In which I get injured and treat myself the British way – by ignoring it and hoping it will go away
Yes! I thought as my hand slammed backwards as it hit the ice. This is the perfect opportunity to compare healthcare in the UAE with the system in Qatar!
Ok, I didn’t. Of course I didn’t. No, at the exact moment of impact – the second after Amnesiac, who skates like someone who spent three years in Doha traffic, cut me up on what we had ironically agreed would be our final lap of the ice rink at Zayed Sports City, the capital’s aptly-named mega complex – I was too busy trying to creatively convey my pain in a PG-friendly way, surrounded as I was by small children.
I don’t think I succeeded.
A month or so later, having ignored the pain when I bent my wrist upwards for long enough, Mrs LC made sure I made my first visit to a GP in years. The doctor was pleasant enough, sent me for an x-ray and said she’d call back later with the results.
Most people’s first response when their doctor phones them and stats by stating “It’s not good news,” wouldn’t be relief. But mine was.
Because now I live in the UAE, it’s ok if I need treatment.
I spent my three years in Qatar in medical no man’s land. Like the UAE, it’s an insurance-based model, but as I was only ever contracting and not a full-time employee, I didn’t have an employer to provide me with any cover.
Add to that a primary care system that was often confusing and inaccessible, and I basically spent my whole time there hoping I didn’t get properly sick. Even we stiff upper lipped Brits would admit that’s not the best policy in the long term.
(Our spiritual leader is the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail – “It’s just a flesh wound” – Ignoring things and hoping they get better is our superpower.)
In fact, the only time I visited a medical facility of any flavour in Qatar for my own health (I spent many an hour at HMC’s fantastic-if-scarily-named Pediatric Emergency clinic in my parental capacity) was to pay a visit to Hamad General Hospital’s “See and Treat” clinic.
I had smacked my shin on the running board of my car, aggravating an injury I had received a few weeks earlier on holiday when I did the zip wire equivalent of a wipeout and gouged my leg on a tree.
Cut to six weeks later, and the resulting lump on my leg not showing any signs of budging, Mrs LC suggested I visit the clinic, just to be on the safe side.
It was an eye-opening experience.
Here was what it was really like to be uninsured and needing healthcare: a tennis court-sized room overwhelmingly full of Asian labourers, mostly wheezing their way to the front of an endless queue for respiratory conditions. Not sick enough for the Emergency Department, but not well enough to work either, See and Treat represented their best bet.
The men wouldn’t be earning any money whilst they were visiting the clinic, so most of them were in their overalls, looking to head straight back to their place of work, once they’d been seen.
The queue for ‘Other Injuries’ was far shorter, and I was eventually examined and dispatched by a cheery doc who told me that, yes, there was indeed nothing to worry about. I was very much one of the lucky ones.
Here comes your scan
The facility I’ve been treated at in these past few weeks could hardly be more different. Plush sofas, coffee on arrival, state of the art kit…but I doubt the outcome would have been any different.
There’s a bit of a wait between your provider saying “we need to do a CT scan” and your insurer giving them the all-clear. Once the green light was received, however, (and a few appointments had been made and cancelled because the scanner wasn’t, er, scanning) it wasn’t long before I found myself back at the hospital’s radiology department lying face down on its curved narrow bed, my left arm thrust forwards like a prostrate Lenin impersonator.
Despite the noise from the scanner as it lined up its dots on my outstretched limb and the donut whizzed round, five oddly-relaxing minutes passed before I was done. I got a CD of the scan before I even left, but the wait for an official analysis was almost another week.
After all those appointments and time, it was flake fracture of my triquetral – as I had suspected all along.
The good news is it doesn’t need a plaster cast or surgery. Immobilisation (which means my sexy beige wrist strap hasn’t been worn in vain), ice baths and manipulation exercises are the order of the day.
And besides, I’d used the lengthy period between my injury and eventual diagnosis to carefully consider my situation and make some important changes to my lifestyle.
It’s going to be a long time before I go skating again.