Sunday, July 18, 2010

Adventures at an Egyptian hospital

On Thursday afternoon, Magdalena got poked in the eye with a stick. At first I thought it wasn't that bad. Then, after she cried for the entire rest of the day and couldn't open her eye even to play, I thought it was. After a difficult night of sleep, we took her to the hospital first thing Friday morning.

We only went to the hospital because we're not here long-term enough to have a family doctor, and the one clinic we knew of was closed. I wouldn't even have known what hospital to go to except we called an American friend to ask. I called her in the capacity of her being my friend, and then realized that her husband works in the consular section of the embassy, so hello, perfect source of information. He sent us to Al-Salaam Hospital on the Nile Corniche.

We brought Magdalena in to the hospital and a young man in street clothes sat us down in a small room. He briefly asked us what the matter was and then sent in a doctor to see what he could do. The doctor took one look at Magdalena's eye and then spent a good while trying to pronounce the word "ophthalmologist" in English while telling us that the hospital did not have one present at the moment. Then another doctor came in and had a look. Then both doctors cooed and played with Magdalena for a while. When they were done admiring the little foreign baby, they told us we should go to Qasr al-Ayn Hospital so Magdalena could get her eye properly checked.

Al-Salaam is the nicest hospital in Cairo, meaning it's the one foreigners generally go to. I don't think many foreigners go to Qasr al-Ayn, let's leave it at that. There was the requisite passel of guys standing outside the emergency entrance, acting as a sort of triage, I guess. They told us to head to the ninth floor, and one of them showed us the way.

The ninth floor was the ophthalmology section, I assume. There was a crooked hallway lined with chairs and we sat down with Magdalena until a nurse came around to say hello. Not check us in, not give us reams and reams of paperwork to fill out. Just say hello. She gave Magdalena some eye drops right there in the hallway and then we settled in to wait for the doctor himself. An elderly couple came in to wait a few minutes after us. The woman's eye was swathed in gauze and the man tried to help us out by repeating everything the nurse said to us, but a little louder.

The ophthalmologist showed up about 20 minutes later. He took a moment to coo and fawn over Magdalena, just like the other doctors had, and then he performed an eye exam using his once-fancy equipment. Part of the exam involved him putting colored dye in Magdalena's eye and then shining blue light on it to get a better picture of the damage. It turned out she had a small scratch, but it was nothing serious. Thank goodness.

As soon as the exam was done, there was time for the doctor to play with Magdalena a little more before he wrote out the names of a few antibiotic eye drops for us to collect at a pharmacy. It wasn't a prescription in the American sense, mind you - he just wrote down the names and the dosage so the pharmacist would know what to give us. If we had known the names ourselves, we could have obtained them ourselves without a problem.

(FYI, throughout this entire process, at both hospitals, nobody wore gloves and nobody went through even the pretense of cleansing their hands in any way, even though they were basically touching my daughter's eye. I thought this was interesting, and disconcerting.)

Then it was time to check out. I really had no idea how much it was going to cost us. In my purse I had our ghetto travel insurance information in case the bill came remotely close to our high deductible. The nurse took us to her desk and asked for 50 pounds - that's not even ten dollars. We paid it, and that was it. That was the whole bill. Except then the nurse asked for a tip, so we paid her another 10 pounds.

The medicine cost 30 pounds - about six dollars.

I'm sure you can guess that our insurance deductible remains far from fulfilled.

Magdalena's eye is doing much better and I'm so glad she's going to be ok. We've really been lucky as far as avoiding major accidents overseas goes. Even though this one came close to being really scary, I'm glad we found some nice Egyptian doctors who cared for Magdalena so well.
Magdalena feeling better, post-eyedrop administration.


Sherwood family said...

I forgot to mention the complimentary adoration of your children that comes with any medical service here in Egypt - even at the Embassy clinic. Edwin spent half of his last checkup being carried around the med unit and may have even sent a few a emails from a nurse's computer.

Spencer said...

The hospital experiences are great--just the mix of kindness, warmth, and uneasiness that I would expect in Cairo. Glad to hear the wound is nothing serious.

Liz Johnson said...

That is awesome. I'm so glad she's feeling better. I really miss the days of being able to obtain antibiotics without a prescription. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad Magdalena is feeling better.


Susanne said...

Cute photo! I loved this story. Thanks much for sharing it. :)

breanne said...

Glad everything went well. Once in Jordan I had something wrong with my eye and was terrified to go to a hospital there--so I just went to a pharmacy and described my problem, and then they (the pharmacists) just "prescribed" something for me and gave it to me. The cost? 6 dinar. Hopefully the eyedrops work!

Jake and Becky Veigel Family said...

Such a strange medical experience! I'm very glad it was nothing serious. B

Nancy said...

Eye owies hurt so bad! I got a paint chip in my eye once and it scratched my eye and I thought I was going to die. I had to go to the doctor to have him find it because we couldn't find what was bothering my eye. It was stuck to my eyelid on the inside so it was scratching every time I blinked. I was dizzy and woozy. It was awful. I don't blame Magdalena for not opening her eye all day.

Also, Egyptian hospitals are rather scary but not as scary as I was imagining. Of course, I went to a rather upscale hospital when I was there... :)


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