My excuse for not having written anything for a while is that I was disappointingly let down by my body. I have been suffering from a collection of those annoying symptoms which impact considerably on your daily life but which never actually coalesce into anything sufficiently tangible to take to the doctor; palpitations, headaches, dizzy spells, difficulty focussing. However, after spending a week waiting for my first heart attack to arrive and realising that my usual medication of repeating the mantra, "it's fine" whenever asked was not working for once, I decided to go and seek a professional opinion.
Seeing a doctor in Brazil is slightly different from going to your local GP in the UK. Here you just go straight to the specialist, so you can be registered with any number of doctors all at the same time, depending on which of your ailments you're currently most concerned about. We'd already been told by pretty much every Briton we'd spoken to that the place to go for medical treatment was "The Einstein" so I thought I'd give it a go.
The Einstein, or to give it its proper name, Sociedade Beneficente Israelita Brasileira Albert Einstein, is actually a huge medical centre and hospital - not quite on the scale of Addenbrooke's, but pretty impressive nonetheless. They even have a section on their website for international patients, so I confidently phoned the number given and set off on the road to recovery. "What sort of doctor do you need?" was the first hurdle that floored me. "One that deals with symptoms that vanish as soon as I come anywhere near a hospital" didn't seem to be on their list, so I opted for "a general check-up" and let them sort it out.
I'm a child of the NHS. Usually when I go and see a doctor I spend my ten minutes apologising for wasting their time as my previously life-threatening symptoms miraculously cleared themselves up during the two weeks between making the appointment and actually getting it. The doctor then congratulates themselves on a job well done and tells me to come back if the symptoms do. But out here in Brazil I'm entitled to private medical treatment (thank you the Economist) and it's a whole new ball game. Did I want to come in that afternoon? Or tomorrow if it was more convenient. Whatever was best for me. Best for me? Wow!
So this is what happens when money is no object:
I arrived and explained that I didn't speak portuguese but that I was there to see Dr Dan (really, that's what I was told). I was then escorted all the way through the building from the wrong entrance where I'd arrived to Dr Dan's secretary, who made a note of my name and showed me to the very nice waiting room which I wasn't allowed to enjoy for more than a couple of minutes before I was escorted through to Dr Dan's other secretary, who escorted me into Dr Dan's office.
Dr Dan turned out to be the magnificently monikered Dr Dankwart Ulrich Hans Bocking Schreen. I can see why he sticks with Dan. Anyway, Dr Dan spent fifteen minutes listening to me complain about myself and taking a few notes. Then, he gave me a check-up, and then just to be on the safe side, an ECG. Then he sent me downstairs for some more stuff. At this point I was introduced to the lovely Michelle who was smartly dressed, very polite and, most importantly, bilingual. Michelle then accompanied me for the rest of my visit, guiding me through all the complexities of sorting out payment, then escorting me down to where I was given an ultrasound scan, then on to where I was given another ECG and finally hooked up to a portable ECG machine I was to wear for 24 hours. Finally, she booked me a taxi and made sure I got to the correct exit. All in English.
Needless to say, my symptoms all but vanished for the following 24 hours, only to resurface once the machine was no longer clamped to my chest. However, Dr Dan seemed to think it was most likely to be stress related and a bit of relaxing would probably help - I should be able to manage that - but sadly I've discovered it's much better if I don't drink coffee, so right now I'm swapping palpitations for caffeine-withdrawal headaches. Ah well, can't win 'em all I guess.
No photos this time as I didn't take my camera to the hospital and you certainly don't want to see pictures of my pale chest covered in suction-cup marks. Really.