One point for socialized healthcare!

14 Apr

We arrived in London at 7am Saturday, running on fumes from the two hours of sleep we garnered during the red-eye over. We made ourselves push through the day, taking in sites and hopping on a walking tour, so that we could adjust to the new time zone. We covered 20 miles on foot over the weekend and felt properly acclimated by the time we ventured to our office Monday morning.

Unfortunately, I also had the start of a sore throat. A sore throat that got increasingly worse as the day went on. I led my training sessions in the morning, doing a baton hand-off to my colleague after lunch. I sat in her session with an eye toward helping out, but I found I was struggling to swallow, let alone talk. Finally, at 3pm, I decided it would be stupid to continue pushing through while I was obviously getting sick, so I cut my losses and headed to the National Health System’s walk-in clinic.

As a side note, I found the signage around the clinic a bit odd. British people don’t seem very violent to me, but apparently there must be a fair amount of medical rage:

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 7.39.13 AM

After arriving, I was told there was a £75 charge for foreigners to see a doctor. The woman telling me seemed apologetic and assured me I would only have to pay if the person running triage couldn’t resolve me. I didn’t bother telling her that it would cost me $200 – even with insurance – to walk into an ER in the States.

After waiting only 10 minutes, I saw the triage specialist. She took my symptoms, checked my throat, ears and sinuses and said, “Unfortunately, it seems it is viral at this point. I don’t think you need to spend the money on a doctor, but DO get yourself some over the counter meds to manage your symptoms. And if you develop white spots on your throat or your symptoms get worse, come back.”

Part of me was relieved with this advice since I go to great lengths to avoid antibiotics, but part of me wanted some course of medication that might make me feel better since I had nine days of training sixty people ahead of me. I returned to my room, took a bath and crawled in bed.

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 7.41.38 AMOver night, my throat became much worse. I couldn’t swallow without crying. It was so painful I couldn’t sleep. I was back at the NHS walk-in clinic as soon as it opened in the morning. This time, I was admitted to chat with a doctor, who took one look at my throat and pronounced it strep. (White spots had appeared over night.) She gave me a prescription for penicillin, which I filled before returning to my hotel room.

As a side note: you know how expensive it is to fill a prescription in the US? With insurance, there is generally a $10 or $20 co-pay. Sometimes, if you go for a name brand drug you pay beyond that. And if you don’t have insurance? You’re totally screwed.

Imagine my delight at the pharmacy when I was given four boxes of pills for less than £20. Not too shabby for someone who is uninsured.

Even better – within 12 hours of starting the antibiotics, I was able to swallow again. By the time I woke up on Wednesday, I was feeling almost normal and completely able to resume the training sessions we had designed.

If we had another day in London, I would’ve made a trek to the Fleming Museum so I could see the lab where Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin and give thanks for his brilliance. Without that intervention, this trip would’ve been a bust.

Now I just have to hope I don’t pick up something viral on the flight home!

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5 Responses to “One point for socialized healthcare!”

  1. spaarolifantje April 14, 2016 at 1:45 am #

    Glad to hear that it resolved so quickly!

    • pithypants April 14, 2016 at 4:00 am #

      Seriously – so lucky and so grateful! 🙂

  2. Jay E. April 14, 2016 at 8:30 pm #

    Since penicillin sends me into anaphylactic shock, my motive for visiting Fleming’s lab would be different from yours.

    However, I’m glad you are feeling better.

    • pithypants April 27, 2016 at 5:18 am #

      Um… yeah… I could imagine you might set it on fire. :/

      • Jay E. April 27, 2016 at 6:07 am #

        Burn it with fire. I’ll bring the marshmallows.

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