Warning: Not for the Faint-hearted
I have been sick for the entire month of April. Welcome to my pity party.
After a three-day ANZAC weekend of wearing pajamas and reading novels (Mao’s Last Dancer – a good choice), I have succumbed. Yesterday morning, I made a doctor’s appointment.
Doctors are usually a last resort for me, probably because I come from the land of no national health insurance. Once I graduated from college and was no longer under my parents’ care, I avoided medical assistance like, well, the plague (all while praying I didn’t actually contract the plague – the cost would be astronomical). Except for one minor incident involving a dropped speaker on my head and a wallet-busting trip to the emergency room, this avoidance strategy has been effective.
That changed when I went to England, where I was suddenly paying mandatory National Insurance, and granted the gift of automatic health care. Yes, I had to book appointments in advance. Yes, I often had to wait for the overworked, underpaid doctor to see me (just as I have anywhere in the world). But the point is, I got decent medical care and any necessary medication for free.
Now I am in Australia and things are slightly different. As a working holiday tourist, I don’t qualify for Medicare, the national subsidized health care plan. This is fair – I am a foreigner. Fortunately, the cost of seeing a doctor is, for me, reasonably affordable. Even still, it is hard to shake that feeling that having no insurance means having no health care. I had resigned myself to herbal remedies, waiting it out, and pretending that my red-rimmed throat and runny nose were new-age symbols of health.
Besides, it’s common knowledge that doctors can’t do anything to cure the common cold, right?
That was until I got out of bed yesterday feeling like I’d had an internal throat wax and been karate chopped in the nose. So I booked the appointment for that afternoon. As the day wore on, my left eye began to redden. Around two o’clock, I found the first glob of pus resting on my cornea. Things deteriorated pretty quickly from there.
My cheerful doctor took one look at me, immediately diagnosing conjunctivitis and a throat infection. Within five minutes, I had antibiotics and eyedrops in hand, and, holding a tissue to my leaky eye, was on my way back home. (“It’s Newcastle,” he joked. “It doesn’t agree with you!”)
By dinnertime, I had one angry little eye, swollen and generating a repulsive amount of discharge. The pressure in my head was so intense, I thought the eye was going to pop out of my face and roll down the hallway, unleashing a waterfall (pusfall?) of liquid from the empty socket. I retired to the room, cherishing my new medicinal procurements.
When I woke up this morning, my eye was so crusty it was practically toast. Before I even turned on the light, Jared looked at me and said, “I don’t think you should go to work today.”
I look like Rocky after a losing fight. The good news is, it doesn’t hurt nearly as badly, and the leaking has dramatically diminished. Looks like I’m on the mend. And in the meantime, I can get people to wait on me by threatening to touch them with my eye. Bonus.
So what are you supposed to take from these self-indulgent graphic descriptions of sickness?
Well, other than the fact that when I’m sick, I like to take everyone else down with me, modern medicine is a wonderful thing. Take advantage of it before your eye is fogged with goop, even if you have to pay a little more than you’d like to. Unless you’re in America, where you might be better off just buying an eyepatch and waiting for the whole thing to blow over.