What A Week= A Clash of Systems

Last Thursday all was well. Then Thursday night, I had a feeling that something wasn’t right. By Friday, I was so weak I more or less spent the entire day sleeping and my stomach was on fire. By that evening, I was spending more time in the bathroom than I would usually like and it went downhill from there. Saturday, we went to the hospital. I was shivering one minute and sweating like crazy the next.

The funny thing was, we couldn’t seem to find the emergency room. Walking all around this huge rambling hospital was not something I really wanted to do. There were a few choice remarks about how well signposted it was and that you could die trying to be saved. We later discovered that there really isn’t an emergency facility at this hospital!

Eventually, we were pointed to the surgical unit that served as an emergency service of sorts at weekends. After waiting an hour, I was prodded, poked and interrogated. Blood was taken and an ultrasound exam. Then wait. By the time we were called back, it was a different doctor who wrote me a prescription for antibiotics and sent us off saying come back if it gets worse. It got worse. So same procedure on Sunday. The blood tests indicated inflammation or infection. They offered to admit me – I said No. Once you get admitted to a Czech hospital – it’s hard to get out again. However, by Monday, I was forced to concede my hand and that night I was admitted.

The Czech medicine system is social medicine of course and by and large, it truly is excellent.Yes, you have to follow the protocols and so on but the treatment is second to none and I would include my 20-years experience of over-priced, hyper-cautious US medicine in that.

I was immediately put on three different antibiotics and infusions for dehydration, pain and so on. I even got a private room at a small daily fee. But I knew what to expect and I was not wrong. Is it the 5-years of communism I wonder that has the medical staff in a hospital here do everything right except remember that you are a person? By day 2, I was already feeling better and plotting my escape strategy!

You see, most Czechs just take it. They were brought up to accept the silent treatment of the nurses, the visits by pompous heads of departments surrounded by sycophantic junior Doctors who barely look at you and talk in front of you as if you actually did not exist. There is a formula I was told. It works and we follow it. You do as you are told, we treat you per the formula and you get well.


On my last day, they moved an older gentleman in next to me. He spoke some English. 30-days I have been locked in this hell hole he told me. 30-days? I asked why he didn’t demand to be allowed home and he looked at me and after a short think said – communism. I knew exactly what he meant. He had been trained his entire life to do not think. It’s difficult to let that go I suppose. I on the other hand, have been trained to think, analyze, compete, speak my mind and get ahead. A clash of systems was about to occur.

If you complain you get the cold shoulder. But, complain I did. Why was I trapped to the hospital bed I asked with a drip? To go to the bathroom I had to call the nurse who arrived when they felt like, muttered under their breath and unhooked me. I simply pointed out that I could take pills instead right? I was hydrated. I was recovering. I was grateful but…. A doctor arrived. We had a discussion in which I made my case. I was unhooked. The staff wouldn’t talk to me after that. How dare a patient actually complain? How dare a patient actually discuss his health and situation with a doctor?

I wasn’t rude. I just explained and made my case.

Every doctor visit I didn’t lay there while they discussed me like I wasn’t there. I engaged the doctor with questions about my condition, the plan and queried why? This was my escape plan you see. I knew that they don’t like ‘difficult’ patients.

I got out Thursday afternoon. As I dressed to make my final bid for freedom, the man next to me looked on sadly. He was wondering how I had managed to get out so easily while he still lay there with drip not knowing what was next or even why he was still there.

I am recovering now at home. I have a diet and the antibiotics. I am weak. I didn’t eat a thing for four days.

I’m not complaining. The system was there for me when I needed it and it is an effective system. I just wish it recognized that the person being treated is a person.

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