A warning: This all sounds pretty horrible and much of it actually was, but I’m feeling fine now and I think I’ve learned where to be careful in the future. I’m hopeful that I am on the mend for a long while and would like to note that my circumstances were a little extreme and I’ve learned a great deal about how to care for myself during travel.
So as many who would read this blog will know, I have been plagued by miscellaneous illness over the last few months. Thus, I have now experienced medical care in five different countries and on three continents.
I thought maybe people might be interested where and how I received care, especially those who are interested in travel and worried about health care. So here it goes:
In Mali I was blessed with fever blisters, which turned into infections and then abscesses. Mali (Bamako) has a few different medical options but I choose a local clinic. After spending about $20 and an hour or so I got to see a doctor who after a very brief interview gave me antibiotics for my feet. There was not much more than that; keep them clean and wrapped. The medications were less than $20.
After a while we had to get to Senegal a little faster than usual, but my foot problems continued. We were fortunate enough to have met a doctor who came out to our house free of charge. He wrote me a prescription for another antibiotic and gave me instructions to air my wounds, which was a major factor in them healing.
However, it turns out that for some reason I was just prone to infection, so in Morocco I formed another abscess, which was quite a bit more painful and impactful. This time we visited a clinic and saw a doctor who again prescribed another antibiotic. I also received an ultrasound. The visit was $25 and another $10 for the antibiotics. I was also scheduled for a blood test to check for possible diabetes due to my multiple infections. We went to a military hospital for the test and were sped through multiple lines to be seen by the head doctor. Another $25. I saw him again later in the day to get my results, then saw the first doctor again to have a final look at my abscess which was quite a bit better. All told, I received a doctor visit, ultrasound, blood work, two more visits, and antibiotics for $60 with no insurance. They even solved my problem :).
All was well for awhile until I worked one too many days in the cold and rain in France. I got a pretty nasty chest cold. Fortunately, we received healthcare for working in France and our employer picked up the tab. The doctor visit was about $30. He basically just said rest and prescribed some special cough syrup and mistakenly gave me some kind of stomach medicine, all of which cost me less than $20.
Unfortunately, just as I came back to the States the chest cold came back with a fury. I was so congested that I got a horrible earache and had to go to the ER. We don’t have the bill yet (which I’m sure will be multiple hundreds) but the 5.5 hours it took to see a doctor was pretty crappy. They actually fixed me up pretty well once I finally got in. The antibiotic was somehow free. We are fairly confident that because of our zero income a lot of the medical bill will be written off.
So, in summery…medical care gets more expensive the more Western the country and is not necessarily any better for usual problems. Drugs are definitely cheaper overseas. Perhaps the most interesting thing is that there are social programs all over the world that help people in general cover medical costs (or their costs are made quite reasonable), but it only seemed like the States had income requirements specifically for poorer people. In general, we felt like people went out of their way to help us in Africa as we were clearly foreigners. I would imagine a Western hospital to be a horrible experience for someone from Morocco or Senegal. I also was asked to have by far the most complicated procedures in the States where those procedures are far and away the most expensive.
I am fortunate enough to be relatively healthy, and I’m sure should I end up with some horrible condition I would appreciate American healthcare, but I would also spend the rest of my life paying for it.