late one afternoon while we were is scotland recently, i took a nasty fall that scraped and cut my nose and forehead. my wife and i debated about whether i should seek medical attention, since the cut on my forehead night heal better with stitches. we decided to leave it alone after the bleeding stopped and check with our landlord, who works at the tourist office, the next morning. he encouraged us to see a doctor, since there would be no cost to us, but at the very least, he thought we should consult a pharmacist.
i decided to wait until the end of the day and go to a nearby pharmacy. i didn't want to give up a day of sightseeing, and, though we had purchased medical insurance for our trip, i didn't want to have to deal with the complexities of seeking treatment in another country. as we went through the day, several people inquired about my injury and each was puzzled that i didn't avail myself of medical treatment, since each person we spoke with assured us there would be no cost. i put off seeing even a pharmacist until the next day and was relieved when he assured me that the cuts were healing well and recommended some antiseptic cream to ward off the chance of infection.
a few days later as we visited with another couple who were about our age, they told us about the husband's experience with a frightening virus that had infected his brain. he thought that he had suffered a stroke because he first had a tingling sensation in one arm, then had difficulty with one leg, and finally lost the ability to speak. this happened over the course of a few days, and when the speech loss occurred his family took him to the hospital. the doctors ruled out stroke as the cause, since the progress of his ailments had been gradual rather than sudden. while in the hospital, he lost movement in the tingling arm and the leg that had first bothered him. the cause of his ailment was found and, once treated, his symptoms dissipated within a matter of days. with a brief period of therapy, he recovered completely. we asked about the cost of his treatment and the quality of his care, and he told us that there was no cost whatsoever and that he had received excellent care. he and his wife were full of praise for the national health service and expressed amazement that our health care seemed to be so expensive and complex. they said they couldn't imagine having the cloud of possible impoverishment hanging over our heads should we suffer a major health problem, as many young people in the usa do because they can't afford comprehensive health insurance.
we came home with the same puzzlement about health care in our country. i'm sure there are some in the united kingdom that could tell horror stories about their health care system, but every person we encountered who expressed an opinion had high regard for british health care, and, because of my injury, we heard this from many. perhaps the british system wouldn't work here, but there must be a better way than what we have now. if health care could cease being a political football and be viewed as a basic right that every person should enjoy, we could make progress in finding a solution.
may we turn from causing suffering for so many while playing politics with health care. may we find solutions that bring down its cost while making good care available to everyone. may we have compassion for those who cannot access the health care system because they can't afford it and devise a means to providing adequate care for all our people. shalom.