I have now experienced one of the major rites of passage of a foreigner living abroad: a visit to a local doctor’s office. Don’t worry, though! I’m not sick–my visit to the doctor was intended to keep things that way. My (Georgian) health insurance covers a flu shot free of charge, and since some of my students have CLEARLY had the flu this semester, I’ve considered myself lucky to have escaped this long without succombing to the germs. I contacted my health insurance hotline, and asked them to help me set up the necessary appointments to get my vaccination. The flu shot required a prescription, so first I had to visit my family doctor. My insurance provider connected me with an English-speaking doctor at the Tatishvili Medical Center in Vake. Though the clinic was a but tricky to find (the address is Abuladze Street, but it’s on a sidestreet off of Abuladze Street which is also called Abuladze Street that is reachable through an alleyway—fortunately, the neighborhood houses many private schools and embassies, so there are plenty of security guards to ask for directions). The office was certainly busy, and I needed to wait a bit for directions, but once I was noticed I was given directions in English and escorted to my doctor’s office. I only waited a few minutes to see the doctor, and she was very helpful. I couldn’t get the shot itself at this clinic, and had to go to another one to receive it–though this seemed odd to me at first, it isn’t really that different from my family doctor in the US–she runs a small private practice, so I have to go to a clinic or pharmacy for labwork and vaccines, just like I did in Georgia. Not only did my doctor write me a prescription for my flu shot, but she gave me directions to the next clinic, and even wrote me a note in Georgian with the name and address so I could get directions if necessary (my Georgian is good enough that I didn’t need it, but I appreciated the gesture).
After a brief stroll through Vake (and a run-in with a friend on the Chavchavadze overpass…how Tbilisi!), I arrived at the Tsito Clinic where I was to receive the shot itself. This clinic is impressively clean and modern–much snazzier than my American doctor’s office (though their website is a bit sad). Again, I was quickly brought to the right place, and the paperwork was dealt with in under a minute. The doctor who gave me my shot was excellent–he asked me about my medical history to make sure I could have the vaccine, and when he noticed I was nervous (I have a thing about needles, and being in Georgia didn’t alleviate my nerves any) he explained the theory of vaccines to me. I already knew how vaccines work, but it was the perfect strategy to put me more at ease–it took my mind off the needle coming to poke me, and showed that he knew what he was doing and spoke excellent English. If I hadn’t watched the injection and felt the initial prick, I wouldn’t even know I’d gotten a shot at all!
Since I was in Vake and had behaved like a responsible adult and gotten my flu shot without panic, I allowed myself a treat and called up a friend who works nearby to meet me for lunch. He said I looked a little pale and jittery, but compared to my usual post-vaccine state that was nothing!
NB: I live in Tbilisi and have health insurance, which puts me in a very different situation in regards to medical care than most people. My understanding is that, unfortunately, the excellent care I received is not the norm for average Georgians.