Health care tips when sick overseas

The well known women at are stopping by WalletPop on a frequent basis to answer your spending and personal finance questions. This week we asked them: Have you ever gotten sick and then experienced health care in another country?

Julia Reed: I have never been sick in another country, but I always stock up on the best over-the-counter headache medicines when I'm in Spain, and D.R. Harris's "Pick-Me-Up" (excellent for hangovers) when I'm in London.

Julia Reed (cont...): As for foreign doctors, the only experience I've ever had with one was on a ship. When we were in college, my first cousin Frances and I took my grandfather on a cruise through the Caribbean (for reasons I now cannot fathom -- I imagine so that he would pay for it).

DeeDee (the name we called him) had been an officer in the Navy during World War II and I think the last cruise ship he'd been on was the Andria Doria. So he was used to being in white tie at the captain's table and there we were on a giant Cunard that was like a slightly nicer floating Holiday Inn and sharing a table with some really, really nice (and very patient) people from Waco, TX.

DeeDee was a pretty good sport until we got off one morning in Venezuela, and an unsuspecting waiter told DeeDee he was not allowed to serve him a martini until noon. For a scary moment I thought he might literally break the poor man's neck. He started off every day with martinis anyway, but on this particular occasion he was also self-medicating - he had bursitis in his shoulder and it was driving him crazy, but he refused to see the ship's doctor. "He wouldn't be a doctor on a ship if he weren't a bum" - bum being the worst epithet in his lexicon, worse even than "s.o.b." The bum seemed pretty okay to us - he was tanned and English and so good-looking that Frances and I shamelessly flirted with him every night in the bar.

Anyway, the shoulder got so bad that we finally forced DeeDee into the doctor's office. The guy gave him a shot of cortisone, the shoulder instantly felt better and the bum was elevated to: "You know, I think that ship's doctor is one of the finest physicians I've ever encountered - and don't you find him remarkably attractive?"

Joan Juliet Buck: Sure. It works. Except in Italy where they use words like cistifellea and throw nuns at you.

Joan Ganz Cooney: I got sick a number of years ago in Florence and the hotel sent a doctor. Since I had had previous experience in other countries, I told my husband that he would immediately want to give me an injection (always unnamed in non-English speaking countries) and that I was going to refuse, which I did. He gave me something to stop my violently revolting stomach but he had no way of telling what was causing the nausea. Fortunately, we headed for Milan the next day and then came home - where I was diagnosed with a bad case of shingles and stayed in bed for a couple of weeks. I don't think the doctor could have done any better because the rash didn't start until a few days later.

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