Prescriptions don’t even need to be on a prescription pad…any blank sheet of paper will do.
After our big adventure, we stopped at KFC for some chicken. A little grease on top of a stomach ache never hurt anyone, right?
That evening, we retrieved the sample (Ender was very mature about it all and did it without me in the room), and the next morning the driver and I headed out to find a lab. He had asked around the previous evening because he knew what we had to do, so he knew where to go. The lab was located in a medical office building. The place was extremely packed, which is the norm here, as I have found. I waited patiently at the front desk, with people jumping in front of me (again, the norm here), until Mujeeb came up to the desk with me and helped me push my way through to the front (its the only way…) and get my message across. The sample was handed over, and I was given a small receipt with which to pick it up again. You’ll be surprised to learn that ANYONE can pick it up. Hippa laws obviously don’t apply here.
Mujeeb picked up the results for me the next morning. I was thrilled to learn that Ender was worm-free, and seemed to already be responding to medications. I called the doctor with the news, on her cell phone, as she had asked, and she told me that nothing further needed to be done. Come back if he starts having problems again, otherwise he’s fine.
I am greatly pleased that my child didn’t need to be dewormed, however, I would not have been totally surprised considering the way he digs into any dirt or sand he can find and is somewhat resistant to hand washing. I did take the opportunity to lecture him about washing better, using the “The Dr. says that you could have had worms! WORMS!” ploy. Unfortunately, it only seemed to work on Addie, who, ever since, has been a hand-washing maniac.
Oh, as a side note to all this: Prices.
Cost of Dr. Visit: 300rs (about $7 USD)
Cost of Medications: 65 rs (about $1.25 USD)
Cost of lab tests: around 85rs (about $2 USD)
Total: 450rs. (somewhere near $10 USD)
Less than half the price of our insurance co-pay in the US. Amazing, isn’t it?
Tune in tomorrow for: Stacy’s day at the hospital (its not as bad as it sounds!)