Seeking emergency medical attention in a foreign country…

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Almost two weeks ago, I got to add a new experience to my list – going to the emergency room in a foreign country!

Long story short, I had gone on an antibiotic when I was in Croatia a week before that.  I didn’t THINK I was allergic to sulfa drugs, and only had some minor side effects during the three days I was on the medication.  (Extreme nausea being the number one problem.)  But I finished the course while I was still in Croatia and everything seemed just fine.

Well, about two days after I came home from that trip, I noticed that I was starting to break out in hives on my neck.  Each day got a bit worse, and on that Friday, I went to the pharmacy to ask advice.  She told me it was most likely an allergic reaction to the antibiotic I had been on.  (It can sometimes take several days for some of the side effects of an allergy to show.)  She told me to go see a doctor on Monday if it got worse over the weekend.

By that Sunday morning when I went to meet Debbie to go to mass (March 10th), the hives on my neck were really bad.  I had been chatting with a friend from home online the night before and she suggested to get to the doctor sooner than later.  And googling the side effects of the drug I took only got me more freaked out.  (“See a doctor immediately at any sign of a skin rash.”  Umm…. )

After Debbie and I had our post-mass tea stop, we walked to the TI (Tourist Info spot) so I could find out where I could go for emergency treatment on a Sunday.  I knew I was going to be going to Croatia that week (which turned out to be the next day) and I wanted to start treatment asap.

My only option was to go to the main hospital.  I had to take the UBahn to the Michelbeuern stop out in the 9th district.  The hospital was right there as you exited the UBahn station.

I asked at the info desk where the emergency department was.  The gentleman working there did not really speak English, but gave me a little piece of paper with a map on it showing me which area to go to on which floor.

Once I found the emergency dept, I got in line and in just a few minutes, I got to the desk.

The first step: they send you to the nurse.  That literally took maybe three minutes of waiting time.  You tell her what’s wrong, she takes your vitals, then gives you a paper to take back to the desk.  The paper describes what’s wrong, and which department your condition falls under.  Since I was not an Austrian (with Austrian health care) they told me they would send a bill home to my address in the US that I could then submit to my own insurance.

At that point, they direct you to wait by a certain door, depending upon your ailment.  I had to wait by Door “E.”  That wait was the longest – maybe around 25 minutes?  Once inside, the doctor looked at my hives and immediately told me what I already knew – I had an allergic reaction to the sulfa drugs.  He prescribed two ointments – one was a cortisone cream, and one was an antibiotic gel.

I then took the written prescription back to the desk, where they stamped it, and showed me the list of pharmacies that were open on Sundays.

I chose to go to an area that I was familiar with, and went to the pharmacy on the Graben – right in the middle of the city, not far from the cathedral.  That way I could walk home to my apartment and get some exercise.

The prescriptions cost me all of 13 Euros.  (Again, that is without any kind of insurance – they’re just that cheap here.)  But unlike pharmacies back home, the ones that are open here on Sundays have little walk up windows.  The whole pharmacy does not open up.  There was literally one woman working in there, and she took my prescription paper through the small opening in the door.  Kind of like a ticket booth at the movies.

From the time that I got to the hospital to the time I was back in my apartment was a whopping two hours tops.  Not too bad.  I’m pretty sure that my wait at the emergency room in an essentially SOCIALIST country was WAY less than what many Americans experience back home.  I’m here to tell you that it was relatively quick and easy.  Don’t be fooled by the nay-sayers.  And my prescriptions were cheap too.  Hmmm, not really seeing why people have such a problem with the European system…  propaganda perhaps?

Anyway, the stuff worked fast, and by the next day I was already seeing a vast improvement in my hives.  When I got to Croatia on Tuesday morning, they were almost gone.

So that’s my little tale of yet another new experience that I’ve had on my adventures.  Let’s hope the next one is more fun and jolly though!  🙂

Allgemeines Krankenhaus der Stadt Wien
Allgemeines Krankenhaus der Stadt Wien
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Jennifer was initially drawn to Europe for two reasons: music and love.  She lived in Vienna for four years, and now calls Croatia home for much of each year, as she married a native Croatian. Since 2015, Jennifer has worked as a tour director and cruise director on European river cruises for a major American travel company, and has become an expert in all of the cities along her routes on the Danube, Rhine, and Main Rivers. She also has traveled to Disney World almost every year since 1985, and knows Disney World inside and out. As a travel agent, Disney World is her primary specialty, and she has helped many Disney newbies and veterans have amazing trips with her insider information.

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