Let’s just say “grace” is not my middle name…
At the end of last week’s blog post, I mentioned that I had broken one of my toes. And, before I get a barrage of funny comments (I’m talking to you, Jorge…), I am fully aware of how breaking one of my toes will not come as a surprise to most of my family and friends. I have a penchant for falling down, running into things, and tripping over stuff. So, breaking my toe isn’t the surprising thing…it’s how it was treated.
I broke my toe on the last evening my sister, Claire and brother-in-law, Adam were visiting. Just as they were walking in the front door, I went rushing to see them and caught my little toe on the corner of the kitchen island. I hopped around, did my best not to cry, and tried, unsuccessfully, not to swear. I was pretty sure I had broken it based on the level of pain I was feeling, but it was their last night in Portugal and I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way. I sucked it up and pressed on.
Claire and Adam were taking us to dinner at Monte Mar – a fabulous restaurant situated right above the water on the coastline in Cascais. I had been wanting to dine at Monte Mar for nearly a year, but we had never made it happen, and trust me, it wasn’t for lack of trying. Won made reservations for my birthday last November, but we had to cancel because Sweet Pea got really sick that day. Then we made reservations in May, and again in June, but had to cancel due to conflicts of some sort or another.
When my family came to visit, I thought, finally! Our plan was to treat them to dinner at Monte Mar. But, on the evening we had made the reservation, everyone decided they wanted to eat at a more casual place in town, so Won canceled for a fourth time. Gaaahhh! Foiled again!
Honestly? I thought Monte Mar was going to blacklist us at that point. Over dinner that night, I shared our Monte Mar reservation history with Claire and Adam. The next day they told us they wanted to host us for dinner on their last night and that they had made reservations at Monte Mar. Yay! Since Won had not made the reservation, I felt hopeful we’d finally be able to pull it off.
We had all agreed to meet up at our apartment early that Friday evening so we could enjoy a glass of wine on the balcony before heading out. Thankfully, this extra time allowed me to elevate my foot and put ice on my throbbing, swollen, black and blue toes. Everyone asked if I still wanted to go. I reassured them I did. There was no way we were canceling for a fifth time.
Monte Mar lived up to my expectations. We sat outside on the terrace, enjoyed a fabulous dinner, and marveled at the stunning sunset. I would have taken more photos, but mobility, not surprisingly, was an issue that evening.
The next day we drove Claire and Adam to the airport and said our heartfelt goodbyes. On the way home, I told Won I thought it might be a good idea if we stopped at the doctor’s office to see if they could take an x-ray of my foot. Even though I was pretty sure I had broken it, I thought it would be good to confirm. I really didn’t want to go to an emergency room at a hospital and figured our doctor’s office might be able to fit me in. Unfortunately, I was wrong. They told me I would have to go to the hospital.
Nooooo!!!! I didn’t want to got to the hospital! (I had a mini temper tantrum. 🙄)
I don’t know about you, but based on my past experiences, hospitals are time-consuming, complicated, expensive, scary places and when you add in all the horrors of COVID it becomes even less appealing. Of course, they are also places of healing, kindness, and caring, but still…you don’t want to hang out there unless it is absolutely necessary. Once I had resigned myself to the fact that I would have to go, the next decision was which one?
Up to this point, we had never needed to go to the hospital. I figured the best place to start was good old Google. Searching on “hospitals near me,” we selected cuf in Cascais because it was the closest one to where we lived and it had a good rating. (By the way, their name is in all lower case letters, that’s not a mistake on my part.)
When we became permanent, legal residents of Portugal last year, we registered with the National Health Service or Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS), even though we have private health insurance. This allows us the flexibility to utilize any public or private medical resource we need anywhere in the country at any time.
We showed up Saturday morning at 11AM. I figured it would be a nightmare in the E.R. Here’s where all my American assumptions were, once again, completely off the mark. As they say in journalism, ‘don’t bury the lead,’ so I won’t. I was in and out in one hour. Take a moment, if you need one. I completely understand. It’s true. The entire process, from start to finish took one hour. Nothing was rushed and everyone was very kind, professional, and thoughtful.
The funny part was that the first five minutes of that hour were of me wandering around looking for the admissions desk, because the GIANT ORANGE ADMISSION AREA, with signage in ENGLISH, and located immediately inside the front door wasn’t quite giant or orange enough for me. Seriously…I limped right past the admissions desk, headed down a corridor and around the corner of another before I figured out that I wasn’t supposed to be there. I doubled back and realized I had walked right past it on my way in. Someone give me an award for Most Clueless. 🤪 You might be wondering why I was left unsupervised in the first place. Won had dropped me off while he went to park the car so I wouldn’t have to walk very far. Come to think of it, I’m not sure dropping me off saved me any steps given my impromptu tour of the hospital.
After I was admitted, I was asked to wait until my assigned number popped up on the overhead monitor. About five minutes later I was seen by a triage nurse who entered the details of what had happened into the system. He was hilariously funny and was joking with Won and me. Won was telling him that I had broken my toe while kicking him. The nurse pretended to add “spousal battery” to the notes he was taking.
Since I was there, I took the opportunity to ask the nurse about something that had been on my mind. I know that the “SOS” number in most of Europe is 112, but I worried that I would default to dialing 911 if I panicked or was highly stressed in a crisis situation. The nurse told me not to worry. If that happened the call would automatically be rerouted to 112 in Portugal. Whew! That was a load off my mind. Clearly we Americans need special assistance if they have this solution in place for us. Do you think the US has that in place for Europeans? [I just looked it up; it will only work if you have AT&T or T-Mobile services. I guess America isn’t as thoughtful as Europe.]
When it came time to get the x-ray, I was offered a wheelchair. My initial reaction was to decline, I mean I could still walk, but then it dawned on me how silly that would be and acquiesced. Good thing I did. It probably would have taken me a half an hour to get there on my own. The attendant whizzed me along the corridors and I enjoyed the feeling of wind in my hair as she expeditiously moved me there and back.
I waited about ten minutes after the x-ray before being seen by an ER doctor who reviewed the x-ray results with me. She confirmed I had fractured my toe and immediately referred me to an onsite orthopedist. The orthopedist also reviewed my x-ray and explained more about the fracture (it went across the joint of my toe). She taped me up and said she wanted me to return in four weeks for a second x-ray and follow up appointment with her. The attendant came to whisk me back downstairs where I was deposited back at the admissions desk. I scheduled a follow up x-ray and appointment at that time and was discharged.
So, how much did all that cost? 40,50€.
The only downside was that Won couldn’t be with me the entire time due to COVID restrictions, but we used our phones to message back and forth so I could keep him informed on what was going on and he could keep me entertained with witty repartee. Love technology.
Even as I relay the experience to you, I am still shocked at how smoothly it went. I was incredibly relieved that everyone – EVERYONE – spoke English, and very well too. The entire experience was efficient, smooth, and frankly, enjoyable. Did I just say that??? It’s true! It was enjoyable.
I don’t know why I should be so shocked. Portugal is one of the top-ranked countries in the world to boast excellent and quality healthcare across both the public and private sector. The country currently holds the 17th spot on the World Index of Healthcare Innovation for 2021 and spends around 9.1% of its GDP on healthcare, which places it as the 12th biggest spender across the EU/EFTA. Investing in healthcare has had a positive impact on the population. The average life expectancy in Portugal has averaged around 80 years over the last 10 years according to World Bank Open Data reports. The nation also holds a 63.15% rating in quality on the World Index of Healthcare Innovation report, higher than the US which holds a 56.33% rating. Is it perfect? No. Is there room for improvement? Sure! But, for being such a small country, the progress and successes they have achieved in this important area are notable and to be commended.
Since breaking my toe, I have been a good girl and have been giving it time to heal. I’ve stayed home and kept it elevated and taped. Won has been a dream and taken care of nearly everything. The only thing I did was attend the Chefs on Fire festival last weekend. Even then, I didn’t overdo it. Most of the pictures I took were while I was sitting down.
It’s important that my toe get better as fast possible, because we are traveling next week. We are going back to the United States for the first time since we moved and it is for a very special reason…my step-father is turning 91!! Happy early birthday, Bill!! I can’t wait to see you and Mom. I am also beyond excited to see my son, Matthew and daughter-in-law Heather, as well as the rest of the family. Unfortunately, not everyone will be able to come to Bill’s party, so it will be bittersweet to celebrate without them; we’re going to miss you Treyvon, Cameron, Lindsey, Tom, Madina, Susan, Kate, and Liam. We know you want to be there, but understand why you can’t. Love you!
Since I’ll be traveling, I won’t be posting next Friday. However, I’ll be back at it when I return. I wonder how it will feel to be back in the US? Will it be weird? Will it be like nothing has changed? Will I miss Portugal or will I be happy to be back on US soil? Will I want to come back? I guess I’m going to find out. Until then, please stay safe, stay healthy, and stay in touch.
From Portugal with love,