I hadn’t heard from my friend John in some time.
John, a Philadelphia Inquirer retiree, food critic, number two music critic, inveterate punster, and world traveler.
“I didn’t like my beard at first, but then it grew on me.”
“The cross-eyed teacher lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils.”
“What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary? A Thesaurus.”
He also much gave much time working for professional groups and with young journalists.
John is a raconteur.
His letter arrived with considerable news (to me) of note.
John and wife were on a Russian River cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Returning from the balcony of his room to his stateroom, he tripped and fell down. The ship’s doctor didn’t think anything was broken, but suggested an x-ray when the next day his leg began to swell. At a Moscow hospital, x-rays showed a bad break in his left leg, the tibia. Having spent the night in the hospital, he was airlifted the next day to a private hospital in Helskinki. This on the advice of his travel insurance company that said he’d get better care there.
“In Moscow, I was wheeled down a long hallway with paint coming off the walls,” John said.
The insurance company was right.
“In Helsinki, I underwent two operations on my leg over 39 days and recovered quickly and well. The surgeon was superb and the nurses just as well.
“I got 1,000 times better care than my hospital in Philadelphia,” he said.
Here’s what the U.S. Embassy has to say about medical care in Finland:
“Medical facilities and their staff are widely available for emergency services. English is commonly spoken by Finnish medical personnel. Helsinki is a frequent evacuation point for emergency cases of the former Soviet Union.”
Closer to home was my experience at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Stockton. What a bummer.
Recovering from an operation, I experienced enough pain to warrant another hospital trip.
As long as I wasn’t dying, I had to wait. I waited in a hallway on a gurney for six hours. “That’s about right,” said our ambulance driver.
Then there was another wait for an overworked doctor employed by a physician’s group that’s under contract to the hospital. The group certainly was in business for profit and certainly the hospital has its bottom line, so it was one size or one doctor for all.
“Oh, you’re Phil Bookman, the editor,” the doctor exclaimed.
If I weren’t in so much pain, I would have been elated. After 11 years at the Stockton Record during which my writing and photo appeared once or twice weekly, he was the only person who remembered me. Ah, how fleeting is fame.
A quick examination and prescription to ease the pain, and the doctor zipped off to his next patient with whom he conversed in Spanish. No, I didn’t expect him to hold my hand. That was left to my loving wife.
Admitted to the hospital and brought to a nursing ward, I waited another two hours for a bed to become available.
I required surgery while living in Costa Rica. My surgeon spoke only slightly accented English, but took lessons to rid himself of his accent. After surgery, at an almost new hospital in San Jose, the country’s capital, I recovered in a care facility about 40 miles away. During my two-week stay, my doctor twice drove 40 miles each way to check on me and deliver reports to my wife.
Not in America, I thought.
Wrong. An accident put me in a care facility in Stockton. My long-time physician, Steven Nelson, came to visit twice.
In Russia, they would have said, “Only in America.”