Yes, I’m still in Berlin. I know, it’s been awhile since I’ve written one of these. Stop yelling at me! The stress is going to send me to the doctor. Okay really bad segue, I know.
If you’ve been with me for awhile, you might recall my experience with the French healthcare system. Genius in its simplicity, it made me want to be French. Well, that and many other reasons. But I can’t lament my place of birth, even if the healthcare system is making people go broke and uh, sick. And that’s with Obamacare (and I am not making a political statement here, so chill. I’ve had my personal hell with ACA before leaving the U.S.).
When I decided to move to Berlin, it meant learning about yet another healthcare system. And by learn, I mean doing whatever I needed to do to please the Ausländerbehörde (look at me, using German words!). What I first learned is that, of course, having health insurance is mandatory. Problem was, as a freelancer I was told I wouldn’t be accepted into the German public health system at the outset. And getting into a German private healthcare plan would be too difficult. Suddenly, Obamacare wasn’t looking so bad. My only option was a “European” healthcare plan that would “probably” be accepted by the immigration office when I applied for my visa.
Cut to today when I’m still trying to figure this crap out. But that’s not what this post is about, so I won’t bore you with further details.
Who Were These Samaritans, Anyway?
No, this story begins on a Berlin bus on Sonnenallee. The M41. God, I hate this bus. Usually packed to the gills and overrun by baby carriages, I curse my decision to get on this thing every time (and lest you think I’m a glutton for punishment, I usually take the longer way so I can avoid it).
Now to anyone reading this who has also read my book, suffice it to say you know that buses are not my friend. And with that teaser, chances are you might know what’s coming. Yes, the one time I managed to get a seat on this bus, I felt bad when an older lady was standing near me. So being the kind citizen, good samaritan that I was, I got up to offer her my seat. I was subsequently rewarded for this by the bus suddenly lurching forward and me launching backward with nothing to grab hold of.
Once again a bus had become my bane of existence as I fell backwards and landed on something–my backpack I believe–and felt this sudden pain on the upper back left side of my ribcage. The combination of pain, embarrassment, and people asking me in German if I was alright (at least I assume that’s what they were asking me–lord knows, they might have been yelling at me, “hey moron, the bus is too crowded to pull this crap!”)
My first thought was, “Oh god, is this what having broken ribs feels like?” My second thought was, “What the hell is a Berlin emergency room like?” Would I be fighting my way through hipsters with man buns who got stuck with bad tattoo needles or had infections from their lip piercings?
Not wanting to learn the latter and convincing myself the answer to the former was “No,” I trudged on about my day, basically ignoring this pain in my side. “Suck it up. You’re German now–sort of. Half these people suffered Communism. You can deal with sore ribs!”
Besides, there’s nothing you can do for broken ribs anyway, right? Right?
I hadn’t bothered to find a doctor since arriving here because, well, I hate going to the doctor. But now I figured the time had come to find one, just in case. Unfortunately this led to a series of phone calls where either I couldn’t get someone who could speak English or if they did, they weren’t accepting new patients. Or possibly a new English-speaking patient who can’t get past “Ich möchte ein Termin.” (“Serves him right for only being at A1.1 level!”)
This pretty much made the decision for me to see how things went if I ignored it.
And as the next few days passed, miraculously the pain subsided. Sleep was in short supply, but I could deal with it. Falling asleep while sitting up is what season 2 of True Detective is for. I was, in fact, being tested yet rewarded for my good samaritan act. Karma was in balance. And it would cost me nothing.
Unfortunately, this happened during allergy season.
And a couple of hard sneezes later, the searing pain that resulted in my side was now worse than ever. If my ribs weren’t broken before, a couple of nasal orgasms probably just did them in. Now, breathing was difficult, standing up was painful, and if the torment of laying on my side wasn’t a factor, I just wanted to curl up in a fetal ball.
Because now it was clear I was going to have to figure out the emergency room.
In all honesty, it was like the anticipation of the needle being worse than the needle itself. Yes, it took about 5 hours to get out of there. And yes, the x-ray technician was an older woman who spoke no English and had a demeanor that was left over from East Germany. But no broken ribs and an orderly, if slow, process it was over. Okay, maybe the guy who was yelling and causing a commotion was unnerving (especially since I couldn’t understand what he was saying) but at least it wasn’t in the U.S. so no ducking for cover was necessary.
And the cost? 120 euros, including the x-rays. Try walking out of the ER in the U.S. for that, with healthcare let alone out of pocket. In fact, try just walking into the ER in the U.S. for that. (However, if anyone at BVG is reading this and wants to reimburse me for your sadistic driver, I’ll take it!)
Oh, and then there’s the prescription for painkillers. Now, I’m not one for taking painkillers–I hate taking medication. But there are times when a little comfort is in order. I don’t know if Germans like having a little pain as a reminder that they aren’t fully healed or not, but these prescription painkillers? Let’s just say I’ve gotten stronger ones over the counter at RiteAid. I actually couldn’t tell the difference with or without.
This all happened a few months ago and in case you’re wondering, I have finally found a doctor. How? A few doctors have websites where you can make online appointments, so I made one just to get past the whole receptionist thing, not knowing if the doctor spoke English or not. Fortunately, a good friend called for me to confirm the doctor did speak English. Problem solved. Someday I’ll be able to do all this myself but for now, I love my German friends!
Next time I get a chance to play good samaritan, will I avoid it? Nah, I’ll just hold on tight.