Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Oh well, so much for the A+++++ I gave Rome the other day. Today I give Rome a C-----!

Today I had an appointment with an orthopedist at a public hospital to figure out what is wrong with my knee that's been aching for months (time to put me out to pasture, huh?). But wait, before I start rambling about today's appointment, let me tell you about the steps I had to take to reach this point: First I go to my primary care physician (free visit) and explain the problem to him, then he wrote an official request for an MRI. I had to call the CUP toll-free number to book an appointment for the MRI (51 euro) in one of Rome's public clinics. I totally lucked out and got an appointment in a week's time ONLY because someone had cancelled their appointment, otherwise I would've had to wait till SEPTEMBER or pay more and use a private clinic. Miraculously I got an appointment quickly but the only downside was: the clinic was hella far. I managed to get a ride out there and assumed I would be given the test results immediately. HAHAHA, little did I know that it took 4-5 business days which meant I had to go back to the clinic in bumblefuck Rome in order to pick them up the next week. I actually asked the technician if they could email me the results or send them with a courier, he laughed at me and said "Come back in 4-5 days".
ANYWAY, once I picked up those test results I had to bring them back to my primary care physician (free visit) who then wrote out a request for a specialized visit with an orthopedist. I called the CUP toll-free number again to book this appointment and lucked out again, I was scheduled to see a knee specialist at a public hospital in San Giovanni in a week's time. Yay!

Now back to today. I go to San Giovanni, and manage to pay for the visit (25 euro) after waiting only 15 minutes! I go upstairs to the sports medicine section and within 10 minutes they called my number. NICE! I go in and the doctor asks what my problem is. I start explaining the various types of pain I've been feeling in my knee all these months and he chuckles saying "Oh, sounds like the end of the world!" I smile politely, not entirely sure what he meant by that, and continued explaining the situation. I hand over my MRI results -which although written in medical mumbo-jumbo, specifically state that the meniscus and the ACL are intact- and he says "Let me check your meniscus and ACL". Uh, okay. He starts bending my knee and says he hears it clicking, I inform him that my knee has ALWAYS clicked. He bends the other knee (the one that is perfectly healthy) and points out the clicking sound. Uh, okay... Diagnosis: he says my kneecaps are congenitally defective because they tilt outwards. Okay, but why do I have immense pain in one knee and just recently? He mumbles and bumbles all sort of stuff and ends by saying I need to strengthen my quad muscles, undergo a treatment of anti-inflammatory drugs, and if it still doesn't get better I need to have an operation.
I am sitting there in a daze, so blown away by his brusque manners, his eagerness to get rid of me, his approximate diagnosis, his lack of in-depth explanations, his unwillingness to discuss or answer the few questions I had, his wise-ass attitude when I asked him to write down the specific name of the muscle group he said I needed to strengthen, in fact I'm so blown away by this ridiculous and surreal situation that my mind goes blank and I freeze up. I stop asking questions, I just stop speaking. He hands me back my test results, paperwork, and this scrap of paper which simply reads "potenziamento vasto mediale" (strengthen the Vastus Medialis), and says "You can leave now". I felt just like Ralphie in this scene.
I walk out of the room in a daze, walk all the way to the bus stop in a daze, get on the bus in a daze and after 5 minutes my head goes into overdrive with all the questions I wanted to ask. Does "muscle strengthening" mean I have to go to physical therapy? If so, for how long? Why didn't he say physical therapy then? What the fuck does anti-inflammatory treatment mean? Do I just take some ibuprofen? Do I need injections in my swollen knee? Do I need to take steroidal meds or cortisone? And for how long? Why has my knee suddenly started hurting? Are there any activities I should avoid? The list of questions whirling in my mind is endless but unfortunately, I can't go back and even if I did, I have a feeling the doctor would brush me off and just try to rush me out of the door again.

Incredible, I don't know what happened to me, I am usually always on guard and prepared to dig until I get what I need but this time I was so taken aback by his flippant behavior that I just shut down. Unbelievable.

Well, at this point, I'm going to do what most Italians do: use connections. A friend of mine knows a good knee specialist who could sneak me in during his public hospital visits, so instead of going back to my primary care physician and getting another request for an orthopedist visit, and then calling the CUP to schedule an appointment, I'm just going slide right under that red tape limbo bar and do as the Romans do.

Damn, maybe my experience the other day was a dream as Italian Postcards wrote. In fact, my tonsils don't hurt any more. Hummm.....


Saretta said...

So...have you never been sick in Italy before? Just joking, but seriously, your experience sounds about par for the course...unfortunately! Thank goodness you do have a friend who has a friend...

Romerican said...

That's the whole problem, this shouldn't be "par for the course"... I don't know about you but I pay a hefty 40+% in taxes in this country (I'm a partita iva holder) and I find this half-ass system, that my taxes help sustain, totally unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain as I too pay around 47% in various taxes on my gross income. Part of that goes to the Italian health care system which I am not even entitled to use due to my PdS. However, on the whole, Italy has a respectable health care system particularly if compared to countries such as the UK. For "bad shit" like tumors, strokes, or burns, Italian hospitals are quite good. Also consider that here you don't need to mortgage your house if the aforementioned bad shit happens to you. I have pension-age American friends who have asked me how to enroll in the Italian health care system because they wouldn't know how to pay for advanced health care in the US if anything were to happen to them. It sounds like you got a shitty doctor and if the friend of a friend thing doesn't work out I wouldn't give up yet on the public health system. -Alex