Some of you know that I, Esther, hurt my foot while visiting the States last month. It actually happend while picking Ben up at the Philly airport. My brother Travis and I drove down with my nephew Logan to pick Ben up. We planned to get there early, park and see if we could see any airplanes taking off and landing. As Travis, Logan and I crossed the parking lot, I happened to look up and see Ben standing across the way, waiting for his ride. It turned out that his flight was early. So as I was stepping on the curb with Logan in my arms, I yelled out "Hey Ben!" and watched as he turned toward me and smiled. It was then that I noticed that he only had a backpack with him, which was weird because I had packed a suitcase for him before I left (10 days earlier than him). Just as I was beginning to process what that meant, my left foot didn't quite make it onto the curb as my right one already had, and I was falling. I quickly decided that the most important thing was to be sure that Logan wasn't smooshed between the sidewalk and my weight, so I gripped him closely and tried to brace the fall with my left hand, which really just caused the weight of both of us onto my left knee and foot, causing serious pain as we sort of collapsed together. Logan, thank the Lord, was not hurt at all, but it was all I could do not to frighten him by crying out in pain as I handed him up to Travis who watched all of this happen as if in slow motion. Poor Logan just looked at Travis and said, "We fell" and then looked at me with a little scared face...I felt so bad. By then, Ben had reached us and was trying to help as I gingerly turned myself to sit on the curb I had just fallen over. With tears in my eyes I tried to greet my husband who I had missed over the last week and a half, and then said, "Where is your suitcase?" His face was so confused, because he believed I had brought his suitcase with me, when in fact it was sitting behind the door in our bedroom, still packed with clothes for PA and FL. He only had the clothes he was wearing, an extra pair of jeans, 2 t-shirts, some underwear and socks and a sweatshirt.
Needless to say, we had a dramatic reunion at the airport and then battled traffic back to the Phoenixville Hospital for Ben to meet our new nephew Cole, who had been born the day before. My foot was hurting me badly, but I was confident there were no breaks, just a really bad sprain, so we iced it and moved on with our trip...which included quite a bit of walking in Disney World...but like i said, we just moved on and enjoyed ourselves even though the swelling, bruising and pain was a lot to bear by the end of our days happily but slowly traipsing all over the theme parks.
By the time we returned to Germany, I decided it would be best to spend a week or so trying to stay off of it and give it time to heal. After 2 weeks of boredom (and a little sun bathing), it was still not feeling better, so I decided it was time to see a Doctor.
Two of Ben's co-workers were planning a trip to Mittenwald, where there is a Germany Army base that we are allowed to visit for medical treatment, free of charge. I traveled with them on a snowy Tuesday morning into a building under construction with signs all in German...I was really quite glad I had not attempted this on my own since I would never have found where I was supposed to go-especially in the fresh snow. We were walk-ins, so we waited while others with appointments were seen first and finally a Nurse walked by, poked her head in and in English, with a strong German accent, asked us what we were doing. We explained that we had checked in at reception and were told to wait here to be seen. She disappeared and came back a minute later to explain that none of the Nurses had called for us because no one knew we were there. So then we took turns walking down the hall and into rather large exam rooms (4 or 5 times the size of exam rooms in the States) with a Nurse and Doktor waiting there. The Nurse didn't seem to know much English, but the Doktor did and asked me a little about my injury while she quickly examined my foot. I knew that they probably couldn't give me an x-ray there, but would refer me to someplace in Garmisch, which was exactly what she did. Feeling overwhelmed by the new experience, I left before realizing that I hadn't really gotten any medical advice about my foot. They had wrapped it for me, put some creme on it and sent me home with a tube of the creme (all of which is in German, so I can't read what it is, what it's purpose is, or how often I should use it) with no other explanation or advice. I didn't let that worry me too much since I would see another Doktor when I had my x-ray, but still, it was weird not to get a laundry list of things to do until my foot healed.
I called the X-ray Doktor's office and should have know what I was in for right away, when the receptionist knew only enough English to tell me what day and time to arrive and a store that the office was located near as a landmark. But I found the place easily, found parking and then had to find the button to push to enter the front door that looked like a back door of a shady bar.
Once inside, the same pleasant receptionist greeted me with the Bavarian "Gruss Got" which i returned with a smile, and then said "I'm Esther Hardy, here to see the Doktor for an X-ray." I got a blank stare. I handed her my paperwork and ID. She looked at it and then asked me some questions in broken English that I wasn't sure I understood. I did my best to answer and then was asked to sit in the waiting room. I walked into a room full of elderly Germans with obvious hand and foot injuries, smiled and found a seat to read my mystery novel. Once the room was cleared out, I was called into a smaller, but still large by US standards, exam room where the Doktor followed immediately. There was no Nurse to ask preliminary questions, just a Doktor, asking me to take my shoe and sock off quicker than humanly possible, especially considering my injured foot. :) He did a quick exam, told me to go back to the waiting area to wait for my X-ray and walked out. This all took, literally, about 2 minutes. After having 2 x-rays taken of my foot, I waited again. The Doktor asked me into the exam room a 2nd time, showed me that the x-rays showed to breaks or fractures, handed me a prescription (for the cream I was already using-not that he would know since he didn't ask me how I was treating my foot) and told me to "come back in a few weeks if it isn't any better". He walked out of the room and down the hall. This took about 90 seconds. So there I was, back at the receptionist's desk, asking if I was free to go or if they needed me to sign anything. She just smiled and said "Auf Wiedersehen".
And so concluded my first experience with German medicine. I was proud of myself for seeing two Doktors on my own (expect for the ride to the first visit), but told myself that next time, I would make sure to ask questions and get answers...no more taking for granted that I would be told exactly what I should do with my "not broken" foot.
I have since been told that this is what is to be expected from socialized medicine, and that if I were to see a Doktor through my health insurance I would have a better experience. I guess I'll find that out at some point...and I hope it's true. Because, really, I got what I needed-a confirmation that nothing was broken-but I didn't get what I wanted. Some advice and reassurance would have been very helpful. And there is no way I would want to go back to that second Doktor even if my foot wasn't getting any better...which, I think it finally is. ;)