(My happy introduction to free medical care)


Some time ago, my wife and I linked up with our East Coast daughter and her husband for a brief trip to the London area. We arrived early Sunday morning from New York, got our bags and a rent car, and off we went. Since not much was open, I suggested that we drive over to see Oxford. All agreed. We parked the car and walked around for a while, although the campus was still closed.

The main intersection outside the entrance to Oxford defies description. A scrolly ‘Y’, I suppose. All the traffic was going the wrong way, so I approached the intersection with care., , , we needed to cross the intersection to get back to our car. I looked right, then left, at the oncoming traffic. Although only mid-morning, the traffic was heavy. Finally I saw a break in the traffic on the left and moved to step out, when wife Pat screamed and pulled at the collar of my Humphrey Bogart trench coat. Seems I had lingered too long looking to the left, and a double decker bus was barreling through the intersection on the right, close to the curb.

Fortunately I was never actually out in the street, but the bus was so close to the curb that the side of the bus hit me and knocked me backward onto the sidewalk. As I fell, my new glasses flew off—I am very myopic—and I’d paid a king’s ransom for new ones just a week or so prior to them flying off my head. All I could think only of the glasses. I didn’t feel any pain.

Several thoughtful Englishmen rushed up to help me up, pulling out handkerchiefs. Seems the blow from the bus broke the tender skin by my left temple, causing a one-inch gash. Not much blood, but enough to mess up my trench coat. This was the time of the AIDs alarm, so wife Pat declined the handkerchiefs, helped me up and got us on our way. While doing that, she asked the helpful bystanders where the nearest hospital was. Fortunately one existed only several blocks away.

Son-in-law John drove, although I felt quite normal. We parsed through the traffic and arrived quickly at the hospital, an old, dark building. The sign, however, noted that it treated only the mentally ill. We again asked for directions to a hospital, this time for one with an emergency room. Again we motored through the directions. The real hospital was nice, but old, sorely in need of paint and upkeep, but clean.

At the emergency room we told the receptionist our problem, and I went to the men’s room to wash the blood off my trench coat. While doing that John interrupted my labors, saying the doctor had appeared.

The doctor chatted amiably. He said that I could leave the small gash alone, but since I’d reported to the emergency room, he could sew it up with three or four stitches. I elected to do that…it was right at my hairline. As he went about his business, noting that we were Americans, he talked at length about was his dream to emigrate to America. He specialized in plastic surgery, with more than a decade of practice, and he wanted to move to Las Vegas to focus on breast implantations. That town, he said was the epicenter of such procedures. He did a beautiful job on me, advising me that I could get the stitches out in five days, right before I returned to the U.S.

With that pleasant experience behind me, I went to the receptionist, pulled out my wallet and asked how much the procedure was. “Why, Mr. Rogers, health care here is free. There will be no charge.” I was a bit befuddled by that but accepted the free care quite willingly. Because of our schedules, I couldn’t get the stitches out before I returned to Houston. When I went to the Houston doctor to do that, his nurse performed the removal in a flash and I was done. Except for the co-pay of ten dollars. Not free.

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