Under The Knife: A Visit to a Polish Hospital

By Jane Mountain | June 17, 2013

Today was supposed to be a catch up and relax day, since we’ve been run around by various well meaning tour guides for the last few, being shown the sights of Losie and area. I don’t think any of us expected there to be anything to see here, let alone the multitude of attractions we’ve been taken to and / or told about.

Instead of relaxing, we ended up taking a trip to the hospital.

Health Care Polish Style

The tick bite Stephen got almost two weeks ago has been getting slowly worse, and yesterday it seemed to double in size. So, off to Polish hospital! For those of you who still think of Eastern Europe as some hinterland, I’m happy to report that the Polish hospital is quite like an English hospital, but cleaner. Unfortunately, no one spoke English, so Stephen had to explain his problem with the usual combo of Google translate, sign language, and pointing at the huge tick bite on his leg.

Ticks are common here, so that message was pretty easy to communicate. Harder to figure out was the insurance question. Did we have it? If not, we would have to pay. But how to pay and how much? It’s unusual for non-EU foreign visitors to end up in the hospital in a tiny town in the south of Poland, I guess, since no one really knew how to bill us.

We were hoping that would mean free service, but no such luck.

Within 10 minutes of our arriving in the hospital, Stephen was whisked into an exam room, where the doctor gave him a local anaesthetic, sliced the last tick parts from his leg, and slapped on a bandage.

Stealth photo of the doctor and nurse at work on Stephen's leg.

Stealth photo of the doctor and nurse at work on Stephen’s leg.

We then moved into the admin room where the nurse wrote out our bill and the doctor wrote our a scrip for antibiotics. At first he put someone else’s name on the scrip, but I savvily noted that under the word “pacjent”, the doctor had written someone else’s name. Stephen pointed to the name and then pointed to the doctor. “You?” he asked. The doctor shook his head and pointed at Stephen. “You,” he said in Polish.

We quickly got that little mix-up sorted out, but it did leave me wondering if he’d managed to give Stephen the right drugs. (We later found out it was Amoxicillin, a pretty generic antibiotic, so we’re OK on that account).

Affordable Health Care Is Not An Oxymoron

Then it was time for the bill. When we saw the total of 106 zloty, we definitely knew we weren’t in America anymore. That’s $33. They don’t even blink at you in the U.S. for less than $100.

The doctor told us we’d need to go to the bank to pay our bill. The bank? Really? What bank? Any bank, apparently. We double-checked with the EMT we’d spoken to earlier who had a few words of English. He, and the other ladies at reception, didn’t really know. Again, no one usually has to pay for service here, since medical care is free. Finally someone was able to confirm that yes, we’d have to pay at the bank.

Hrm. So, we just got our care and our prescription and left the hospital and now it’s up to us to go pay the bill elsewhere. There was absolutely nothing compelling us to keep up our end of the bargain except for our sense of right and fairness. So we dutifully went to the bank and paid off our bill.

Total time for treatment: 35 minutes. Total bill including prescription: $42.

Yup, I can see why so many Americans don’t want socialised medicine at home.

The Three ‘R’s

After running a few errands and taking a few pictures in the big city of Gorlice, we escaped to our little guesthouse.

A hospital visit can't stop Stephen from doing arm balances in public spaces.

A hospital visit can’t stop Stephen from doing arm balances in public spaces.

We’ve spent the day with our feet up, taking care of the three ‘r’s: writing, researching, and relaxing.

We did find time for a short walk while the sun was setting.

sunset in losie poland

Sunset. Yes, it really looked like this.

wooden church in poland

The old church + pretty sky. Lovely.

I’ve been staring at a map of the world for hours now, trying to figure out where we want to go, where it’s safe to go, and how we will get there. No firm plans yet, but I think we have decided to continue on our route north, and try to get to St. Petersburg via ferry from Helsinki. This will allow us a 72 hour window in the city without the need for visas.

Maybe Rome to Russia will happen after all.  

Did you like this post? Please share it!


  1. Pingback: Winds Of Change | My Five Acres

  2. Comment by Skye

    Skye June 19, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    Really great keeping up with you guys! Hope you are feeling better Stephen! Good luck with the journey forward

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen June 20, 2013 at 2:46 am

      Thanks Skye – the bite is starting to heal, so I guess the doctors knew what they were doing. Fortunate as it means we can keep riding. Looking forward to being back on the bikes in a few days.

  3. Comment by mauricio

    mauricio June 18, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    Yeah… Oh and that tick bite would be closer to $400 or so

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen June 19, 2013 at 6:49 am

      Crazy, right? But nothing wrong with the US health care system…

  4. Comment by Gretel

    Gretel June 18, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Finally got caught up with your blog posts. Wow. You two are awesome. It’s super fun to read and you are great about posting regularly. I was wondering do you ever have any issues charging your electronics while on the road (do you have a solar charger with you?) or are you near electric outlets often enough to keep them charged?

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen June 19, 2013 at 6:51 am

      Hey Gretel! I looked into solar but it wasn’t efficient enough. So instead I installed a dynamo (power charger) in my hub, and am powering a battery with that which we used to power our electronics. Truth be told though, we haven’t gone off grid enough yet that we have ever been without access to somewhere to plug in for more than three days at a time. In the past 3 months the computer was dead for one day (dynamo won’t power it). I have a blog post on the tech we have coming soon.

    • Comment by Gretel

      Gretel June 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm

      I was thinking about you guys today (wishing there were more blog posts to read) and where you should go next. Have you heard of the Banff Mountain Film Festival It comes through Tucson and we try to go every year. I think you two should make a movie about your trip and submit it to Banff. You’re so clever and creative (and funny) that I’m sure you make a great film. (Plus they are looking for more films featuring women.) One of my favorite films (that I still remember from several years back) was about a couple who rode their bicycles from Mongolia to Calcutta. (Have you seen it? http://vimeo.com/15193770 . The full film, I think, is about an hour long.)

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen June 20, 2013 at 2:48 am

      We will definitely check the film out. We both LOVE Banff so making a film that would get us there is a great idea. We haven’t been doing any filming yet, but plan to start filming some yoga classes soon. I guess we should pick a theme and start to map out a film of some kind. Great idea. S

Comments are closed.

Go top