It was early on a Saturday morning in Portugal, as I stood in line behind another women in the medical clinic. I was a bit perturbed to see only one receptionist behind the counter since the check in process was taking forever. Just then two more women wearing scrubs bearing the clinics logo on them walked in the front door and went behind the counter. A thin, young woman with her hair pulled back sat down beside the one who was checking in the patient in front of me. To my surprise she leaned over to the working receptionist and gave her a kiss on each cheek before logging onto her computer. Another younger girl went behind the desk and stopped to greet both of her co-workers with double kisses as well.
I had to smile as I realized that this was not a doctor's office in the US, but here I was retired at an early age and living my life happily in Europe.
Since the receptionist was expecting me she looked at me with a smile and said in perfect English, "you are next and I'll be with you in a minute."
An older gentleman wearing a bright green golf shirt and jeans walked into the room to join his wife who was already sitting down. Almost like he was greeting a room full of people he already knew, he said a loud, "bom dia," or good morning, to everyone in the room. Everyone looked up and replied before going back to what they were doing.
Do Not Remember IF Any Gloves Were Used Here
Since we left the US almost 8 years ago we have seen doctors around the world, when needed. While it's never easy meeting with a new doctor it's even harder when we are not sure whether or not they speak English. Even while living in Panama for 5 years with a decent understanding of Spanish we still preferred to see only those doctors that spoke English. And having lived in Portugal now for just 9 months our language skills are still in the early stages of development. While we both feel confident that we CAN get our point across in Portuguese, our listening skills still need
Dr. Estavao Ferreira, OB GYN
"Bom dia," I said to Dr. Estêvão who replied back with the same. "Estou aprender Portuguese e nao falo ou compreendo tudo. Fala ingles?" Translated this means that I am learning Portuguese and don't speak or understand fully. Then I asked him if he spoke English? He said that he speaks a little English and we agreed that I would speak a little Portuguese and he would speak a little English.
Unlike doctors in the US in other countries the doctor's typically enter all of the patient information into the computer. He asked the normal health history questions and pecked away at the keyboard using two fingers until finished. He escorted me to a small, corner of the room draped with a curtain for privacy and handed me a gown to change into. The gown was merely a paper wrap skirt that closed with Velcro to cover me from the waist down. I was instructed to keep my shirt and bra on for the exam.
Then he informed me to wait until his assistant came into the room before climbing onto the exam table. The table was a chair with stirrups that tipped backwards, leaving me a bit on my head upside down for the exam. He performed a normal pap test and then proceeded to perform a vaginal ultrasound. This was NOT something that was routinely done at any previous Gyno appointment ever.
As part of my health history I informed the doctor that I had a full hysterectomy in Panama about 7 years earlier. Since one ovary was left intact he wanted to go in and view it for some unknown reason to me. With the help of the ultrasound he was able to locate the ovary and said that everything looked good.
He then printed out two photos of my insides, yes my vagina from the inside out, including the photo of my ovary. Later he presented me with these photos in an envelope to take home with me. Unlike healthcare in the US, in other countries there are NO patient charts kept in the office. Instead all tests, x-rays and such are given to the patient to keep.
At the end of the exam Dr. Stephen shook my hand and said, "muito prazer," it was nice to meet you and sent me on my way. The total for one hour of the doctor's time along with the two in office tests came to 165 euros ($185). Since he is in network with our health insurance we paid just 16.50 euros, and the insurance will pay the other 90%. When we see an out of network doctor we have to pay the full amount upfront and later are reimbursed 80% of the total cost.
And if you're wondering about our health insurance cost, we pay around $250 per month for BOTH of us to be on this policy. It also covers us in other countries when we travel, including the US.
Next we had to go to a nearby private hospital to schedule my routine mammogram, which here will be a digital mammogram along with an ultrasound. Again I am not sure why he scheduled both, since there are no problems, just routine checkups. Perhaps that's the way they do things in Portugal? Also had to schedule a routine bone density test to be done.
We took a "senha" or ticket with a number on it and waited for our turn. The receptionist spoke no English but we understood what she way saying and managed to schedule both exams rather easily. One is scheduled for this week and the other for later in the month.
After my morning bloodwork I was starving and needed coffee so it seemed like the perfect time for breakfast out. Since this is Portugal we dined outdoors at a small café, overlooking the bustling market. Eggs, bacon, toast and coffee for just 4.50 euros each.
Next we bumped elbows with the locals as we took in the sights, smells and culture of all that surrounded us. We shopped as the Portuguese do at the daily fruit and vegetable market. While I admit that we usually are too lazy to go out of the way to the market, it's easier to buy our produce at the large grocery stores. Add to that the best produce can be found early in the mornings when we typically are working out at the gym. But since this was Saturday, our day off from the gym, and we did need plenty of produce, it was the perfect opportunity to indulge.
Praca de Fruta, Caldas da Rainha, Portugal
This Market is Open Everyday Here
And boy did we indulge in the succulent strawberries, fresh apricots, juicy peaches, cherries, oranges, bananas, and plenty of veggies too. A quick stop along the way at a nut kiosk for some sesame seeds to grind up for homemade hummus too. The price for all this stuff was less than 20 euros, and enough to last us a week or two.
That Cut Up Orange Thing Is Spaghetti Squash
The Thing Was Huge So It Was Cut Up And Sold By The Kilo
With Small Refrigerators In Europe Much Of Produce Is Stored In Our Pantry
Nearby at a local fish market we picked up some fresh salmon steaks, enough for two meals for around 14 euros.
Our two grocery bags were so heavy with our purchases that we decided I would stay with the bags while Clyde went to get the car.
Later in the day we stopped at a local Chinese store to pick up a shopping bag on wheels that are commonly used and seen throughout Europe. Our next trip to the market will be easier with our purchases in tow.
Grocery Bag On Wheels For Just 10 Euros
After a lovely day of shopping and relaxing our sore muscles from 5 days in the gym, we are headed out tonight to dance the night away. With so many choices of things to do here for expats, tonight is just another one of those many events. A dance with a buffet dinner including drinks for 18 euros a person. Proceeds will go to help local families in need of items like clothing and food.
We are enjoying our new life in Portugal a little more each day. The sun is shining and the weather has warmed up to a balmy 85 F or 29 C. Time to shed the layers of winter clothes, show off our new bodies, and continue to enjoy life in Portugal.....along the gringo trail.