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I Fell Ill While Working in Spain: A Case Study

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 19 Feb 2013 | comments*Discuss
Spain Job Adventure Ill Working Medical

Even though travelling around Europe is far easier thanks to the European Union, there are still all manner of cultural and practical differences that many of us don’t realise.

The unfortunate truth is that this only really rears its ugly head if there is a problem.

This is what happened when Marlene Appleby, 59, fell ill while working in Spain.

Marlene told us, “I had recently got divorced and wanted to have an adventure – it was a real Shirley Valentine moment! I had some money in the bank and no large family commitments, so I decided to go to Spain for six months, get an evening job in a bar to meet some people and try to write the novel that I had always wanted to but never had the time.”

Six Months in Spain

Marlene did not need to change work permits or arrange visas as, as a British passport holder and UK resident, she was entitled to work anywhere in Europe. After checking with her local tax office, she decided to go to Spain for six months as it would not need her to register for tax.

Marlene continued, “It was just coming into summer and I wanted to get a bit of beach life as well as some cultural opportunities, so I looked on the map around Barcelona. I found the town of Figures – the birth place of Salvador Dali – and I thought it was perfect. I went online and found a six month rental through an agency and packed my bags!”

The problem came just one month into Marlene’s adventure, when she fell down some concrete steps and badly broke her hip. She was taken to the local hospital and told she would need to stay for at least three weeks.

Marlene remembers, “The hospital was very modern and clean and everyone was really friendly and professional, but the language barrier and cultural differences made it really difficult for me. Although I had arranged my E111, which is now called the EHIC card, before I left the UK, there were still huge issues that made my time in hospital really stressful. For example, in Spain, your family organises most of your meals and, although they could provide me with food, I found it hard. My daughter was able to visit me for a couple of days, but it was almost harder when she left because I missed her and the company so much.”

Excellent Care But Lots of Forms

Marlene was quick to point out that the medical care was excellent and there was a few staff with a decent level of English, but it meant that she often felt confused if they were off duty. Also, thanks to the sun and fresh air, Marlene was able to be taken outside most days, which she is sure helped her speedy recovery.

Marlene said, “I was out of hospital in two weeks and it was then that the paperwork started! With my EHIC and travel insurance I was covered, but there was still a lot of form-filling. I also had to pay for quite a lot out of my own pocket, which was reimbursed, but I can see how this may prove a problem if you haven’t got the money at the time.”

Thankfully, Marlene was able to get back to her apartment – on the ground floor! – and carry on with her adventure.

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