by Melinda Gallo

Public versus private

Usually I go to a private laboratorio (lab) to when I need to get a esame del sangue (blood test). My friend Sara always goes to a public laboratorio, so I decided to do that this time. My doctor told me it was less expensive as all I have to do is pay a ticket. When I asked the guy at the farmacia a little over a year ago about where to go for a esame del sangue, he made the public laboratorio sound quite horrible, so I was a little afraid to go.

Dave looked at the sign last week for me to see when the laboratorio was open for prelievi (taking samples). He told me that it was open from 7 to 9AM. I arrived at 8AM, and was surprised that it was busy, but people were coming and going rather quickly. I tried to read the many pieces of white paper taped to the walls to figure out what I was supposed to do.

I understood that I was supposed to take a numero (number) and then wait. I first sat down, but then decided to watch the people going up to the sportello (window) to see what I needed and what kind of questions they'd be asking me. While I was standing there, a number of people came up to ask me what they were supposed to do. I thought this system was old in that it's how it's always done in Italy, but maybe things are different. I showed a few people where to get a numero, which was only obvious if you read the three signs posted above it.

There were two sets of numbers being called: one for the sportello to get the print-out for the nurses so they know what to do and to tell you the price that you're supposed to pay, and another one for the nurses to call you into a room for the prelievi.

When it was my turn to go to the sportello, I handed the girl my carta d'identitÓ (identity card) because I forgot to bring my libretto sanitario (health care card). By standing there eavesdropping, I found out that she only needed my date of birth and address, so I figured my carta d'identitÓ would be sufficient.

Instead of handing me another number to be called by the nurse, she said, "Lei pu˛ entrare subito nella stanza in mezzo di lÓ." (You can go immediately into the room in the middle over there.) She pointed over toward the rooms where the nurses were calling numbers and I walked in, but saw someone sitting in the chair getting blood taken out. I stood close to the door waiting, but tried not to look in. Right before the nurse called out the next number, I told her that the woman at the sportello told me to immediately come to this room.

She took my blood immediately and told me to lie down for 30 minutes before she takes more blood from me. She put on an egg timer and called the next person in her room. Most of the time, there were four of us in the 8 by 10 foot room: one person was sitting down next to the bed holding his arm (before the nurse put on a bandage), another person was getting blood taken out, the nurse who was orchestrating everything, and me who was lying on the bed facing the wall.

A half an hour later, she took more blood from me while I was lying down. The nurse next door was calling my nurse, who yelled back that she was busy. I listened a little more intently and heard the nurse asking the patient what his name was and heard him say, "Luca." My nurse put a piece of gauze on my arm and told me to hold it there while she popped next door. She came back and told me to get up because she had to put the guy from next door on the bed.

As I was holding my arm, I watched these two female nurses drag a guy into the room and try to get him situated on the bed. He kept leaning his head back and the nurse would tell him, "No Luca, non fare cosý!" (No, Luca, don't do that!) My nurse splashed cold water on his face while he slowly came to. I put on my coat and heard him utter, "Di solito non svengo mai. Non so cosa Ŕ successo." (Usually I don't faint. I don't know what happened.) I smiled at him, but I felt bad that everyone in the waiting room knew that he fainted because there was also no door on the room either.

There probably really is nothing private about getting blood taken out of you. I think if you were to donate blood, it's done in a large room with other people. But, somehow I initially felt a little uncomfortable especially since the private laboratorio that I did go to before would take me into a room and shut the door. At the end of the day, it was quite efficient and speedy: it only took me an hour and a half in all, which is less time than I spent at the doctor's office last week to get the prescription in the first place.

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