Remember how Greg said that this long trip would be great because we would have stories? Anyone who knows our family knows that there is no way we would go a full month without a doctor visit. Here we go:
Henry woke up coughing a lot this morning, to the point that he kept gagging. Also, the rash that started next to his mouth has been slowly spreading down his torso. We had thought the rash might be an allergic reaction to something because he does have sensitive skin. I have been googling all of this, of course, and kept coming up with scarlet fever. But Henry had already told us his throat didn’t hurt, and he hasn’t had a fever. Both of those symptoms go with scarlet fever. He’s acted a bit cranky but that seemed more likely due to the stress of travel.
We decided he had to see a doctor because he seemed to be getting worse and we didn’t want to spend the whole weekend worrying. I called Montreal’s 811 information line and finally managed to navigate the French menu and get a human. She gave me two clinics where we could take Henry and told me that the first one accepted walk-in appointments. Greg dropped us off at the closest one, and I walked in full of hope that the Canadian system would fulfill all of my socialist (note sarcasm) health care dreams.
The waiting room was packed. We got in the line for patients who were “sans rendezvous.” I was nervous. The receptionist told us they were full for the day and directed us to another clinic about six blocks away. I dragged/carried Henry over to that clinic, passing a third clinic along the way. I debated going in that third clinic but decided we should forge ahead because the woman at the first clinic (and the woman on the 811 call) had given me the address for this second clinic.
The second clinic was nearly empty. This was promising! Too promising, as it turned out the only person there was a receptionist who did not speak English. I’ve heard stories of Montrealers who pretend not to speak English, but this woman very earnestly tried to help us in French. She directed me to the third clinic we had passed. Back we went. I shouldn’t mention the huge construction project outside this third clinic that forced us to circle the block to get into the building, right?
The receptionist at the third clinic told me that not only was her clinic full for the day but that I was highly unlikely to get in anywhere. I needed to wait until Saturday morning and call at 7 a.m., and then I might be able to get an appointment. I was dubious. First, we didn’t want to let things get another day worse. Second, I wondered whether we, as Americans, would ever get an appointment. What would we do when we couldn’t get in on Saturday morning?
I considered the prospect of waiting hours in an emergency room with Henry. In searching for a medical clinic, I had seen several comments about how overcrowded emergency rooms were. And how much would that visit cost us? I told Greg that I had a crazy idea.
An hour later, we were headed toward the U.S. border. Greg made us pack an overnight bag because he worried that the Canadians wouldn’t let us back in. (They must know about all of the illegal parking that I have been doing.)
We drove an hour and a half to a clinic in St. Albans, Vermont. I ran through Henry’s symptoms, and the physician’s assistant who saw us asked: “Are you a nurse?” Well, not quite, but I play one pretty well. Henry was diagnosed with bronchitis and scarlet fever, which sounds dramatic, but is really just a cough and a rash. Scarlet fever usually comes with strep, but his test was negative.
We stopped at the grocery store/pharmacy across the street to pick up antibiotics in case the scarlet fever gets worse and gluten free snacks (because our tiny Montreal store is not so friendly to the Celiacs). On the drive back, we found a covered bridge from 1884, which made the trip feel more adventurous. At the border, the agent asked whether we were bringing in things that we planned to leave in Canada, “like guns.” So I guess the Canadians view Americans as a bunch of gun smugglers. Hard to blame them. I had reservations about returning to a place with no parking spaces and no English, but back we came. I mean we need more crepes.
In summary, Canadian health care did not work well for these Americans, but we can spend the rest of our lives telling Henry about the time we schlepped him across the border with scarlet fever.