Last Thursday night a sore throat and lots of congestion hit me suddenly. I'll be fine I'll be fine I'll be fine was my mantra. But the onset of cold, windy weather mixed with stepping in and out of hot classrooms and stores and train cars didn't help me any, and unfortunately, neither did the "over the counter" meds at the pharmacy (nothing here medicine-related is truly "over the counter" because you have to describe your symptoms and ask for everything, including ibuprofen!). And I won't even talk about all of the germs I'm exposed to on a daily basis: children coughing on me, coughing on their hands and then running over to hold my hand, and the little girl who proudly declares, "I've vomitado SIX TIMES today!" while giving me a big hug.
Today I woke up without much of a voice and more of the same unpleasant symptoms that had been bothering me for a few days. I truly could have gone to work, but I know if I don't get this under control with an antibiotic and some rest, it's bound to continue for some time due to the environment I'm living in (see paragraph #1). And my nose is just about raw from tissue usage. And so I knew it was inevitable: I had to go to the doctor.
In Spain, if you miss any work due to sickness or a doctor's appointment, you must provide proof from the clinic (essentially, a doctor's note, called a justificante) that tells your employer you legitimately were ill or had some sort of medical emergency. I suppose this prevents people (including auxiliares) from calling in on a Monday morning saying, "Hey (cough cough cough), I'm (cough cough)...sick!" while they're really enjoying a hot chocolate and some churros at the ski slope snack bar in Granada.
I've been to the doctor before in Spain, though whenever I had the basic cold/upper respiratory infection/sinus infection I saw a wonderful doctor in Madrid who looks like a Spaniard (because he is) and talks like an American (because he studied there). I had quite an unpleasant experience at a podiatrist in Madrid, where no one spoke a word of English, but I won't make you sick right now, in case you're eating or generally woozy when you hear about blood and needles.
Today, I went to a local medical clinic where John has been previously for something similar. I walked 25 minutes there (difference #1 when going to the doctor here, no doubt) and found it easily, but I was a little mystified about whether or not I was in the right place when 1. I see the sign below:
Is this some strange form of Spanish multi-tasking? I figured I was in the right place when I saw people with white jackets on, but multiple "Renew Your License" signs threw me off! 2. The lady at the front desk seemed confused as to why I was there. "I need to see a doctor because I am sick," I explained. Somehow we cleared it all up and I spent 15 euros more than John had for the same doctor's visit...
I waited in a little area with lots of chairs. An older Spanish gentleman disobeyed the cultural norm of asking "Quién es la última?" (Who's last?), or maybe he just didn't care, and he went on ahead of me. That's OK, it gave me time to ponder and sneak a picture of the driver's license sign. I went in next, and found the doctor at a desk, a friendly looking middle-aged woman. I explained my symptoms, and then she took a phone call. She smiled when she got off, an apology of sorts. She called me over to the little exam area where she listened to my breathing through her stethoscope and peered into my throat with that little light and a tongue depressor. I wasn't weighed, my temperature wasn't taken, my lymph nodes and glands weren't prodded, and I didn't fill out one piece of paperwork. Ya está, as the Spanish say: that's it! As soon as I had come in, she had three prescriptions scribbled out and I was on my way.
"One more thing," I said. I was trying to kill two birds with one stone, and wanted to see if it would work. You see, I have a prescription that I take daily in the States that is a little bit stronger and the pharmacist wouldn't fill without a note from a doctor here (bringing an actual prescription from the U.S. wouldn't work), so I asked her if she could fill it for me. "Hmm," she looked at the script from the U.S. and my pill bottle. "I don't know if we have that here," she said, and proceeded to look it up in a book. "Well, I'll just write you a prescription for it, and if they have it, they'll fill it, OK?" OK! (They do have it, by the way. WHEW.)
Ah, life is different overseas!