Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Ghorar Dim (Horse's Egg), or Public Health Research by Immersion

On my trip to India, we went to see an astrologist (his card says he was a "gold medalist" and a professor at the West Bengal College of Astrology). After he did some math using my birth date and time, he said that my fortune was "extraordinary". He got up and ran into his bedroom and brought out this huge and gaudy pearl for me. He said that I should get a ring made and wear it on my index finger, and it would help bring balance to my life, lower my anxiety level, and help to lower my susceptibility to colds. I have never thought of myself as particularily susceptible to colds, but everything else he told me was pretty accurate, so I figured maybe I am susceptible to colds and didn't realize it. I dutifully made the ring and have been wearing it on my index finger for the last month and a half. It's pretty big, and I feel a little like a pimp daddy with it on, but hey if it makes me less anxious, I'm willing to pimp some daddies.

After we came back from the village in late January, I had some kind of gross stomach bug, which ended up lasting 2 weeks. In the middle of the stomach ugliness, I started getting this terrible headache and a scratchy throat, which I attributed to all the puking that I had been doing (makes you all want to visit me here, doesn't it). Anyways, the tickle developed into this really awful cough that originates deep in my lungs and doesn't want to come out. I also have a fever and feel really really crappy. At the advice of my sister in law, I've taken two different antibiotics, but to no end. When I called her to complain again, she told me to take some Paracetamol (Tylenol). Yeah right. I told her I needed to see someone else. So she took me to the Bangabandhu Shiekh Mujib Medical University Hospital - the biggest government and training hospital in Dhaka. It's pretty big, and kindof gross (people spitting pan-juice all over the place), but it has good doctors - trained in London, and with lots of experience in the typical diseases of Bangladesh.

(Sidenote: As a Fulbrighter, I used to have access to the Medical Unit in the US Embassy. I've never used it because Maya has been able to take care of all of our medical needs until now. Of course, now that I need it, we've been informed that because of funding issues, we are no longer allowed access. The head doctor is a good man, and he has told us to continue coming until he gets "official" notice from Washington, but he's out of town for 3 weeks. The lesson of this paragraph: call your congress person and tell them to support funding for the Fulbright program.)

So we got to PG hosptial, as it is popularly known, and went to see Maya's friend Tushar, who works there. He took us over to the doctor I needed to see. There were probably 250 people in the waiting room, which was the size of a large auditorium (thank God). I pushed ahead of the line and walked into the doctor's chamber, where there were already three patients, a nurse, a male assistant, and another unidentified woman. The chamber was the size of a large closet, and there was some invasion of personal space. After the doctor finished with his patients, he asked me what the problem was. I told him my symptoms - low grade fever, painful cough, headaches, body weakness, for the past month. He scribbled on a pad and gave me the paper.
Once we left the chamber, Tushar told me that I had to get one prescription for an antihistamine, and take one per night before bed time. Then I needed to go to a "diagnostic center" and have some tests done - a chest x-ray and a blood count. I told him we usually have all of our tests done in the clinic or hospital.

I got home and asked my bhabi where to get the tests done. Apparently there are several such "diagnostic centers" around the city, and there is one a short rickshaw ride away from our apartment. I hopped in a rickshaw and told the guy where to take me, and got off at "Padma Diagnostic Center". I went in, left my shoes at the door, and walked up (barefoot) to the second floor where I handed the illegible prescription paper to the clerk. They typed some things in a computer, and I think took some time to decipher the doctor's handwriting, and then asked me for 358 taka (about 6 dollars). That's what it cost for a chest x-ray and blood draw. The cost of health care in the US must be outrageously inflated. They gave me some more papers and herded me over to a blood draw station, where a guy stuck a sterile needle in my arm - I made sure the package was sealed first - but he didn't use gloves. Then I walked into the x-ray room, and had to do two films because I wiggled on the first one. I have to go pick up the films and blood test results tonight.

This made me think about some things: 1) It makes sense for a person to keep their own patient records with them, instead of having health records at the medical institution. 2) It must be awful to be really really sick (like my bhabi was with dengue) and to have to go to the doctor, then go to the testing center and get the tests, then go back and get the results. 3) I'm really lucky to have relatives who are doctors - If I was just the average bideshi (foreigner) off the street, I probably wouldn't have gotten that kind of treatment. I got to skip in front of all 250 people in the waiting room, and tomorrow I'll do it again. Yeah, I feel bad about that, but I'm also pretty sick.

So, basically my point to this post is that my pearl ring is as useful as a Ghorar Dim (Horse's Egg) - although I'm still going to wear it because it might still help with anxiety, and that even though the US health system is crappy, at least it's better than in most of the world.

I'll keep you updated on my health.


Anonymous said...

You may have just established the cause of the high cost of Medical care in the US...they wear gloves and they call you with the results of tests. Hmmm, could it be that easy:-)
Debi is having some of the same problems..low grade fever, etc. Sympathy sickness?

Maddie's Nana.

Anonymous said...

Katie, you are sick. Come home now. Mom

PEM said...

I miss my sister. I miss you like Happy misses the chickens. If he does even miss the chickens. If dogs have the ability to feel that emotion. If Happy even remembers the chickens. If the chickens are still alive.

Love you. Lots.