We’ve all heard it; in fact I think we’ve all said it. Thing is, cliché or not, it’s true.
Last April, while clinging onto a steep hillside for dear life looking for wild asparagus, I slipped and hurt my back. I know, I know, why would I think it’s OK to be crawling through thick thorny thicket on a cliff for something to eat? It’s not as if I can’t buy things to eat, and I even have a kitchen garden full of yummy things.
Wild asparagus are wonderful. That’s why. But I don’t think I’m going to look for them again, that is not unless they are on a gentle hillside. Nu uh.
This of course all happened at such a bad moment…major work in the garden needed doing (weeding…you have no idea how the weeds love spring), giving the B&B and camping facilities a spring clean, etc. And me hardly able to stand.
I saw our local physical therapist (tiny Carassai has two!) for several weeks. He told me that wild asparagus causes damage to quite a few people every year. No kidding.
Then I saw an osteopath in nearby Pedaso. All of this helped, but not enough. We were now in the full summer tourist season and I just could not afford to be in so much pain.
Next I saw a back specialist in Ancona, who happens to also be a neurosurgeon and a lecturer on back health across the globe. He examines me and orders x-rays and an MRI. He also told me he was sure I had a disc out of place and that because I was so inflamed I should take huge amounts of anti-inflammatory drugs and swim and walk (not climb mountains) as much as possible.
I so hardly ever agree to take drugs. But I did this time. And I swam as often as I could peel away…after all, we are only 20 minutes from the beach. As a family we took several gentle hikes in the mountains.
I’ve said it before; I think socialized health is humane. In Italy it’s your right. Like public education. Like the air you breathe. My x-rays could be done in a local satellite hospital 5 minutes away. I got in within 10 days of making the appointment. My co-pay: €36. The wait for a MRI was much longer: because low back pain is usually not an emergency, the waits are longer. Wanting a test ASAP, I chose to pay as a private citizen. The total cost was €120. If I was willing to wait, I’d have paid €36. €36 is the maximum anyone has to pay for any test. Things like blood tests are much cheaper.
The anti-inflammatory drugs are also subsidized by the health system (as are all pharmaceuticals) 3 months of treatment: my co-pay €6.
During both tests I was treated with upmost respect. A doctor looks at the tests, makes his judgment, writes down his findings, explains his findings, and then I, the patient walk off with the CD, the x-rays and everything. In America, you the patient don’t get to keep your test results, and at least when I was living there, you had to sign papers and make special requests etc. for one’s medical records to go from one facility to another.
Here it is accepted that you are the patient and you have the responsibility and the right to do what you choose with your medical tests and your body; in fact it is encouraged that you see the doctors of your choosing…you can even go to another EU country and see doctors there and stay within the public health system. I think this is sane. My body, my choice which doctors will help me get better.
So, off I went back to the specialist in Ancona. The good news is that I’m piecing myself back together. The doctor was genuinely pleased I’m doing so much better; he encouraged me to continue the osteopath and physical therapy and exercise and wants to see me in a year if I’m continuing to do better just for a check. 2 long visits and examinations with a specialist and I pay €0. Yup, zero.
We pay high taxes. But we get something that is so precious in return.
In the meantime, Hans and I have planted asparagus in a corner of our garden…next spring I think we’ll be eating garden asparagus.