Cultural Differences?

My friend Neal, who lives in the United States, broke his finger recently, and was telling me about his treatment. I was kinda shocked at the contrast with respect to my own treatment, living in Spain, when I recently broke my toe.

Neal went to his HMO doctor, who inspected the swollen hand, and immediately recommended him to a “Hand Specialist.” Next day, the Hand Specialist took some x-rays and had Neal scheduled for surgery the very following day. Neal left surgery with a finger full of allen screws to allow for little weekly adjustments to make sure, when all healed up, that his finger is just like new. Neal has weekly follow-ups with x-rays to make sure everything’s on track. And Neal got some pain medicine.

On the other hand…

After breaking my little toe, I went to the local clinic’s emergency room, and waited, and waited, and waited, until I finally got to see the resident student doctor. Without hardly acknowledging my presence, he sends me off for x-rays. Thirty minutes later, I’m back in the office, the doc’s still busy studying something obviously much more important than me on his desk. He looks up at the x-rays, “Yep, it’s broken. In two places. Guess that must hurt.”

Me: “Yeah, doc, so, uh, what do I do? What’s the protocol? Will I ever walk again? Why is my entire foot purple? First time for me here, you know.” Doc: “Buddy tape it to the adjacent toe, and come back if it still hurts in two months.” Me: “Er, uh… Buddy what? Ok, so let’s talk about what that means. How do I manage with a broken toe? Will this affect my diet? Should I place any weight on it? Can I wear shoes? Can I type? Can I…” Doc: “That’ll be all. Sheryl will be in a few minutes to buddy tape it before you leave.” Me: “Uh, hold on.. What about….”

(Doctor leaves the room… Sheryl enters without a word, and starts taping…)

Me: “Hi, Sheryl, first time customer here! 🙂 … 🙁 So… uh, what’s the taping strategy? What kind of angle you going for there? Is that special tape? How long between changes? Biodegrable? Washable?…”

(Sheryl finishes and walks out without a word. Must be going to fetch me the broken-toe literature or something.)

(10 minutes pass. Matt opens the door, looks down the hall. Begins to understand nobody’s coming back…)

So there you go. What a difference. While Neal gets a brand new straight finger, I get a little toe that will forever lean to the right from months of being buddy taped. And I didn’t even get pain meds.

Ok, readers, on the agenda tomorrow: my next trip to this same clinic, where I had to undergo “an analysis”.

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