Last night my daughter broke her arm and after the whole situation was over and she was resting comfortably in bed, I again realized what an amazing medical system we currently have in the US and what we’ll lose once we move closer to Socialized Medicine (Obamacare).
During my commute home from work last night my wife called and informed me that she feared our daughter had broken her wrist at Karate practice. I arrived home around 6:45 pm and after a brief examination it was my belief that she didn’t break her wrist but instead broke her forearm. So around 7:00 pm my wife and daughter take off for an urgent care facility that is located 5 minutes from our neighborhood and while this facility can’t set bones or install casts, they have X-Ray capability, can diagnose the problem and direct patients to larger facilities. Sure enough, they saw a green stick fracture in the Radius and a buckle fracture in the Ulna. They directed my wife to a late night orthopedic facility about 15 minutes away and shortly after 9:30 my wife returned home with our smiling daughter anxious to have her new cast signed by her dad and brother.
So for those keeping score at home – In a little over two and a half hours my daughter goes to two medical facilities, gets accurately diagnosed (with X-Rays), has her broken bones set, gets a full cast on her arm and returns home. No long lines, quality medical care and very little disruption or stress on the parties involved.
Now contrast this with another medical experience I had while in a foreign country.
In 1998 I travelled to India on three different occasions and spent a total of four months in that beautiful country. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and one day I need to capture those experiences in a post on this blog but for right now let me describe an experience I had during my last visit to that country.
Before I get to the story let me give a few details that you’ll need to provide context. I was in a very remote area of India and from the US, it took three days to arrive at my final destination. My itinerary went something like this – fly to Mumbai, spend the night, fly to Pune, spend the night and then drive 4-6 hours to Warana (just outside of Kolhapur). Warana is a small farming cooperative and the picture shown above was taken of the Warana River and gives you an idea of how rural this place is. There was a small town/bazaar that I went to occasionally but mainly I stayed near my guesthouse and carried out my engineering work which involved construction, installation and commissioning of an aseptic fruit processing plant. Now on to the story…..
During my third trip to India I contracted some sort of upper respiratory infection and I was a little over 1 week away from returning to the US. At first I tried to fight it off with fluids, rest and vitamin C but I could tell my situation was getting worse and I feared that I would eventually develop pneumonia and then die right there in my bedroom. I had no thermometer but I could tell my fever was getting dangerously high so I needed to do what I always feared I’d have to do – go to the local hospital. I had seen the “hospital” on the side of the road and always shook my head in dismay for the poor souls that had to place their hope in that run down shack.
Now I was one of those poor souls since my options had run out. I was going to die (at least I thought I was) so now I’m only debating the location of my ultimate demise – my guesthouse or the hospital. I decided to roll the dice and summoned my Indian host and told him I needed to get to the hospital. He went with me since I didn’t speak the local language and he would need to escort me around and translate.
As we were walking into the hospital I immediately noticed something that didn’t give me a warm fuzzy. The building was open and birds were flying in and out of the windows since there was no glass installed in them. Birds were building nests in the corners of the waiting room, resting on the dangling lights and basically having their way with the place. I sat down while my Indian friend took care of the paperwork and communication with the receptionist and I remember taking comfort in the fact that there were only a couple of people in the waiting room so it didn’t take long to get in the back to see the doctor.
We walked in the doctor’s office and her office really did look like an “office” – she had book shelves, a desk, nice chair and other items you’d expect to see in someone’s office. There was an exam table but we occupied two chairs that sat opposite the doctor. The doctor, who spoke fluent English, explained to me that although she was a gynecologist (that explained the strangely shaped exam table) she was the only doctor on duty at the hospital and would be glad to help me. I had nothing to lose so I happily agreed and the good doctor proceeded with her examination and thankfully she didn’t ask me to get on the exam table.
She first took out a large 6V flashlight (like the one pictured here) and told me to open my mouth. It was a little odd to say the least but high dollar penlights weren’t abundant in this area and she was making do with what she had. She felt my head with her hand, listened to my chest with a stethoscope and then sat down in her chair. The doctor proceeded to have a long conversation with my Indian friend but since they were speaking in their local language, I had no idea what she was saying. The conversation ended with the doctor writing out 2 prescriptions and handing them to me. I then asked what was wrong with me and what these medicines would do and my Indian friend very casually said I had a virus and these medicines would fix me up.
Part one of this experience was over so then we headed to the bazaar to get the prescriptions filled. The bazaar was a narrow road lined with small shops and we came to one which my friend told me was a “pharmacy”. It was a small store front building about 10 feet wide and 30 feet deep and there was but one person running it and he looked to be about 14 years old. I took the 2 prescriptions and reluctantly handed them to the kid and he immediately went to work hunting for the magic elixirs. He brought back a large bottle of liquid and a small bottle that contained three pills. I think I gave the kid about 60 rupees for both medicines and if memory serves me correctly that equated to about $1.50. I guess my fever was getting to me because I remember feeling so good thinking I got a great deal!
Fortunately for me the medicine had instructions printed in English as well as Hindi and I surmised that the three pills were a type of strong antibiotic and the liquid was a cough medicine probably with codeine and some decongestant. I was to take the pills once per day for only three days but could take the cough medicine as needed and since my cough wasn’t bothering me too much I took one of the pills immediately after getting back to the house. Amazingly enough, about 2 hours after taking the first pill my fever immediately broke and I felt as if I was immediately cured. I do remember having the symptoms come back later but since I was close to going back to the US, I waited to see my personal physician who took care of me when I returned. As an interesting sidebar, I showed my doctor the two medicine containers I bought in India and he said he was not familiar with either medicine. Needless to say that was not the comforting reassurance I was seeking.
The fact that I’m typing this blog post tells you everything worked out and while it makes for a funny story now, I will never forget that experience (and wonder what those three pills actually contained that made me recover so quickly). I realize it is not fair to compare the medical care in a rural area of India in 1998 with the medical care provided in a US metropolitan area in 2011but we must be diligent and fight to protect the Free Market in all areas of our life which especially includes healthcare. I am truly thankful for the excellent healthcare we have in the US and I will continue to fight against Obamacare and any attempt to move our medical system toward Socialized Medicine. The last thing we need in this country is the equivalent of a Russian bread line dispensing medical services to its citizens.