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Being Ill in Bulgaria

Seeing people of my own age around me draws me to compare health. Of course you can't tell how healthy a person is just by looking at them. however you can see how they walk, posture and general body language to give you clues to their wellbeing. One of my great pastime is people watching anyway so when my focus is on someone akin to my age there is bound to be comparisons with myself.
We all have been ill at some point and now it was my turn for a change. Pain is something I can bear when I am in control such as pushing myself physically on my bike or cycling, but pain caused by illness is at the very least an intolerable scenario.
As you get older you put up with aches and pains, it grows upon you gradually that is acceptable it is a message reminding you you're getting older and can't run around like a spring chicken anymore. That doesn't mean you become stagnant, just more careful with excursions for example proper warming up and warming down before and after exercising or thinking first before running for a bus or picking up that heavy box. It took some painful experiences to come to terms with that way.
Well now back in Bulgaria and putting up with a painful Left hand for months, which I put down to a history of tension initially taking up the viola after puberty, (long story). Then working in Bulgaria full time in a boiler factory in Bulgaria back in 2007, basically with an active drill in my hand 8 hours a day (I'm left handed). The latter did the most damage. I started up the piano again for a least and hour a day a few months ago and the left hand was giving me problems with tension and stress which gradually got worse, but I persevered. Perhaps I should have read the signs and given it a break. On top of this my cycling requires hours on end of grip on the handlebars, which doesn't do the wrist any favours especially when the weather turned a little damper and colder. So come the end of November it wasn't very comfortable at all.
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The Barrels That Did The Damage
27th November arrived and it was the evening before Rakia Making Day. I had to help get two big barrels full of fermented wine out of my garage and onto a van. It was a cold evening pouring with rain and I had been waiting for half an hour for the van to arrive on the street in these condition. A cold man with no head cover or gloves and soaked through with the thought of rakia making motivating him. The van duly arrived and as I began to lift the first barrel my left wrist cracked under the strain accompanied with a sharp dagger like pain. I worked through the pain on the second barrel and struggled with four heavy sacks of wood. That was it I thought, give it a rest overnight and will be fine in the morning. That evening I took a couple of paracetamol and an early night to bed for a 5:30 rise in the morning and very excited for the Rakia Making Day ahead.
The following morning on waking up before the alarm, I should have gone to the Doctor, but with the excitement and adrenalin of Rakia making in front of me I pushed through the pain and got through the process one-handed, including the driving to the village. It didn't end there, the pain was becoming very close to intolerable now and apples had to be peeling and cut to add to the fresh rakia crying out for them. Galia insisted she should do it but being the fool I am for some reason I have a compulsion for self-suffering and a steeped history for working through pain just for the hell of the challenge. The apples were duly albeit painfully prepared and my left wrist was now transformed into constant pain rather than intermittent with movement. Something quite wrong there now I thought. Still I will rest it overnight and tomorrow with no plans to do anything. It will be fine.
Bed at 11:00 and the pain now was constant increasing to the degree I couldn't sleep no matter what position my hand was in. By 02:30 I was at the end of my tether end and in tears with pain. The wrist was compressed by wrapping in a pair of socks around it to support, but that made no difference. The agony now was completely out of my control and that's where the decision was made to visit the Hospital. But I was feeling light-headed and dizzy almost to the point of passing, so I reluctantly had to wake Galia who was in a deep sleep next to me for assistance.
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A&E My First Hospital Call 2:30 am
A taxi was called and we arrived at the local hospital some 10 minutes later. I was seen immediately and examined thoroughly by a team of at least four Doctors in attendance with three nurses in turn. I was laid down on a bed and put on a drip for three hours. I was shaking from cold and nerves as they mentioned that I might be suffering from a stroke!! Bloody Hell was my reaction to that, after all the fitness I do and this? Can't be! I was left to ponder that for quite some time. During this time I was distracted by an argument right by the side of the bed I was lying on with a Gypsy Mother and Daughter demanding a prescription off the Doctor. The argument lasted ages and was very heated in the end they were ordered out of the treatment rooms and had to wait until the day shift started to be served. I found out that this was common that Gypsies often come at night with a free taxi service and free treatment and drugs just because they are treated differently to Bulgarians. they take advantage of this and when given the free drugs sell them on for 100% profit. We (or should I say Bulgarians) have to pay for taxis, medical treatment and prescriptions!) This incident however didn't detract me too much with the pain I was in and the shaking continued.
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Second Hospital for X-Ray
5:00 in the morning and it was a transfer to another hospital, (with a taxi we paid for!) for an x-ray. This hospital was where Galia's Nephew works who I cycle with on occasion. We turned up and an x-ray was made within 10 minutes. Then it was another hospital for an examination from another specialist with addition tests to be made. Another taxi taken and now the third hospital in the space of 12 hours.
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Third Call Yambol's Polyclinic
Whilst waiting to be seen, there were six other parties there all with the same appointment time of 16:30 to see one Doctor. How was that? I was examined and told that there was no stroke but probably just an infection and further blood tests would be taken early tomorrow morning. I was given a prescription two series of injections, (hate those!) one set of tablets, and a powder compound to be mixed with water and drunk. All this cost money including the visits and Doctors seen with tomorrow the promise of more costs. No avoiding this unless you are a Gypsy apparently. Doesn't matter that I'm British and paid National Insurance throughout my working life not that I expect any special treatment as a Brit. 
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Current Medication!
Another night but this time I slept well after a bout of two injections one on each cheek and other prescribed medicine. I  was told no food or drink in the morning prior to the planned hospital tests and duly adhered to instructions turning up with a rumbling stomach. 
Fees paid for blood and urine specimen test although only blood was taken even though we paid for both. the queuing system here is absolute chaos and only though who have no scruples about running up to the treatment room get seen first. A classic case seen here where an overweight man crawled up the corridor as if it was his last walk on earth, then once the surgery door open he was an Olympic Athlete sprinted to the door and getting in before those who had been waiting for their turn. I find it strange that no one complains. I have been told to just keep quite in these situations as many Bulgarians are prejudice on finding out I'm English in confrontational situations. This advice has kept me out of trouble for years even though it is difficult not to express an opinion seeing what goes on..
The blood test was good, all normal, a relief and it was now time to continue with the given drugs and become a passive person for a week. No fitness, no piano, no work on repairs or rebuilding my bike and no driving. Difficult!
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The Cost!
I'm feeling a lot better now, but am reminded again about how old I am and how I should behave. The total cost of this episode amounted to over 100 BG Lev. You just can't afford to be ill here without private health insurance which is something I cam considering right now. But will it get overlooked and on the backburner when I am fit again? Probably......That's what the vast majority of people do here in Bulgaria anyway, take it as it comes, they just don't have disposable income for a, What if?', scenario on health.
So now when I people watch and see individuals my age and compare health, I know that at any point in time health can change without warning, that doesn't stop you trying to look after yourself though to reduced the risk factor which I will continue to do. Beside I feel that investment in fitness is cheaper than investment in health insurance which I can 'Ill afford,' on my small pension here.


This post first appeared on Bulgarian Slivatree - An Expatriate's Eye In Bulg, please read the originial post: here

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Being Ill in Bulgaria

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