A few short days after arriving I figured it’d be a prudent idea to scope out the recommended local hospital, Breach Candy, to be prepared for any emergencies, but also because I never got around to doing my Hepatitis vaccinations before moving over here. I called and inquired about making an appointment, which I was told was impossible. I was directed to come with a prescription and when there was an available bed they’d gladly shoot me up. But where the hell was I supposed to get a prescription for a vaccination?! Plus, waiting for presumably hours in what I expected to be a crowded hospital did not sound like something I wanted to deal with accompanied by a two year old.
So, I made a plea to my husband’s assistant, who is quite possibly the most helpful man on the planet. One quick phone call and he was magically able to schedule an appointment. Funny how things work like that in India. 😉
We pulled up on appointment day to a long line of cars dropping people off at the front door to the hospital, which is pretty much exactly the image “Breach Candy” conjured in my mind: built in the 1950’s, it’s a pristine white building with aqua blue trimming all around. As with nearly everywhere in Mumbai–from small stores to massive buildings–the front entrance is framed by a metal detector and guards, with someone waiting inside to check your bags. She directed me to a counter where I filled in bare bones information on a small scratch pad, as 30 or so people waited around me for their appointments. Before I could even finish filling it in, a nurse approached me with a paper note on which the doctor had scrawled my vaccination prescription. “So that’s how it’s done!” She then directed me back outside of the hospital to the pharmacy, where I jostled among 4-5 men at the window to get it filled. The pharmacist came back with a chilling paper bag, cause you know…it was full of ice packets… and presumably my vaccination kit.
I reentered the busy hospital and wound my way through the packed narrow hallways to take a seat with my sidekick (who was being quite the trooper). The nurse informed me we were next! But….what about the crowd of people waiting around me?! I would like to think it is because we had an appointment, but I assume it had more to do with the fact that I am quite obviously not Indian and I had a 2 year old tagging along with me–I’m not yet sure which one plays a bigger part in getting pushed to the front of the lines, but this was not the first, nor will it be the last, that it has happened. (I am giving myself some grace time to get used to India and gladly taking all the help I can get for now.)
We met with the doctor, who first and foremost, was a very nice man. He also happens to be the spitting image of Mr. Burns. ❤ He was not very chatty, so I confirmed the vaccinations I was getting with him and checked on a schedule for when I’d need the next.
I was asked to sit on the bed and role up my sleeve for the shot. Prick. Over and done. But, get this, no band-aids! The nurse just held a cotton swab up until the bleeding stopped. The end. Why do we use band-aids after shots again? He then directed us to a couple of chairs in front of his desk and I expected the usual spiel…If you run a fever over 39…if you have seizures…blah blah blah…come back to the hospital. But, no. So, I sort of hinted, “So, doctor, how do I know if my body reacts badly to the shot? How do I know if I need to come back?” He smiled at me and replied, “No one has ever come back.” And that was the end of that. It really got me thinking about our culture of worrying in developed countries–worrying about the negative side effects of medical procedures, but also doctors worrying about being sued if something were to go wrong and they hadn’t informed their patients properly. Is it all necessary? Not in India, and I kind of like it. I felt a degree of lightness walking away knowing that the doctor had never dealt with side effects from vaccinations, rather than leaving with a list of “what could happens” and spending the next few days being ultra-aware.
Finally, this was the first time in my life I have ever paid a doctor directly. No receptionists to handle all the paperwork, just a simple that will be 500 rupees for the shot and a handwritten receipt.
I am currently in love with India, and especially how even just a routine visit to the hospital can alter my perspective dramatically.