We made an unexpected trip through the Portuguese health care system on Sunday. A few nights ago we were out and about, enjoying the Christmas lights and smell of sizzling farturas (stay tuned for a blog entry on those). Heading towards home, we walked near a construction site and I felt something fly into my eye. It was sharp and painful. That will teach me to leave home without my hardhat and safety googles...
I yanked my contacts out and flushed my eye, but a few days later my eye still felt uncomfortable. Sunday night I called Health Partners in Minneapolis and explained what happened. The nurse told me to get my butt to an emergency room to have it checked out. A quick phone call to MEDEX led us to an accredited ER which happens to be across the street from our apartment. How lucky is that??!!
After standing in the waiting room watching SERIOUS medical emergencies, we were sent through triage and quickly escorted to Dr. Handsome, an ophthalmologist who assessed the situation. He confirmed that my cornea was not damaged, then he flipped up my upper eyelid, grabbed a pointy tool and snagged a piece of grit that was embedded under my top eyelid!! I felt better INSTANTLY.
After paying the bill, the ER staff directed us towards a 24 hour pharmacy so I could get my antibiotic eyedrop prescription filled (for a mere $4).
The upside of this drama was our tour of the old part of the hospital where the ophthalmology department is housed. Built about 500 years ago to house pilgrims, travelers, and impoverished citizens, Hospital de São Marcos is a beautiful building with stone arches, a lush courtyard and neoclassical chapel. Originally intended to provide hospitality to those in need, it eventually evolved into a teaching facility for medical students and has now been absorbed into the sprawling complex of the new hospital behind it. I had never made the connection between the words "hospitality" and "hospital" before!
|beautiful and functional Hospital de São Marcos|
Although we were nervous about tackling yet another unfamiliar system here, everyone was extremely helpful and kind throughout the whole process. It took a village to get that rock out of my eye and I couldn't be more grateful to those who helped along the way.
This actually happened a few weeks ago, but I think I'm ready to go public with the story... Our laundry situation is interesting here. We have a tiny washer that takes 2 hours to complete a cycle. We don't have a dryer, so we put everything on racks or the clothesline that's strung just beyond our balcony.
On this particular morning I was happy to see sunshine and blue skies, so I started hanging stuff out on the line. I was NOT so happy when I heard a thud and realized that I had dropped something down on to the roof of the balcony 3 stories below. <SIGH>
With a clothes pin in hand as a prop, I headed down to Rita and Rui's apartment as it has access to the roof in question. As I mimed my situation, Rita quickly figured out what was going on. Trying to hide her amusement, Rita helped me retrieve my item. Was it a sock or a hankie or a towel? NO! It was my favorite pair of blue and green polka dot underpants!!
As I was leaving with my damp underwear in hand, Rita presented me with a bag of cookies and a nice smile. If I had known that my clutziness would be rewarded, I would have dropped something down there sooner!