I don’t know about you but I always find going to see the doctor really stressful, and the thought of having to speak to them in another language even more so. As a result, I’d been putting off going to the doctor’s for as long as I could, but when I noticed a small lump on my neck that didn’t seem to be going away, I thought better safe than sorry.
When I went to the health centre a couple of months back to ask for my health card, the queue was non-existent. Literally, I don’t think there was a single person in front of me. So, imagine my surprise when I rocked up for my appointment 15 minutes early and it soon became clear that I wasn’t even going to reach the counter in time.
I screwed up all my courage and turned to the woman behind me in the queue. ’Excuse me,’ I said, ‘if I have an appointment, do I have to wait here?’
‘No,’ she said, looking at me as if I were simple. ‘You just go on through. Do you know where your doctor’s room is?’
No, I didn’t. No idea, and there didn’t seem to be any signs to help me, other than on the doors themselves. But off I set in search and soon I came across it. Even better, there was nobody waiting on the bench outside, which was great as there was a sign outside the door saying to go in in the order of arrival. Soon two other ladies came and joined me and it quickly became evident that we all had the same appointment time. This became the subject of much debate. Should we really go in as we arrived? Or would he call us? Given that even the Spaniards seemed unsure, I really started to question myself.
We assumed, as the door was shut, that there was somebody in there with the doctor – an assumption that turned out to be correct, but when she came out, none of us was quite clear what should happen next. So I stayed put, shuffling nervously and starting to feel increasingly anxious.
Fortunately, at this point one of my flatmates turned up, stuck her head through the door and asked if I could go in, and the doctor said yes. So in I went.
The doctor was a bit grumpy (although maybe my nervousness and the language barrier didn’t help – and neither did the fact that his computer suddenly switched itself off as he was using it!) but I came out with a reassurance that the neck thing wasn’t anything to worry about, a prescription for some cream to put on it, a piece of paper suggesting I get booked in for an asthma review and a referral to the hospital for their breast cancer screening service. So, all in all, it was a pretty successful trip.
But then I really did have to join the queue in reception. And some twenty minutes later, when I finally did reach the counter, I realised the next problem was that I wasn’t even sure what I needed to show her. Was the A4 piece of paper I’d been given actually my prescription? (Yes, it was.) Did she need the referral paper or was that for my information? (This was easier to figure out as I’d been given two copies – one for each of us). And I was pretty sure she did need to see the asthma review thingy to make me an appointment. Sorted.
I called in at the chemist’s on my way home. The A4 paper (with the help of my health card) magically turned into a tube of cream, and rather than a set prescription fee, I paid a percentage of the cost – a lot less than the £9 it now costs to get anything on prescription in the UK!
My friend Sara described being new to Spain as being like an 8 year-old again, and it really did feel that way this morning. But now that I’m back home, with a cup of tea and an appointment to go back and do it all over again on Thursday, I feel like I achieved something – and hopefully next time it will feel a whole lot easier.