I called at once to inquire after her recovery, and was pleased to hear that Britain's National Health Service--along with several of my (former) fellow-citizens--had proved both caring and efficient. I'm well aware that what is dreaded over here as "socialized medicine" is not without its failings, but my friend had nothing but good words for the English version. Bystanders, he said, who had witnessed the fall, had readily stepped in to help while he hurried off to summon the police from the Underground substation, and the bobbies (are they still called that, in the UK? It sounds so... well, innocent!) led her off to their station until the ambulance arrived.
At the hospital, I gather, bones were set and casts applied with professional dispatch, allowing my friend and his wife to be ready for their planned return flight--all at no cost, save that of medications. As visitors to the UK--and therefore as non-payers into the health system--they were amazed and gratified by the treatment they received.
Imagine their chagrin, then, after a long and I imagine highly uncomfortable flight back from London, they spent hours on the telephone--this on a holiday weekend, true. But even so...!--trying to set up a follow-up appointment with an appropriate American physician. No luck. As my friend explained, on the telephone, local doctors were reluctant to take time for a Medicare patient. They could probably have checked her into Emergency, but she naturally wanted the attention of someone trained in the right area of expertise.
Now, I understand, after a weekend spent with a painfully swelling arm, she is hopeful of getting an appointment tomorrow, Monday. Hopeful.
I was certainly happy to hear that the health care system in my country of origin served them so well at a moment of crisis and, while unsurprised, both sad and angry to hear that our health system over this side of the Pond provides so negative a contrast. I think not only of our friend's plight but, by extension, those millions of other Americans, many of them indeed less fortunate, whose legitimate needs remain ignored or treated with indignity and haste. I know that there are many other pressing problems on Obama's list, when he takes office in a couple of weeks. But I hope that this one remains at the top. It's a disgrace that we, the richest country in the history of the world, have been so stubbornly resistant to what every other developed country sees to be a basic necessity and a human right.
Come right down to it, it's a matter of compassion being put to work. It's a sad reflection on our culture that we lack the humanity to take care of our own.