(*) Some details of this LJ post may be heavily fictionalised.
First of all you have to understand that New Zealand is one of those countries where we get our health insurance from the government (boo hiss) instead of from our employers (all hail!) This dangerous state of affairs, in which we rely on a bunch of people who we could vote out of power every three years rather than on a bunch of people who could make us redundant for all sorts of reasons, plays heavily into the following story.
So a month ago I got possibly-swine-flu, and then I got better, and then on Tuesday night I came down with something else, and then yesterday afternoon I was having all sorts of trouble breathing which my regular asthma medication wasn't really helping. I was starting to think that if it was still this way the next day, or if it got worse, I should seek medical attention. And then I was chatting on irc with painoarvokas
who said something like "...Or you get medical attention *now*," and I thought "...Huh. I have noticed before in myself the tendency to fail at higher reasoning powers when suffering from oxygen deprivation. Maybe I should indeed borrow those of a more lucid friend."
Now, in New Zealand, the Death Panel, euphemistically known as "the health system", is administered by various branches. There's the "emergency department" if you're keeling over, and it's free. If you can't get there yourself you can call for an "ambulance", which is like a bookmobile except with medicine instead of books; they'll later bill you for $50, or about 5kg of cheap beef mince, but you get a while to pay and also I'm pretty sure if you actually need the money for mince instead then they cut you a deal. If you're not keeling over then you can see your "general practitioner" during office hours, or after-hours you can go to an "after-hours clinic". All the people working at these places are bound by the Hypocritical Oath (or something like that - I'm not a doctor, what would I know?) which they have to follow in order to decide who will live and who will die.
I couldn't get myself anywhere by myself but it didn't quite feel like a 111 thing, so I called my family instead. Dad prescribed decongestants and Mum brought me back to their place so I wouldn't be alone. The decongestants didn't help and after dinner I was feeling bad enough that I got Mum to drive me to the after-hours place. Due to my flu-like symptoms I had to wear a mask and use antiseptic hand goop, and I have to say that masks don't actually make it any easier to breathe!
So I went to the Death Panel reception desk where they asked my name and address. This is so they can dig up my records from last time I was here to help them make their fatal decision. Then they got me to stand waiting for a nurse. I divined that this was a test and that if I proved unable to stand for long enough then they'd just euthanise me (or possibly save my life - it's hard to tell the difference as both procedures involve a gas mask). In any case I didn't have sufficient oxygen in my brain to seriously consider disobeying and when I didn't collapse a Death Panel nurse came along and asked about my symptoms. Then I got to sit down and wait for another Death Panel nurse.
(At this point I brought out my laptop as it's my experience that things always happen much faster if I have my laptop open. A bus that would otherwise take 15 minutes to arrive is guaranteed to pull up immediately, for example. This time I wasn't thinking well enough to be interested in any of my stories, but while I was looking for mindless computer games the second Death Panel nurse came along anyway.)
So we went to their flu bay. She determined that I had no fever and that my blood oxygen levels were normal (could have fooled my brain!) but my peak flow was low. Then I got to go to another place to wait for a Death Panel doctor. I got out my laptop again and discovered that in fact I'd uninstalled all my mindless computer games in an attempt to actually do some writing. Mental note: must remedy this! Fortunately the laptop ploy did the trick and the Death Panel doctor arrived pretty promptly. She listened to my lungs and decided it was in fact asthma. Also she made the official decision that I should live, yay!
(She spent a bit of time asking if I'd had prednisone before, and I said yes, and she said "20 mg?" and I said "... Er, if that's the normal dosage then I guess that's what I've had before, I dunno." And she said, "Okay, I can tell you're not thinking clearly at the moment," and I wanted to say that it wasn't so much that I wasn't thinking clearly as that I really had no idea, but I wasn't thinking clearly enough to be able to explain this, so I decided to just go with the flow.)
At this point there was a little confusion because she couldn't find the spacer for giving me my salbutamol, so she had to consult with the rest of the Death Panel on that. And when they found it I kept breathing in when I pushed the inhaler down, like I do at home, instead of pushing it down and then breathing normally, like I was supposed to, and that gave me a fit of the giggles. But after six doses of salbutamol I was high as a kite and then the Death Panel sent me out with a prescription for prednisone and antibiotics in case of infection.
Oh, first I presented my credit card at the desk and they deducted NZ$72 from it. (This is about the price of 7kg of cheap cheddar cheese so you can see why poorer people would go to emergency even if it's not an emergency and they have to wait for hours. Because mm, cheese!) Then I went to the pharmacy and got my prednisone and antibiotics for $7 (or about the price of 5 cheap loaves of sliced bread at today's inflated prices).
Then I went home and took my medicine and went to bed. I was still shorter of breath than usual and also it took me about an hour to relax enough from the high-as-a-kite effects that I could sleep. But while I slept, nanites emerged from the prednisone and went to work building me new bionic lungs! Seriously, it was quite disconcerting when I woke up a few hours later and discovered that my lungs were just breathing all by themselves
. But then I reconcerted myself, because if the Death Panel has seen fit to give me bionic lungs, what can I do about it? That's just how oppressive my government is!