by Melinda Gallo

Blood out

I'm still not completely clear about the medical system here in Italy. I know that I can go to see my doctor any day of the week during her "open" times for free. I know that she gives me prescriptions and I get them filled and pay either nothing or next to nothing.

So when I asked her if I could take a battery of blood tests just to get checked up, I figured this too would be free or close to it.

She told me that I was to go in via Pergola to ASL (which is the public medical entity). With the prescriptions I wouldn't have to make an appointment. Suddenly I imagined a room full of people coughing and looking dreary waiting to get their blood drawn by nurses who slowly sauntered as they came to call my name. I won't say that the nurses are lazy here, but they have this slow walk where their feet just barely get in front of them so they look like they half-heartedly even want to come toward you.

I waited a few weeks before deciding to go to get my blood drawn. I'm not fond of doctors, nurses, or needles, so it ended up almost 4 weeks. I talked to Yoshie about my blood tests to see where she goes and she told me that I have to be careful because the prescriptions have a scadenza (deadline). She thought it was two weeks, but I doubted that the system was that anxious.

I spoke to the pharmacist who told me that it's only valid for one month. Luckily I read the date wrong and saw a 5 where it was actually a 9. So, I had only a few more days before it was too late.

He told me to go to a private laboratory where they do all types of tests. I liked his idea especially since it was much closer in Via de' Benci. I walked in and showed her my three prescriptions filled with different tests. Of course, I knew that I wasn't going to be able to take the tests now. This is Italy. You have to go to an office at least twice. The first time to get information and the second to do what you need to do.

She told me that the cost of all of my tests would be about 280 Euros. After my initial shock, she went on to tell me that if I went to ASL, I'd still have to pay, but maybe only half as much.

I liked the laboratory, which had only a few people inside, and was modern and clean. I decided to go back the next day to have my tests done. The nurse who drew my blood was quite happy and very gentle with me. I was surprised by the tube, which was the size of a fat Cuban cigar, that was at the end of the needle, but I stopped looking once she got close to me.

When I got outside in front of the counter, I paid my bill. The woman told me to come back in a few days for the results.

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