Sick In A Different Country
During our last day in Edinburgh I was really tired, but I couldn’t tell if it was because the day before had been exhausting, or if I was getting sick. By the time we got on our train to come home, I could tell I was definitely getting a pretty bad cold. My throat and ears were starting to be really sore. I got sick a lot growing up, and these symptoms at the beginning of a cold normally meant I was either getting an ear infection or strep throat. I made it home, had some food, and went straight to bed.
I woke up the next day feeling worse. Ears and throat in even more pain, stuffy nose, headache, fatigue, all the normal symptoms I get with colds. I spent the entire day resting in bed, hoping that would help me get better.
Throughout the next day, my symptoms continued to get worse. By the afternoon, my ears felt like they were being stabbed, and it was starting to be a bit difficult to breathe. I figured I should probably make an appointment to make sure I didn’t have an ear infection or anything worse, but I had no idea how. I realized that the only thing I knew about the healthcare system in England was that Emergency medical care was free. I didn’t know anything about making a regular appointment. I wasn’t even sure if my insurance would work here, or if I would need it.
I started by calling the health center at York St John University. They couldn’t get me in for another three days, and I figured if I had an ear infection it’d be better to get on top of it sooner rather than later. I tried to figure out what other options I had. I messaged someone I know that is from here to see if they had any recommendations. Then I remembered that there are 2 emergency numbers here. The 999 number is for emergencies that need help immediately. This is similar to 911 in the U.S. The 111 number is for less urgent cases. With this they give medical advice and tell you what the best next step is. I called this number and told them all of my symptoms, and they said the best option for me was to go to urgent care. They made me an appointment for about 3 hours later.
The hospital in York is huge, and not very well labeled. After trying a few different entrances, we found urgent care. I told the front desk my name and waited in a crowded waiting room for a few minutes before a nurse came out and called my name. We walked down a hallway and to a small room with only a screen for a door. The doctor (or nurse, not sure) asked about my medical history and allergies. I gave her a very brief version, and then we moved onto how I was feeling. She said she wanted to check my vitals and started unzipping her bag. For some reason, all of her equipment (thermometer, blood pressure cuff, etc.) was in a carry on suitcase. I’m not sure if that is normal here or not, but it was really odd to me.
After looking at everything, she determined my ear was just pretty inflamed, but not infected. She started naming a bunch of medications that may help, but I had no idea what she was talking about. All the names are different here. She wrote some medications down for me, but said it might be best to go see a chemist because they would have more information. Instead of pharmacists, there are chemists here. They can meet with people and tell them what medications may be best.
I was only with the doctor for about five minutes, then the doctor walked me back toward the exit. I was so focused on getting back home and into bed that I didn’t even realize I was never asked to pay for anything. It was only when I started writing this that I remembered I never had to pay. I wasn’t very impressed by the doctor that saw me, however, I was surprised by how easy and fast it was to make an appointment.