The public health system here is fantastic in that it only costs pennies compared to what you’d spend in the great US of A. Pediatrics, obstetrics, geriatrics, emergencies, and general practitioner’s visits are completely free, while other medical care requires only a small fee comparable to most American co-pays. (And, to assure anyone who has the same doubts I did upon moving here, Italian doctors are up-to-date medically. They might have a few different philosophies on medicine—i.e. painkillers should make pain tolerable, not erase it completely—but they do know what they are doing, and they do it well.) So, fantastic!
The only real downside is that the public health system here was designed by hamsters. Here, for instance, is what goes into a typical doctor’s visit:
You call your doctor to make an appointment.
You show up, pick a number, and wait your turn.
You visit with the doctor, who gives you a prescription for blood work.
You go to the public health office, pick a number, and wait your turn.
You give them your prescription and receive an appointment to get your blood taken.
You go to the testing center on your appointment date, pick a number, and wait your turn.
You show your prescription to the person at the window who stamps it so you can pay.
You walk to another office, pick a number, and wait your turn.
You pay the fee (oh so tiny, glory be!) and get a receipt.
You walk back to the testing center, pick a number, and wait your turn (catching a theme yet?).
You show them your receipt and are given a new number.
You wait your turn.
You are called back, have your blood taken, and are given a receipt.
You return to the testing center the next week, show them your receipt, and get your blood test results.
You make another appointment with your doctor to discuss the results.
You race around a wheel seventy-nine times and scurry off to bury your head in the sawdust.
I won’t even tell you what went into our dentist appointment yesterday because you would cry, and enough tears have been shed on that account already. Suffice it to say that you have to learn (Bethany, are you listening?) to give up the American ideals of efficiency and fast results and just accept Italy for what it is: laid-back. (I am still writhing from a profound sense of bureaucratic chaos that I insist on taking personally, and I want to tell you that “laid-back” is just a euphemism for “lazy,” and I want all those government employees who are enjoying their espressos on company time to feel the depths of my frustration toward them. But honestly, I love living in a country where dreary jobs come with sunny coffee breaks and long lunches and built-in naptimes. Italians have mastered the art of relaxation, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Truly.)
So all this has just been a prelude to the fact that 1 ½ months after calling the doctor, we finally have an idea of what’s been causing my unmanageable fatigue: anemia. It’s not much of a surprise, as I’ve always hovered near the low end of healthy and I’ve leaned further and further toward vegetarian—or chickentarian, you could say—in the last year. So there it is. For just over a week now, I’ve been taking iron tablets that taste like compressed leaves, and the difference is incredible. Is normal always this glorious? Because the freedom to have good and bad days instead of bad and worse is making me a little giddy.
Less than one week with Natalie all to myself, and I finally have the energy to play with her, come up with special starting-school rituals, and hop over to the playground to help her meet new friends… all the while keeping the house in decent shape, going out with friends, signing up for Pilates (!), and writing up a storm. It’s kind of like I’m a real person again.
So thank you all for your kindness and sympathy while I was trying to figure out the mushy liquid my brain had become; misery doesn’t just love company, it needs company. Yes, you deserve a heaping bowlful of thanks. And also, if you’re feeling chronically tired (Bethany, are you listening?)… Eat your spinach. That Popeye was onto something.