Thursday, February 25, 2016

Day 5: A Trip to the Doctor

How does the medical system work on Reunion? What’s the price? Would I need my travel insurance I got? There were a lot of questions but frankly I didn’t give a hoot because there was coral in my foot and it needed to be removed five minutes ago. For the fourth time I went to the front desk and asked if there was a doctor’s office and sure enough there was one right beside the pharmacy I had gone to.

            This meant, for the fourth time today, I got back in my VW Up and now with no issues with the reverse gear I made my way and once again parked a couple blocks away which meant walking on my foot was of great joy (sarcasm alert) and went into the door beside the pharmacy which led up some stairs to a… Dentist office?

            There are certain smells in this world that are unmistakable and the smell of a dentist’s office is one of them. And, in this case, if the smell didn’t give it away the pictures of a dentist’s chair and smiling faces did. The receptionist was on the phone and I waited patiently and when she got off I asked if she spoke English which the response, which I was learning is the norm, was, “a little” so I asked if there were a doctor’s office in that building and she said, “yes, down and to the right.”

            I went down and went to the end of the building and I saw nothing. I walked into the pharmacy then which was to the left and asked the person behind the counter and the only thing she could say was, “I don’t speak English” but she got the manager who was very much happy to help me and when she showed me the way it truly was down and to the right, as it immediate right and I had walked past the door without noticing it on my first time by.

            Inside the receptionist spoke no English and had me right my name and birthdate out and then I waited for an hour but then it was my turn and I went into a room where two doctors were working. One spoke a fair amount of English and the other a minimal amount. The one that spoke English asked me what happened and I spoke as plainly and as matter of fact as I could and he said, “it’s better safe than sorry with coral, let’s take a look.” Out came the magnifying glass and lights and he said, “There’s nothing there.” Nothing? I was sure there were still some small specks of coral and he took another look and the other doctor then got a pad of some sort and rubbed it and told me, “for this no charge, no money, don’t worry about it.”

The doctor with the minimal amount of English thanked me for speaking so direct and without much flair or accent in my voice because he said he could actually discern the words I was saying so I mentioned that I am a public speaker as my job and then the doctor that spoke better English inquired as to what I speak on to which I said autism and he looked confused. He had never heard of it. I tried explaining what autism was but the words I was using wasn’t be understood. He then asked what the French version of the word was and I remembered I had Google Translate on my phone and I was connected to wifi so I translated autism which went to autisme in French and then both of them knew it. The doctor with the minimal amount of English then said he had saw this wonderful movie about a professor that… that… He had trouble finding the words so I asked, “cows” to which the word meant nothing so he then said, “moo” and I said with confidence, “Temple?” to which he then grinned and said, “Yes! Temple Grandin!” so I had to show him the picture of myself presenting with her at a conference and there was a gigantic smile on his face.

We then talked about what I do with police officers, and how six years ago there wasn’t the awareness there is today. I was asked how many people in America have autism and I rattled off the numbers and we talked for about half an hour about autism. They then gave me the name of a French journalist who wrote a book about, I think her son, with the title of, “the boy who steals toothbrushes” or something along those lines which I will look up when I get back home, but the conversation came to an end and they realized there were other patients to see so once again I was told, “No money, don’t worry, you do amazing and important work!” I couldn’t envision ever hearing that from a doctor in America.

We shook hands in front of the receptionist and I left only to be tracked down by the receptionist when I got a block away and I heard her shouting, “Monsieur!” so I turned away and she said, “Euros!” I said, “The doctors said ‘no money, no pay’” This confused her and she said, “No pay?” which told me she had no idea what I was saying. Not wanting any confrontation I went back and the doctors I had seen were already with another patient so I couldn’t get their affirmation of my claim. Despite my words the receptionist drew up a bill for 27.60 Euros which I didn’t want to pay but I took out a 50 Euro note and handed it to her once again saying, “the doctors said not to pay” to which she said, “yes, no pay” thus reinforcing that those English words meant nothing to her and rightfully so as if someone from France came to Saint Louis and told me anything in French I’d have no idea what they were saying but I’d try to make it sound like I knew what they were.

The receptionist left to go somewhere with my money and she came back with change and I then left a bit out of money but all things considered I now knew my foot had no more coral in it and that autism is something known even on this island 10,000 miles away from home and the doctors wanted to know a little bit more about it and if I had to fall upon some coral, run about town getting various medical supplies, and pay some Euros to find that out that is perfectly fine by me because of two reasons; the first is it gives me hope to know that autism awareness is far reaching but secondly, I can now say I’m given an impromptu presentation on both the almost top of the world and the almost bottom of the world. Next time I have something sensational like this, however, I hope it doesn’t require a fall, or Swiss army knives, or any of the other almost comedy of sequences experienced today.

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