are you healthy?
Weather: cold and grey
By Slovak law workers have to undergo a health check before they start a new contract. So six weeks into my contract I received a doctor’s appointment for mine…
By a series of small events I, of course, missed the bus I intended to catch, arriving in the centre 5 minutes later than planned and a little more pissed off that I would have liked. Shuddering my way through the centre following my map, to my horror I saw that it was -6 and after scrambling around in my bag realised my gloves were in my other coat pocket.
So I made my way to the Merciful Brothers Hospital and entered the building with the familiar smell of urine and disinfectant that foreign hospitals seem to have. It was now five minutes after my appointment and I couldn’t see any staircases or an obvious map. On my frantic tour of the hospital I came across nuns and religious paintings at every turn. I made it eventually to the “waiting room” and seeing there were no free chairs, I stood feeling stupid and panting as it was now 9.07am. For those of you who don’t know, an ambulatorio (in Spanish) is the section in a hospital where people go for dr’s appointments. This may also happen in the UK, but since I am small town, going to the dr’s means you sit in a cosy waiting room, flicking through a magazine, listening to local radio. In Slovakia and in Spain, you are in a section of a hospital and you sit in the corridor outside the door with your dr’s name on it.
A seat became available so I shuffled over and fell into it. I had followed my instructions not to eat anything and to drink nothing but water and by now was feeling rather hungry and weak. The door opened, a nurse came out with a list, as they do in Spain, reeled off a few names and disappeared again before I had a chance to register if she’s said my name or not. This happened again and I wondered if I was too far away to be noticed, so I got up reluctantly and planted myself nearer the door, on foot. Door opens again, another person silently goes in, so I take the seat, now in view of the door. 30 minutes later, I realise it’s 9.45 and not much action has happened. Was I too late? Had I missed appointment? Why was no one asking who I was? Now ten o ‘clock and the nurse appears and disappears again. My papers are in my hand and my expression invited the attention of the old couple sitting next to me. She said something incomprehensible to me, as everyone else went silent. Now for my big language test… I’m sorry, I don’t speak Slovak, I told her in Slovak. This didn’t register (I mean, really?? You are here and you don’t speak our language?!) So she tried again. I’m sorry, I responded, I don’t understand Slovak. Again, this didn’t seem to register. Grandma tried again, so I showed her my paper, pointing to the handwritten note saying that my appointment was at 9am. Grandma still didn’t get it, so said something else, to which I responded I don’t understand, I am English. Her and her husband then gave up, but talked rather loudly, obviously about the silly girl who didn’t understand anything. I just shrugged apologetically and sat there feeling really stupid. I really did not have the language to find out if I had missed my appointment, or indeed even have one! The nurse appeared and disappeared once again, but this time on her way back grandma grabbed her and said something to her, of which I understood “she doesn’t understand”. I started to stand, proffering my piece of paper. “English?!” She barked. “Yes!” I gasped, relieved. To which the response was just a hand gesture to sit my arse back down. Right, marvellous. Again, had I done this in Spanish I would have been making friends with grandma and grandpa, having a good joke about not understanding the system, or perhaps taking the piss out of the fact I’d been waiting an hour.
Grandma tried again a few more times, but to no avail. I still didn’t understand what she was trying to say. Finally after 90 mins of waiting, and now starving from having no breakfast I was ushered in.
The nurse pointed to where I should leave my wares and took the papers I’d been clutching for the last hour. “Good morning!” Beamed the doctor in English. “You are Grace! Grace Elizabeth! Lovely! And Langridge… is your family name?” no apology for the 90 minute wait. “Are you Healthy?” She asked already signing my fitness to work form. I stupidly started to mention my back history and quickly wished I had kept my mouth shut as she started having difficulty asking me about x-rays and treatment and medicine. At least I had remembered to bring my painkillers. I dashed over to my bag to get them for her and remembered there was a bottle of my wee in there too. “Would you like this now?”, I asked. “Yes, please, you can give it to the table.” Now was not the time to correct her English. As I sat down again, “Can we take your blood?” Why yes of course! I am starving, and if you don’t take it I’ll have been sitting there with no breakfast for nothing! Slovak nurse instructs me in Slovak as to what to do. Lucky for her I’m somewhat of an expert on blood tests as that seemed to be their favourite hobby in Spain!
When she seemed to have all the answers to her questions (she wrote nothing down) She gave me her email address (to make future appointments?) and said “Best Wishes and enjoy your visit to Slovakia!”
I left the hospital two hours after arriving. She hadn’t weighed me, measured me, listened to my heart, checked my pulse, taken my blood pressure or really done much to check my health. Tired, hungry, and now rather dizzy having given away some of my blood. I said goodbye to grandma and grandpa and wished that being English didn’t make me feel so ignorant!