Thursday, May 20, 2010

When health care systems clash...

So on to California! We've been here for 11 days now and a lot has been happening. For the good times, see Santi's blog. He's been having a great time enjoying all sorts of new sights and places with Grandma and Grandpa. I've been having a bit of momma culture shock. I realize that as a mom, I'm actually a lot more French than I am American. More on that later.

In bad news, Santi has had to be hospitalized for a severe asthma attack. It came on very suddenly a few days ago and we are still trying to get it under control. He started gasping for breath, panting, and screaming in the middle of the night and we had to bring him to the emergency room. He was hospitalized for a day and then released. He was still not doing very well (the doctor who released him should not have, according to the new pediatrician we immediately found), but is now on several new medication with his new doctor (who is awesome). He goes to follow-ups with her about every day and we're waiting to see when he will be able to fly home to France.

It was very scary having to rush him to the hospital. I felt even worse when he didn't respond to the breathing treatments and the doctor said he had to be admitted. He was placed in the observation wing, which is not a specifically pediatric ward. He looked so tiny in his adult sized hospital bed, hooked up to an oxygen monitor and mask. He did get a child-sized robe with lions and tigers and bears (oh my!). But I did start to feel less sorry for him as the day went by because he was actually very happy. And he had the nurses wrapped around his finger because every time they came in to check on him, he gave them his whole-face million dollar grin, waved, and blew them kisses. So, pretty soon those visits became more and more frequent (and were accompanied  by graham crackers, cheerios, apple juice, toys, etc.).

The real difficult part was that we were stupid and didn't buy traveler's insurance before we left France. We thought the worst that would happen is that he could get an ear infection and we might need a doctor to prescribe an antibiotic. So we're paying out of pocket for the hospital (they haven't been able to calculate his bill yet, but it will be in the thousands). And I've had to be explaining all of this to Greg who was first in Mexico and now back in France. He has never lived in the United States and does not understand the health care system we have at all. He was shocked and worried to hear about Santi and then furious to hear that anyone would be expected to pay that much for a medical emergency ("Tell that doctor he's a thief and that he should stop exploiting the misery of others!" were his exact words. Well, there were actually some other words, but I won't repeat them here). I explained actually, that's not so expensive in comparison with other people I know who've been hospitalized without insurance, and also, it's the hospital's policy is to make money (with a lot of influence from the insurance companies to be able max out their billing, I'm sure). In France, this would have been covered by our health care, and even if we didn't have health care, it would have been covered somehow. I know I'm going to get an earful from the whole family about how screwed up the US is when we get back. And I tend to agree (but I also realize it was especially dumb for me to not have bought traveler's insurance, knowing what we're dealing with over here. Expensive lesson learned). While it's true that we pay more taxes in France, we get a lot back for them. And those social services our taxes fund allow us to live much better as a one income family of three even in an expensive city like Paris compared to what how we'd be doing in the US on that same income at a lower tax rate. To each his own, but I'll take what we have.

Ok, stepping down off the soap box. For now, I'm just hoping Santi gets better and we can get home to his affordable doctor and hospital (but let's hope he doesn't need it).

1 comment:

Kitty said...

So sorry to hear about Santi! I'll be thinking of y'all.