Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sick in America

Let me begin this post by declaring this: it is a universal injustice that people who dutifully get their flu shot end up with the flu. I know, there are different strains of the flu virus, blah, blah, blah. Still.

Being sick in America is a bit different than being sick in Italy. Here are some of the major differences:

1. In Italy, doctors still make house calls. Granted, you need to be pretty sick for this to happen. Either that, or have an insistent mother-in-law. Which pretty much covers a good chunk of the population.

Once I had (what turned out to be) strep throat with a fever of about 102. My mother-in-law had brought lunch over and insisted I take my temperature. She then insisted I call the doctor and tell him to come over right away, since it was a blustery January day. He asked what my symptoms were, and then said something like: "Can't you just come in yourself?" to which I answered, "Sure, I can come in." That's when my mother-in-law took over, berating the doctor for not coming over when I'd asked, and making it sound like I was on my death bed.

Long story short (er), he showed up on his motor scooter about 30 minutes later. Under the eagle eye of my mother-in-law, he examined my throat, felt my forehead, and did that awful throat culture thing that makes you gag. When my mother-in-law was out of ear shot, he whispered, "You could have come in, you know." I gave a subtle nod toward my mother-in-law and whispered back, "Yes, I know." He did one of those peripheral glances her way and nodded, as if to say, "I know. I have one of those at home, too."

2. Speaking of throat cultures, the thing the doctor sticks down your throat is called a tampone in Italian. Last month my 9-year-old daughter asked the pediatrician if she had to have a tampone when she had strep throat. Nice. Bless him, he didn't even raise an eyebrow. I taught her the term "throat culture" right there on the spot.

3. Another major difference between being sick in America and ammalata in'Italia is that no one from work stopped by my house to see if I was really sick. In Italy, many employers do this, making it hard to play hooky from work. Hard, but not impossible. They do have the courtesy of telling you when they'll be stopping by--they usually give you a 2-hour window.

4. Lastly, one of the things I appreciate most about being sick in America is prescriptions. In Italy, the directions aren't printed for you on the label. I discovered this the hard way. As the doctor was telling me what the dosage was, I nodded and said, "Si, si, va bene," which translates to: "Okay, okay, just give me the paper so I can get to the pharmacy and put myself out of this misery."

Well, I should have listened. There was no label, and I had to slog through the enclosed pamphlet in Italian and figure out the dosage by weight (in kilos, of course).

But the best part about being sick in America? I have 3 (or is it 5?) words for you:

24-hour drive-thru pharmacy

God Bless America

13 comments:

Angela said...

sorry you're sick, but glad you're seeing the positives (as you always seem to do)

Your daughter's comment cracked me up!!!

Thinking of you!!!

jennifer said...

What a bummer to get the shot AND the flu.

And how hilarious that in Italy you can expect your boss to check up on you. I think I might enjoy the pure challenge of faking sick just so I could create a believable and horrible scenario, complete with sounds and smells.

michelle of bleeding espresso said...

The tampone thing is hilarious and still makes me do a double-take whenever I hear it on CSI or a similar show in Italian ;)

Hope you're feeling better soon! I wasn't feeling well recently either and actually just sung the praises of Italian pharmacies on my blog, but you're *so* right about the directions! It's imperative to pay attention to the pharmacist to avoid having to read the whole entire insert (the usage directions aren't exactly jumping out on them. You think they could at least put them first!

Natalie said...

Thanks, Angela, and Fröhliche Weihnachten to you and your familia!

Ha, Jennifer! I'd love to see you try...it would make a good story, I'm sure. :-)

Thanks, Michelle, and I love your website! The other biggie is no child-safety caps in Italy...I've forgotten how to open them here in the U.S.. :-)

Christina Farley said...

Sorry your feeling blue. But I loved to contrast between being sick in the States and Italy!

C.K. said...

Ugh on the dreaded throat swab (at least you don't need one of those to determine a person has the flu!). And I think you're dead right about people getting the flu shot and then the flu. I don't haven't had a proper case of the flu (just lots of icky Gastroenteritis) in decades and I've never had the shot.

24-hour drive-thru pharmacy. Bliss! I hope you're taking it easy. Feel better soon, Natalie!

Natalie said...

Thanks, Christina! Hope you guys are all healthy for the holidays over in Korea. :-)

Thanks for your good wishes, C.K.! Our kids' pediatrician in Italy said that Americans are overvaccinated. Bambini can't get the flu shot in Italy--only adults. My doctor there said that he never gets the flu shot because he's not in a high risk group, and he thinks getting sick helps your body to fight off future illnesses better. We've been sick so much this fall (my younger son, mostly, who was born in Italy) and the doctor here says it's the unfamiliar germ pool that's doing us in. So I got the flu shot just because I've already missed so many days of work, and then I get the flu! Oy.

Hope your holidays are happy and healthy. :)

Danette Haworth said...

Ha! Hope you're feeling better.

Mary Witzl said...

They used to do house calls in the U.K. too, but too many people abused this privilege and now very few doctors are willing to go to people's houses. In Japan, you could be at death's door and you'd still be expected to drag yourself off to a hospital.

And I certainly agree about the drive-through pharmacies. America is great for so many things, and drive-through pharmacies rank way up there on my list. So do decent showers.

Africakid said...

I agree about the pharmacy! All the apothekes (pharmacies) except for one shut down on the weekend -- and that one rotates around. So I never quite know where to go.

We move back to the NW from Germany in January and it will be an adjustment, I'm sure!

Julie_c said...

I'm so sorry you got sick. We NEVER get the flu shots. We also NEVER get the flu. (I am knocking on wood right now.) Have you noticed what a big deal the flu shots are around here? I wonder if they do any good at all?

Still - it stinks to go through the injection and then get ill. Insult on top of injury.

Angela said...

Natalie;
I hope you got your camera situation straightened out before the holidays (we've had horrible camera Karma with out move too!)

Happy 2009!

I've nominated you for an Honest Scrap Award!

Natalie said...

Thanks, Danette, and I love your hat!

Hi Mary! Here's wishing you as many decent showers as you can handle over there in Turkey this holiday season. :-)

Africakid, best of luck with the move! I know it's stressful, and I'm sure this holiday was a hard one knowing that you're leaving. Let me know when you're back, and good luck!

Julie, I'm so jealous that you never get the flu! My husband is like that, too. Hope your holidays were flu-free. :-)

Thanks for the award, Angela! Now I have to think of my list of 10... Buon Anno Nuovo to you and your family. :-)