24 March 2009

Cough, cough

I guess March is just... not my blogging month. I've been under the weather over the last week or so, battling laryngitis that was initially caused by a cold, then made worse by my insistence on singing in a concert last week, and accompanied by a persistent cough, the kind that feels like it's out to strangle you to death. I was virtually voiceless over the weekend, and it is only today that I actually can speak somewhat normally again.

Ironically, the day I fell sick was the day I had my first blood test in the Spanish health care system. Brandishing my brand new health card, I had asked for an appointment for a checkup the week before, and two days later I met with my new doctor, after practically no wait. He kind of insinuated that as a healthy thirty-year-old, I didn't need a "revisió general," but he asked me a few questions about my overall health, took my blood pressure, and sent me on my way to schedule a blood test. I was a bit put off by his summary appraisal, but I discovered later that it's true that the yearly checkup may not be necessary. Most medical sources I looked at suggested a checkup every three to five years, so I guess I'm on the mark for that.

Still, I'll be curious to see how medical care stacks up in the nationalized health care system. So far, I've been favorably impressed, by the friendliness of doctors and nurses, the ease of making appointments (and lack of waiting time), the organization of medical care (you're assigned to the nearest "ambulatori" which for us is only about a seven-minute walk away), and of course by the fact that there's no exchange of money whatsoever. It's all entirely free. Of course, I have yet to (and hope not to!) require any serious care for serious issues, so it remains to be seen how things go when the going gets tough. (Or if the tough, say, get pregnant.)

Tomorrow I will go in to pick up my blood test results. Do blood tests show that you have a cold? If so, under the microscope the medical technicians will probably see little blood cell guys duking it out for the chance to strangle me with coughing fits. (I know, my grasp of medicine and physiology is astounding, right?)


pinolona said...

Blood tests measure glucose, kidney function, white blood cell count and... among other things... liver function. For this reason, it is advisable not to go for a blood test within 48 hours of any kind of alcohol-fuelled celebration, because this leads to further (much scarier) blood tests before being told that it was probably just a blip in the enzyme count...

Hope your cold gets better soon!

Catherine said...

I guess it depends how thorough a yearly checkup you are having. Many tests have attached risks, which are very slight, but if you are healthy, the very slight risk of a mishap due to the test is larger than the even slighter risk that there is something wrong with you considering that you are sympton free.
Mostly, tests are used here for those who actually have symptoms.
Usually when I get a repeat of my asthma meds, I get my lungs listened to, my weight and blood pressure taken, and that's about it. When I was on the pill, I used to get my cholesterol checked once in a while, too.
Although these days I tend to ask my doctor to check my back since I had a BCC removed - I can't see my own back. And we get cervical smears done free once every two years.
Many in New Zealand are agitating to extend downwards the age for free mammograms (it used to be over 50, now it is over 45) but what they don't realise is that it is actually quite difficult to pick up tumours on a mammogram in younger, denser breast tissue, and they are faster growing if you are younger (though rarer), so you would need a mammogram every six months or so to do much good. It is not cost effective.
It astounds me how much money is spent on non-essential health care for Americans, considering how much good could be done with the same amount of money in the third world

Astrid said...

How are you feeling. It's been a little while since you wrote this post so i'm getting a little worried :)


Robin said...

I'm feeling much better, Astrid! Sweet of you to worry.

Catherine and Pinolina, thanks for the info on blood tests! The question of tests/mammograms is interesting, and has been in the news quite a bit lately--both in terms of cost effectiveness and health effectiveness.

Anonymous said...

I could have sworn I posted something else, earlier, which never appeared... Nonetheless, I hope you don't carry on thinking "there's no exchange of money whatsoever" - my husband is self-employed and the amount he pays for our "free" national health insurance horrifies me. There are many drawbacks. Nonetheless, all the best to you and Martí.