Living in a foreign country gives you more life experiences than you expect. When planning to move somewhere, you don’t think about the little things like where can I buy bubble wrap or how do you say “I would like my hair cut in long layers” or the fact no where sells Hidden Valley Ranch dressing (don’t even get me started on the whole nothing-is-open-on-Sundays debacle). Of course in the whole scheme of things, these tiny tasks are not of large importance, but they definitely can add to your experience.
Recently I decided to get some blood work done. I have been here over 2 years and as the second year rolled around I decided I needed to do basic grown-up things like find a doctor as well as get my annual check ups. There is one very important fact I need to get out before I continue the story.
I am completely terrified of hospitals, doctors, and anything medically related. And to make it even better, I can be a bit of a hypochondriac.
Therefore simple tasks like going for a routine check up or sitting in a waiting room at a doctor’s office, turn into giant stress-causing situations for me. I get over it and crank it out but the whole process is unbelievably unpleasant for me. But my hypochondria makes me believe there is something dreadfully wrong with me and therefore I must go. Vicious cycle, really.
On the positive side, doctors’ offices are different here than in the States. They aren’t cold, white, vacant, over-sterilized buildings with people frantically running around in white coats, but rather somewhere that almost looks like someone’s flat. The doctor usually has a nicely decorated office with a place to discuss and a small examination room next to it, (or even in the same room). It is decorated much like an elegant house would be with little knickknacks and a beautiful, large wooden desk. It seems to be a lot more welcoming to me than the buildings that make me feel like a lab rat in the US.
However, there is the whole privacy issue that goes a bit out the window here. It is perfectly normal to just get butt-naked in front of the doctor. As I shyly walked over to the examination chair, covering up the parts of my body I could, I was kindly reminded by the doctor: “We don’t have robes like the States.” I am not an overly modest person, but there is something a bit humiliating stripping down in front of a doc you just met 5 minutes prior.
Anyways, for the most part, all went well and as planned. Well, until I got my blood test results. I don’t know why I thought I would be able to read a French document I barely would understand if in English. However, when I got the results I quickly and carefully examined everything on it. I felt like I understood the most important parts and set it aside until I had time to use my favorite tool, Google Translate.
This is when things got messy. I started to translate everything. But then after I translated it, I would have to look it up anyways because well, I never went to medical school. Clearly my medical jargon is not up to par. The abbreviations provided an even more difficult task for me. I still am not sure I grasp what my results really are, however, everything seemed to have been going quite smoothly until I saw I had a positive result. This never seems good in my head. I stared at the words on the page:
sérologie du virus de la rubéole
What the hell is that? The confusion continued after I translated it and I got rubella or German measles as the answer. Hold on, I have German measles? How does one even get that? And moreover, what the hell is it? This is when the anxiety attack began. I felt like my fingers couldn’t type fast enough, my eyes couldn’t read the results quick enough, and my brain couldn’t process the results at the speed I wanted.
Right before I almost passed out, there it was. The beam of light. The saving grace. My ticket back to sanity. Thanks to some medical website, I was kindly informed having a positive result for this test meant I had immunity against this disease. It meant I wanted a positive result!!
As I made my way back to earth and started breathing normally, I laughed at my ridiculousness and wondered why France does not practice the same procedure as the US and have doctors explain the results to patients. I feel it could have saved me losing a few years off my life.
But hey, add it to the list of experience abroad.
Have you ever had a similar experience when abroad?