Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Friday 2:30pm Freakout


There are some conveniences I am doing just fine without here in Berlin.  We have gotten used to the shortened hours at the grocery store and the fact that many many things are just closed on Sunday.  We get around the city just fine without a car most of the time, and have just gotten used to planning a little bit more before we leave the house.  As Americans we do miss some of the conveniences of home however, and Friday was a prime example of the ridiculousness of some German things that we just don’t understand sometimes.  

Friday morning Annika woke up with an ear ache.  I called our pediatrician’s office as soon as they opened at 9:30am and got an appointment to see the doctor at 11:50am.  A very whiney & sick Annika and I took 2 different buses (and 30 minutes) to get to the office and then waited 45 more minutes in the waiting room.  Naturally Annika made me question my parental judgment as her ibuprofen-ed up little body jumped and played all over the waiting room and bounced into the examination room too.  The doctor diagnosed a severe ear infection and possible strep and sent us on our merry way with a prescription for an antibiotic.  (This was my choice of the treatment options he presented by the way; partly because this is only the 3rd ear infection Ani has ever had in her 4 years and because I didn’t want to have to trek back out to the office to get a prescription in case she did actually have strep.) 

By the time we left the office, the ibuprofen was obviously wearing off, and Annika had me carry her the block to the bus stop, and the 3 blocks between where we exited the first bus and the pharmacy.  I handed the lady behind the counter the prescription, she got it for me and briefly explained how to concoct and administer it, as well as the process for sending the bill to my insurance company here for reimbursement.  She actually handed me a glass bottle filled about ¼ of the way full with powder that I was then to fill to the line, shake, allow to settle, fill to the line again, and shake once more.  Additionally the doctor had prescribed an over the counter nose spray for Ani and some ibuprofen that the pharmacist also handed me, and since they were prescribed my insurance company will also be required to reimburse us for them.  (Isn’t that interesting?!?!) 

I carried Ani across the street and she sat on a bench waiting for the bus with 3 lovely Omas who gave me sympathetic looks as they could obviously tell she was sick from the pouty look and lack of energy she had.  Ani fell asleep on the 10 minute bus ride home, and I carried her up the 4 flights of stairs to our apartment.  I got her situated on the couch and gave her a cup full of blueberries to snack on while I got her medicine ready.  I took out the medicine from the bag with my wet hands (wet from washing blueberries) and started to try to open the child-proof cap when the glass bottle slipped from my hands and shattered the antibiotic powder all over my kitchen with 18 million tiny glass shards in it.  It was 2:30pm on a Friday.  I started to freak out. 

In order to understand my freak out and not think I am insane, you must also know that German pediatrician and pharmacy hours are in no way logical or convenient to anyone other than the doctor and/or pharmacist.  Our pediatrician’s office here is only open from 9:30am-1pm on Fridays and once the pharmacy closes their doors on Friday at 5pm, they will not open again until Monday at 9am.  My kitchen was covered in a prescription powder and I had no idea how in the world to get more.  I could theoretically call my pediatrician’s cell phone and get another prescription, but was my insurance going to pay for the prescription twice or was I going to be charged a €15 dumbass tax?  This is not even mentioning the complete ridiculousness that was going to ensue when I had to wake up a very sick and justifiably grumpy Annika in order to schlep her 30 minutes to the doctor’s office, 20 minutes back to the pharmacy, and another 10 minutes back home (assuming we caught all the busses that were running on time).  These are the oh so fun times when I REALLY miss American conveniences. 

At home our pediatrician would have better hours, even ones that working parents could come to and walk-in hours when you don’t have to make an appointment.  At home, the pharmacy would never give me powdered antibiotic in a glass bottle, and I would be able to take my prescription to multiple places no matter what time of day or which day it was.  At home, the pharmacy would not EVER run out of general pediatric liquefied antibiotic in plastic bottles and have to order some for us to come back and pick up later. 

The end of the story went like this:  I swept up the bottle and powder and put it in a paper bag.  Andy took the bag to the pharmacy while I stayed home with the girls as I was unsure I could be completely civil and not talk loudly about the ridiculousness of it all in public.  (Andy HAD just witnessed me yelling at a train station that “I guess handicapped people aren’t allowed to take the train into Berlin from this stop!”)  He briefly explained to the pharmacist what happened and she told him that we’d have to get another prescription.  When he told her that wasn’t possible, she went into a whole big explanation that Andy didn’t understand before she threw up her hands and said that they would figure it out.  Apparently we had gotten their very last bottle of powdered pediatric antibiotics and she had to call in an order from another pharmacy.  Andy came back to the pharmacy an hour and a half later and picked up another bottle of the precious stuff without having to pay.  She told a white lie that they had broken the bottle at the pharmacy and replaced it for free.  I’m sure they think we are dummies, but I don’t even care.    

This whole incident brought up soo many questions in my mind.  Are pediatric antibiotics not commonly prescribed here?  What other kind of prescription medication comes in glass bottles here?  Why do pediatric practices seem to only stay open 20-30 hours a week here?  A Friday 2:30pm freak out like that is just not possible (or necessary) at home, and I’m looking forward to the convenience of 24 hour pharmacies and shatter proof bottles again!  

4 comments:

  1. The trade-off, of course, is that in Germany at least you're guaranteed access to insurance to pay for the medication and that it only cost 15€ to begin with (the copay on my American insurance goes up to $75 for some prescriptions).

    But man, this does suck. The only time I've been sick to the point of needing medication here was on Easter Sunday and Monday when I was just plain SOL. That fever had perfect timing. Glad you were able to work it out, and I hope Annika is feeling better! Ear aches are the worst.

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    1. I will take guaranteed coverage over convenience ANY day for sure!! We also were completely spoiled at home by a large and nationally recognized excellent pediatric practice with awesome evening, walk-in, and even weekend hours.

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  2. I see there are a LOT of things to discuss and clarify next week. ;-)
    Looking forward to you guys!
    Cheers
    Christian

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    Replies
    1. I'm making a list of all our questions for you! :-)

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