Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Universal Health Care

These cold winter days, I load my Vermont Castings stove with dry oak at night, and the fire is almost always still alive in the morning. I open the top, use the little broom to sweep down the ashes. Beneath the spent fuel, a glowing coal, the heart of the fire. It all starts from there.

Today I took my daughter to the doctor because she had a cough. It is one of the reasons I live in France; universal health care is different than anything an American can imagine. After over a decade here, it still amazes me sometimes: My child is coughing so I take her to the doctor, just a few minutes away in the little village. I never wait to see if she gets better; I never consider the time of day or the expense. There is always a doctor "en guarde," a pharmacy open all night, an emergency room in the Clinique de Saint Jean de Luz where there is no wait, where the nurses smile and bring you a cup of coffee, where you are seen almost immediately.

One Sunday I picked up a broken metal lamp and got an electric shock that cut off the 220 volt electricity to the house. I called the doctor on guard to see if I should be worried, although I felt okay. He said I had to come in to get my heart tested, but that I couldn't drive. They sent an ambulance for me, taking my daughter and dog to the hospital as well. They had me hooked up for the electrocardiogram ten minutes after I arrived, and they kept me four hours under observation. Then they drove us home to Sare, a half hour away.

This is a different way of looking at the world, the general understanding that medical care is a right, not a luxury. It is more wonderful than springtime. One feels safe and cared about. It is impossible to hope for in America, wealthy county that it is, because Americans have never experienced it and so cannot imagine it. Once having known universal health care, it is difficult to imagine life without it.

1 comment:

  1. Great story, Teo. Sometimes you have to leave the US in order to realize its imperfections. The other day, I suddenly began to experience chest pains. It turned out to be nothing more than gastric reflux, which I discovered when the doctor came to our little casita - at no extra charge. In the US, I would be afraid of going to the emergency room, for fear of its costs!