Monday, November 16, 2009

The return of Señora Barbara and why can't my nose and ear just be friends?

"Enfermarse es super caro acá" (Getting sick is so expensive, here!), I said to my (I think) Bolivian pharmacist downtown this morning, as I was purchasing my pricey new meds for what I'd feared was an ear infection or a nearly-ruptured eardrum.
"No lo esssss" he said, (no it issssssn't), he said, drawing out the S like a snake. (This along with the way he looked, and the fact that he was friendly made me guess that he was Bolivian).
"Sanarse es lo caro" (Getthing healthy is the pricey bit), I said. And he smiled, with the very Chilean,
"Así es" (so it is).

There had been clicking. And squeaking, and a generalized heaviness inside my head localized to the left side. And I thought to myself, "Señora Barbara," (this is my medical name) you are flying ten hours in a little over a week. Do you want to be seized with blinding ear pain on the flight? No! I said. I do not.

And so I found myself at the friendly neighborhood Integramédica where I get all of my medical stuff done. It's close, cheap enough with my health insurance and they all remember me well from a very exciting digit-slicing event earlier this year, and still like me in spite of it and the hysteria that ensued. So there I go.

Turns out my nose and ear aren't communicating properly, the lines of communication are shut down. I don't know if there's some kind of work stoppage, tiny little protesters with even tinier pancartas (protest posters) in there, but whatever it is, these parts, they are not playing nice. Sneezing feels weird, coughing is best not to talk about, and last night I imagined pools of warm liquid pouring out of my ear as I tried to fall asleep.

So off I went. I had a longish wait, during which I was subjected to lots of things I don't care about on a flat-screen TV, and a very nice woman who traded me a 100 peso coin for 10 10-peso coins because she wanted to make a phone call, and who am I to stop one of the five remaining people in this country who don't have a cell phone from making a call?

The doctor did call me Barbara, as they are wont to do, but did not ask me any of the repetitive questions people ask foreigners in this country, and then put on that great strappy headband with the convex mirror that otorrinos (ENT docs) wear I'd hoped it had a really cool name that I could report. It's called an "espejo frontal." Yawn (also makes ear feel weird!). That just means front-side mirror.

I left the office just about $10.50 poorer than I went in and then proceeded to spend a fairly atrocious amount of money on jacked-up slow-release sudafed (Frenaler-D) and Nasonex, of which I have been instructed to administer 2 "puff" into each nasal cavity every evening. Where "puff" is the Spanish word for spray, one would suppose. The meds cost 47 dollars, and while I was looking that up, I noticed that the US dollar is below 500 pesos for the first time in a long time. Which is decidedly ungood for US dollar spenders in Chile. And may I add that when I first got a cold here in Chile and tried to buy anything, anything at all with the Sudafed ingredients in it, I was turned away, with them saying "we don't sell that." Not true, apparently. But at the price I just paid, I probably would have run away screaming at any rate.

With any luck at all, the Nasonex will act like teargas (but less burny!), dispatching the roadblock located on that great nasal-aural highway located behind my cheekbone, and all will be well in the world of eardrums, and I will stop imagining liquid streaming out of my ears. And if the dollar climbed up a little, that wouldn't be too bad, either.

This is the stuffy-eared Señora Barbara, signing off from my comfy green couch in Barrio Brasil. Now get to work! (me, not you).


Anonymous said...

thanks for the insights. we've heard the same faqs for 10 years now!

translates said...

Nasonex is about $1 a puff here in the U.S. We paid $120 at Walgreen's last time we went, not too long ago. It's better to get it in Chile, no doubt.
It's crazy because we have insurance, but some meds have no generic equivalent and the insurance does not cover.

Annje said...

Curarse es lo caro... yes, that is true... enfermarse es gratis.

I hope you feel better before your trip. You can't taste the to-furkey with all that congestion!

I get horrible allergies in dec-jan here in texas and often take claritin D because I am too lazy to go in and get a prescription. Though now they have zyrtec over the counter which seems to work better.

Eileen said...

$1 a puff? and we say puff? I had no idea. In my sister's house we call it nebbies. As in, want to do nebbies? This to my nephew who's a bit of a wheezy child. I think I shall call this price per neb. And the price per neb seems to be quite reasonable at 140 nebs for 30 bucks. I'm beginning to think I should get more, and start a business.

But what I saved on nebs I got fleeced on for Claritin-d, or at least for regular Claritin, which seems to only have loratadine, not sweet, sweet pseudoeph!drine, oh how I love you, and not because people use you to make illegal stuff. Actually, now that I look closer, it looks like I made out well. Except that if I lived in the states presumably I would have health insurance that would share the cost of these meds with me. Though actually, maybe not, judging by translates' comment.

And you know? I feel so easy-breathing it makes me want to go for a run or something. Anyone got any meloxicam (mobic) for my ankle?

Annje said...

Claritin is sold over the counter--so I don't think insurance helps--which is too bad, it is like a buck a pill. They have a version with pseud.epherine that you have to get otc but no prescription--but everything with that in it is no longer on the shelves. They have an otc on the shelf one with a pseudo pesudo--probably the one you got--it seems to work as well though.

Eileen said...

if you guys take these meds, seriously, check them out on Amazon. The plain Claritin, without the pseudo whatsis is avail (generic) for less than 20 bucks for 300 pills. It just has lora whatsis in it though, no pseudo. Now that I know what my problem is here re: ear, I can report that I've had it before and without meds it takes forever to resolve.

Annje, I have the real pseudo here, not the pseudo pseudo. It is my favorite, and it works like a dream. The meds are pricey though, so I'm sure I'll just take what I was prescribed and then stop, even though I'll probably get congested and sneezy again. Maybe not, who knows. I am so glad I don't live in Portland, Oregon anymore. That was truly the most allergenic place I had ever lived, with DC a close second.

Annje said...

I lived in Portland... it's not so bad (for me). You would hate Austin then--they call it the allergy capital of the world.

Still Life in South America said...

Sounds like a strong infection. You definitely need to taste Thanksgiving food.

Hope you feel better before your trip home!

Katie said...

If your nasal-aural picketers are anything like the riff-raff manipulated by the Kirchners here in Argentina, all you need do is offer them a sandwich and a soda and they'll do your bidding, lickety-split! It would save money on pricey meds...

Here's hoping that you feel better very soon!

Anonymous said...

Hola, Barbara! We are suffering that low low low US dollar here in Morocco too. And we just went on a trip to the north of Morocco and everyone spoke to us in Spanish! And offered us hash! So, I guess the moral is, come to Morocco and you may still have an ear infection, but you won't care.
Hope you feel better soon.

Maeskizzle said...

Sorry you're sick.

Wow prescription drugs are pricey in the States!! I may have to stock up before I move home. I'm definitely bringing viadil (las gotitas para la guata) because I've never had anything like it in the States.

I loooooooved your post on the frequently asked questions in Chile. Hilarious. That whole post is so.true.