Saturday, December 08, 2007

Things are pretty hectic around here rignt now, because my mother-in-law Rosa took a fall two nights ago in her bedroom and broke her right femur near the hip. They're going to operate on her today and put a pin in her leg; she'll be in the hospital for a week--at Vall d'Hebron, the one where the three kids just got infected with hepatitis C. Uh-oh.

Actually, the Spanish national health service is doing its usual good job with Rosa. The system generally works if you're sick or hurt--they'll take care of you and fix you up right. The personnel is top-notch and the facilities are adequate, and they must be doing something right because Spain's life expectancy is longer than the US's.

Its disadvantages are 1) the system is said to not work that well in extreme cases; people with money generally leave Spain if they have some rare cancer or something and go to the US. 2) It's inconvenient and bureaucratic; the system could stand some streamlining. 3) They probably do screw up more than hospitals in the US do; every month or so there's a horror story from somewhere in Spain, and this month's is the kids infected with hep C.

4) They're not always good at personal attention to patients; they sometimes treat you like a number. 5) It's not free. Your Social Security tax is 8% of your gross pay, and your employer "contributes" an equal amount, so health care costs as much as it would for private insurance in the States. 6) Public health care in every country that has it tends to focus on currently existing problems--we've got an old lady with a broken leg--rather than on research into fixing problems in the future--stem cell experimentation.

I don't know how we'll deal with Rosa's not being able to get around, because this is effectively the end of her independence. She moved in with us in the summer because she was deteriorating rapidly already then; we took her to the neurologist and she said that Rosa's got cerebral atrophy. She's been losing control of her muscles since then, and fell down at least twice within the last couple of weeks. What she has been able to do on her own, though, is walk her little old dog down to the plaza twice a day, and to get up and go to the bathroom by herself. We've been able to handle everything else, you know, cleaning, cooking, laundry, personal care. I'm afraid, though, that she's not going to be able to do much walking when her leg finally gets better, however long that may take. She's a tough old bird, though. We'll figure something out.

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