by Melinda Gallo

My first official doctor's visit

I decided to fully exercise my right to see a doctor whenever I want. I called my friend Yoshie yesterday and told her that I finally signed up and chose her doctor as my family doctor. I told her that I wanted to go and meet her, hand in my card, and just get a checkup.

She joined me there because she had some business to take care of for her Carta di soggiorno (Italian stay card), which she's applying for after living legally in Italy for 7 years.

We met outside and went up together. At 11:30AM, there were already 10 people in front of us to see the doctor. Today, the doctor's hours were from 11AM to 1PM. So, I guess we should've come earlier. "Chi l'ultimo?" (Who is last?) Yoshie asked. A woman in the far back near the window waved her hand. "OK, siamo dopo di Lei." (OK, we're after you.) Yoshie responded.

About 45 minutes later, a woman with straight black hair arrived, holding a book in one hand. I guess she was prepared for the wait. I looked at my watch and told Yoshie that we could've arrived later too instead of sitting in this stuffy waiting room with all these people. She asked who was last and I responded to her that I was.

The woman sat down near us and after a few minutes she asked, "Siete tutte insieme?" (Are you all together?) pointing to Yoshie, me, and another woman next to me. I was initially quite offended since the woman next to me was also a straniera (foreigner). What did this woman think? That all the non-Italians know each other and walk around together? Didn't she notice that we're from three different continents? Yoshie is clearly Japanese (Asia), the woman next to me was clearly from Africa, and (whether she realized it or not) I am from North America. How could you put the three of us together when we don't even look anything alike?

I realized later that she was possibly just antsy. When Yoshie was in to see the doctor, the same woman came up and asked me again if I was going to see the doctor. "S, signora. Le ho detto prima che ero l'ultima." (Yes, madame. I told you earlier that I was the last one.) I was a little annoyed by this time. And then I heard her tell everyone in the room that I was going to see the doctor and that then she'd go.

As Yoshie walked out, I walked in to see the doctor, who was a petite and welcoming woman. I could tell that she's not from Florence because of her accent. She asks me about my medical history and suggests that I take some blood tests. She explains that I don't need an appointment, but I just need to arrive in the morning and they'll take care of me, meaning it's free.

She takes my blood pressure, listens to my heart, and tells me everything seems normal. She asks me about my eczema and I half-heartedly tell her that I've been taking homeopathic remedies, but they're really slow in working. "Posso darti qualcosa?" (Can I give you something) she asks me. I'm pleased by her desire to help and yet not push things on me.

She writes me a prescription for a liquid to put on my skin, which is made up of vaseline (which I didn't know existed in liquid form although it makes sense) and almond oil. And then a tube of cream, which I later realized was the same one my sister left me months before.

She told me not to put the cream on directly, but to mix it with the oil. I thanked her for all the prescriptions and walked out. It felt odd not to give her something, like money, so I shook her hand and smiled.

I went to the farmacia (pharmacy) and all I paid for was the vaseline/almond oil that he prepared for me. I noticed that on the cream she prescribed it said 8 Euros and I know that in the US it costs at least $40. I'm beginning to like this socialized medical system.

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