Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Tumble on the Tumble Track

So I went to trampoline club on Friday, which is the gymnastics day.  On this day, there are no massive Olympic trampolines, only a small tumble track.  For those non-gymnasts out there, a tumble track is like a bouncy padded floor on which you can practice cartwheels, round offs, hand springs, flips, etc.  Ours is assembled for each practice and consists of a bottom layer of large metal springs on top of which are boards that link together to form the track.  Then, on top of all the boards is a long, red carpet-like, thin, but dense, foam pad.  And so gymnastics practice began.

It was meant to last two hours, but I left after one- I had whacked my head pretty hard on the tumble track and felt a little dizzy/nauseated.  Sadly, I was not performing a death defying act of gymnastics brilliance.  I was simply attempting a backwards somersault.  Yes, like the ones most kindergartners can do.  (In my defense, it was a slightly higher difficulty as we were starting from a standing position and not using our hands.)  At any rate, the thought of spinning and rolling around any more was less than appealing and I walked (slowly) home and spent the rest of the day in bed.  This morning, I awoke feeling basically the same and decided that a trip to the E.R. might be in order, and so I made my way to a local hospital.  Sadly, their E.R. (called the A & E here, no idea why) is closed on the weekend and I had to taxi to another nearby clinic.  And thus, I got my introduction to the Irish medical system.

At the clinic, I was informed that they didn't know what my insurance was and that I would have to pay them directly (120 euro for the consultation, plus any lab work) for all services and then make a claim to my insurance.  This prompted an emotional breakdown from the tired, head achy, dizzy American.  But I pulled myself together and filled out my forms the best I could (what address do I use?  what's my phone number again?).  After only a few minutes of waiting, I was called back by the nurse, given an brief exam, and was shortly thereafter visited by the doctor.  He recommended not only a brain CT scan, but some neck x-rays as well since I had hit the back of my head.  My only thought: Do I have to pay for all this??  Another near emotional meltdown.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there is a 480 euro cap to any hospital visit!  On an even brighter note, the receptionist seemed skeptical that I would even hit the limit.

So, off I went to get my brain scanned and my neck x-rayed.  Then, I hit a wall in the so far speedy Irish treatment.  A few patients came in while I was being x-rayed who were in much more serious conditions, so I was put on the back burner.  It appeared that there was only one doctor (though several nurses) on duty at the clinic.  Finally, the verdict came in: brain and neck were fine, no bleeding or fractures going on.  However, the doctor thought I had a bit of a concussion and prescribed me some pain killers and muscle relaxers to help my head and my neck.  And, since there were no late night chemists (pharmacies) open in Blackrock, he sent me home with a few to tide me over.

Total time at the A & E: 5 hours.  As far as the total bill, well, I hit the limit.  But considering the same procedures in the U.S. would have racked up at least a thousand dollars for the uninsured, I think I did okay.  Here's hoping my insurance (which purportedly covers $500,000 of medical expenses) reimburses me with relative ease.

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