Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

My daughter experiences Argentine healthcare: A “nice” doctor, but… July 13, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:15 AM
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“I THOUGHT I SHOULD let you guys know that right now I am sick…”

This is not the e-mail news I want to read from my 22-year-old daughter who is living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has a fever, runny nose and a cough, all the symptoms of H1N1.

Unfortunately, I am well aware that a year ago Argentina suffered a major outbreak of the illness with a death rate (1.6 percent) more than three times the world average, according to a July 3, 2009, New York Times article. Yet, those deaths ran behind Mexico and the United States. Currently the World Health Organization reports that Argentina has “low activity and only sporadic detections of both pandemic and seasonal influenza viruses during the early part of winter.”

Yet, this provides little reassurance to me, a Minnesota mom with an unvaccinated daughter nearly 6,000 miles away who is exhibiting H1N1 symptoms.

Didn’t I tell her to get the H1N1 vaccine last winter at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, where she was finishing her senior year of college? She didn’t and I didn’t push the issue. Now I regret my lackadaisical attitude.

“Please don’t worry about me; I’m sure I will be better soon,” my daughter writes. “I’ve been drinking lots of water and tea. Also, my roommate Lucas has been taking really good care of me, bringing me soup, Kleenex, tea, water etc. Later today when he gets home from work he is going to go w/ me to the doctor.”

OK then, she tells me not to worry, but she feels sick enough to see a physician. This is not good.

But I am here, she is there and I can’t exactly bring her chicken soup. So, as any responsible mom would do, I worry and await her next e-mail.

The next morning she updates me. She doesn’t have H1N1, but a viral infection that should clear up in three days. My daughter relays that the doctor was nice and seemed competent, checking her temperature, blood pressure, heart, throat, symptoms, etc., “all the normal stuff they do in the States.” Alright then, that’s good.

But then she tells me about the free public clinic. “The clinic was probably the worst clinic I’ve ever been to. We had to wait forever to see the doctor, and they only had super-uncomfortable wooden benches in the very cold waiting room. After a while, I decided it would be more comfortable to sit on the floor b/c I could at least put my head against the wall, and Lucas covered me up w/ his jacket. This was a good idea b/c it was indeed more comfy and then 2 different doctors came up to us and tried to get us in sooner b/c I probably looked like crap. Also, the bathroom there was EXTREMELY disgusting! I don’t think any of the toilets flushed, there was no toilet paper (thankfully I had some Kleenex w/ me), and the sinks weren’t working.”

OK, up until that revelation, I was feeling better.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling