Sunday, January 6, 2013

Caught Being Good: SUS

Hi everyone!

So...the blog has been quiet because I haven't been able to type: I broke my wrist the day I was set to go to the US! I was exercising with my personal trainer and being my anxious, squirrely self, and I took a bad fall. Luckily, I was still able to go to the US and see everyone for Christmas, including my cousin's new baby, who was born on Christmas Eve:

There's me, my cast, and the baby, just 2 hours after he was born! Congrats, Ash! Don't mind the date on the pic.

After my trip, I came back to Brazil and got an X-ray to see how my bone was healing. Unfortunately, it wasn't healing correctly, so I had to get surgery to get a metal plate put in...

...which leads me to the Caught Being Good Award winner to end all winners:


That's right. Unlike the US, Brazil has universal healthcare. Because Brazil's illegal immigration issues are miniscule compared to those of the US, hospitals are open and free to whoever's in the country. Brazil's public healthcare system, SUS, gets a lot of flack, and is certainly lacking in many areas, but I personally got the best treatment conditions possible for a variety of factors:

*In the Oregon Trail version of life, I chose "Doctor" for my husband's occupation.

*We live 5 minutes away from one of the best public hospitals in the country, and my husfriend works there.

*Alexandre's rounds partner lives with 2 orthopedic surgeons. Alexandre has become very close to these 2 guys after spending many a Wednesday night sleeping on their couch, too tipsy to drive home from their Corinthians soccer game parties.

All of these factors combined resulted in my being treated like a politician's daughter at the hospital. The aforementioned surgeons, who were technically on vacation on the day of my accident, came in to work after getting Alexandre's phone call. They told the X-ray guys to be extra nice, and they rushed me in to set my wrist. I can say now that it was very nice of them, but if you've ever had a bone put back into place, you'll know it doesn't feel very nice in the moment. They called on the best cast wrapper in the hospital, an older British man who has written textbooks on fractures and articulation, to help with the bone setting and to wrap my cast. (The nice part of the man being British was that he sounded like my late grandfather and was therefore very comforting, and that he could explain things in English, which is also comforting during a time of stress. The bad part was that he understood the curse words I was shouting as they injected an anesthetic into my bone and set it.) Alexandre rushed around the whole morning doing all of my paperwork, and held my good hand during the scary parts. My personal trainer also drove me to the hospital to begin with, stayed with me for moral support, and helped me pack for the US, which was really sweet of her. She even let me eat a chocolate pastel after it was all over. :)

When I got back and it was clear that I needed surgery, the orthopedics department really came through again. They got my surgery booked right away and made sure the best doctors were involved. They allowed Alexandre to scrub in for the surgery to help with both his anxiety and with mine. I cannot fully explain the comfort in my husfriend being the last face that I saw before the general anesthesia kicked in and the first face that I saw when I woke up from it. (Though apparently I tried, and kept telling him "I love your face" as I was coming to, in front of all his colleagues, heh heh heh.)       

my x-ray of my new metal plate and 6 screws. Now there's just more of me to love!

And I have to say that even the hospital employees who didn't think I was some VIP patient still treated me really well and were all very good at their jobs. The hospital would be considered "poor" by some first-world standards because it needs a paint job and the rooms don't have TVs, but it was doing what mattered correctly. The place is well-organized and everything is streamlined and patient-friendly. They did expect me to be OK with being naked in front of a lot of people at various points in the pre-op process, but I think that reflects more of Brazilian body culture than any failure on the hospital's part.

The most important part, of course, was that neither I nor the doctors needed to think about money at any point. Again, it is hard to put this relief into words. With a serious break and surgery like this, we all have enough to worry about, you know?  I shudder at the thought of having done this in the US. Everyone gets sick. Everyone gets hurt. I do believe that healthcare is a citizen's right. Brazil's got a great thing going on, especially here in Springfieldee. It would do some good if some American politicians came down and saw it first-hand.

As for now, I have some painful physical therapy ahead of me, and it'll be a while before I have full use of my right hand and arm. But aside from the pain (which is lessening every day), all I feel is lucky. This could have happened to anyone, but I think it's been as smooth of a process for me as anyone could ask for.  

All hail universal healthcare!

I probably won't write in the blog until I can type with 2 hands again. Thank you for your patience!


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