Friday, November 6, 2009

Il Farmacista....The Italian Pharmacist

With much care, endless hours of sleep and very little of anything else, I am starting to feel like I am in fact going to live.

My lungs are clearing out and I am able to walk. This morning I saw my doctor again. Even though there was a long line of people, she took me first. She listened to my lungs and took a blood saturation test. The saturation test came out "perfetto". Which means that I do not have pneumonia. I have acute bronchitis. She gave me a prescription for an x-ray. She told me to take the prescription to the pharmacy. The pharmacy makes the X-Ray appointment for you!

The pharmacy does everything for you. No wonder people in Italy like to live near a pharmacy. The pharmacy is kind of like the church. And the pharmacist is like God. The neighborhood pharmacist plays a prestigious, high-visibility role in the Italian culture. He's like the ROCK of the neighborhood.

To go off on a brief tangent......Today made it so much more clear to me why South Brooklyn ADORED my "Grandpa Doc" (my mother's father....his name was Vincento Buono) Even the local Mafia didn't mess with him. He was the one and only pharmacist in the Italian section of Brooklyn when my mother was a kid, and until he died when I was in my 30's. Those who didn't call him "Doc", called him the "mayor". In fact, he was very involved in local Brooklyn politics. He was a short, adorable chubby little man who was always giggling and laughing, with a cigar hanging out of his mouth. He always wore a vest and suspenders, with a precious gold chain watch hanging from his belt. He had a thick moustache and even thicker bifocals. He would sit at the dining room table with a 1/2 glass of wine that he made in the basement, diluted with an equal part of water. He was always mixing some kind of formula. On the middle of the dining room table was always this huge bottle of Brioschi, (the Italian equivalent of Alka Seltzer), which he would often add to this wine potion, to help him digest.

He received his pharmacy degree at the University of Bologna. His pharmacy, which was named "Buono Pharmacy", was located on Court Street in Brooklyn. I remember as a child, being so proud of him. He was a prestigious figurehead in the neighborhood, knew everyone and everyone knew him. He cured everyone. He loved everyone. He was everybody's God. During the war, (before my time) he used to give food away to the poor. People would line up around the block in front of his store, and my mother used to help him to give out food to those who needed it.

Today, the pharmacist, who I am getting to know well, asked me for my "Tessera Sanitaria" (my national health care card). It is kind of strange to "learn as you go along". So this is the way they do it. Then he entered my magic identification number into the system, and made my appointment for me.

The first available appointment for a lung X-Ray is Wednesday afternoon. Today is Friday. Maybe by that time my bronchitis will be gone. Maybe that's why everyone here just goes to the "Pronto Soccorso" (emergency room). And maybe that's why there are so many hospitals.

This experience has taught me alot about the Italian healthcare system. It taught me that everyone in Italy is truly created equal. Meaning like you are a number. You have no control of your outcome. No choice. You cannot earn your way to good health. Money buys wine, food, necessities and fun. The rest is decided by the government and the state of the economy. Not you. You are at the mercy of the system. La Dolce Vita.