If you stay at home for the most part for 3 years during a pandemic, then get on a crowded airplane from Chicago to Europe, there’s a chance that you’ll pick up some kind of bug. That happened to me on my long-awaited return to Armenia to volunteer with AVC this summer. When my head cold turned into a persistent sinus infection, I needed to see a doctor. Since I had purchased the local insurance AVC offered on my arrival, they helped me connect with the insurance company. I called on a Sunday, and they instructed me to go to Erebuni Medical Center in Yerevan. Note: Hospitals here have leapfrogged a couple generations in modernity since the Soviet times. There were no cats roaming the hallways, ostensibly to keep mice from roaming. It was clean and reasonably modern. Also more importantly, the staff was concerned about doing their jobs. This was not the case before. The Emergency waiting area was more than half filled with people waiting for their family members, which is similar to what you find in the US.
Efficient Care at Erebuni Medical Center: Modern Facilities and Attentive Staff
Insurance had called the emergency department to inform them of my visit, and after some slow pronunciation of my name, they connected the dots and led me through some hallways, then told me to take the elevator to the 7th floor. There I found a nurse, who led me to an ear, nose, and throat doctor. The young woman examined and diagnosed me and prescribed, among other drops and sprays, some antibiotics. Yes, it was helpful that I’ve been studying Eastern Armenian for a few years and could converse with the staff, but be assured that many young people here, including my doctor and nurse, speak and understand English pretty well. And they enjoy using it. I was in and out of the hospital in less than 20 minutes with a prescription. Note: my host family informed me that you don’t need a prescription here for antibiotics, but I felt better having a doctor prescribe them. My visit was charged to my insurance company with no payment by me.
I taxied back to central Yerevan where I am staying and visited one of the many well-stocked, immaculate pharmacies (Apteka in Russian) that filled the prescriptions. They had all of mine (5 in total) in stock and they cost me about $30. A couple of days into my 7-day course, I’m happy to report I’m feeling much better and back in the game. I do recommend that if you have a favorite medicine or two that helps you deal with certain situations, like Extra Strength Tylenol for a headache, or Claritin for Spring allergies, you should bring along a small bottle. It will save you the trouble of trying to find an equivalent here.
A Positive Experience Surpassing Expectations
So for me, my healthcare experience was comparable to, or even better than, that in America. It was certainly cheaper. I can’t guarantee you’ll have the same success. It depends on a lot of things. But don’t be deterred from volunteering by a fear of dated medical care. I’ve met many people here who have had lasik eye surgery, spoken with a dentist/surgeon who is performing maxillofacial surgery, etc. Yerevan has actually become a regional center for medical education. My Armenian teacher tells me that many of her students are from India or elsewhere, here attending medical school. Even after getting sick (not Armenia’s fault) I’m glad I came. As I write this I’m returning from Gyumri, Armenia’s second city much-destroyed in the 1988 Earthquake, where I delivered a seminar on Leadership and Management to about 45 young professionals eager to get some Western training. The benefits far exceed the inconveniences. Thank you and good luck.
Written by Brian Kamajian, AVC volunteer
Brian Kamajian is a part-time IT consultant from Chicago with 30 years in the industry, 15 as a manager. 32 years ago he lived in Armenia with his wife Meg and managed the AGBU office for the year of 1991. They helped open the American University of Armenia, among other post-earthquake projects. For his return visit, he’s volunteering for the AUA, who have asked him to deliver Leadership and Management seminars in their Open Education program across many regions in Armenia. He’s also holding seminars at software companies on topics such as Leadership and Change Management. He’s also been teaching English remotely in Armenia for the past 2 years and is now meeting his students face-to-face and having a great time.