My last two weeks in Sarajevo were spent experiencing the outstanding healthcare system in Sarajevo. Let me explain… This all started the night of my birthday Aug. 1st (my bday is Aug. 2nd), I had just finished taking an overnight bus from Sarajevo to Belgrade on Friday night. I arrived to Belgrade on Saturday, Aug. 1st early in the morning, to a rather eerie sight. I walked off the bus and arrived to a bus station that looked somewhat like a refugee camp. Outside of the bus station, there were dozens of Syrian refugees sleeping on the ground like a camp site. It was 4am in the morning, I had literally woken up just a few minutes before and still had not gotten my bearings when I walked into this. It was very sad and difficult thing to see, lying on the ground outside of the bus station there were dozens of refugees, most of which did not have sleeping bags or tents. A few of them had made little camp fires (even though it was a bus station, this area looked like a very small park directly next to the bus station), I spotted two small tents, and about 3 or 4 people with sleeping bags -out of several dozens of people. That memory will remain vivid in my mind for a very long time.
Eventually I made my way to my hostel and arrived there sometime around 6 am. The rest of the day I spent exploring Belgrade and walking around the city. That night was going to be my only night in Belgrade before returning back to Sarajevo and my birthday fell on the following day, so I decided I would celebrate that evening. Everything went well until around the time I headed home around 3am, one of my teeth on the top right part of my jaw started hurting a lot. It was a throbbing pain that I just couldn’t seem to shake. I spent the entire night sleepless because of the pain despite not having slept very much the previous night on the bus. The following day the pain just seemed to be getting worse, the first thing in the morning I went to a pharmacy and bought aspirin, but that did little to help. By the time I was getting ready to leave Sarajevo I was in so much pain that the guy at the front desk of the hostel gave me two pain killers. I took one immediately around 4:30 (just before boarding a van back to Sarajevo) and it lasted about two hours. By the time 6:30 rolled around I was in pain again and decided to take the second one; unfortunately, the weather was rough so we didn’t make it back to Sarajevo until 11pm. I immediately rushed up to the hostel didn’t say a word to anyone and took 6 extra strength aspirin and went to bed. That lasted until around 4:30am, when I woke up straight out of my sleep because the medication had subsided and my pain had come roaring back. I took 3 more extra strength aspirin and tried going back to sleep.
That morning I was out of bed by 7am and Naida directed me to a dentist office right by the hostel. That morning would be the first of SIX trips to the dentist I would have to make. After seeing how much pain I was in they immediately took me in -even though I didn’t have an appointment- and they took an x-ray of my mouth and diagnosed that I needed a root canal. After that they numbed me up and drilled a small hole in my tooth, this was to relieve the pressure I was feeling. At this point it was really confusing for me. Here I was in this dentist office in Sarajevo, they had just treated me excellently, they had attended me very quickly, they were very professional, very quick and efficient, and now I was expecting the bad news… how much did I need to pay? The dentist told me not to worry about it, that I would need another appointment to do the actual root canal, and that I would pay then. They gave me the number for another dentist office close to my work at the American Embassy and sent me on my way. At this point I was feeling better, but still a little concerned, so I asked them if they could give me an estimate of how much I should expect to pay altogether. I couldn’t believe her, she told me around 140-150 km, so around $70-$80. That day I showed up to work, I had notified them that morning saying that I probably wouldn’t be in until around noon, instead because they the dentist office had been so quick and efficient I was back at work by 9am.
Altogether I had to do five more appointments with a different dentist over the course of the last two weeks of our program -the final visit was the day before I left Sarajevo. This dentist was just as professional as the first one I met, he was extremely kind and squeezed me in the very next day even though he really didn’t have any available slots until Wednesday. He was so good and all of our visits were very short visits, no more than 30 mins, and everything was excellent. Best of all when it finally came time to pay my TOTAL bill for SIX appointments including a root canal came out to $60 US. It was UNBELIEVABLE, the year before I had had to get my very first root canal when I was living in Austin, TX. I went to a low income dental clinic and the total had come out to $500, and that wasn’t including the price of my very first appointment to find out what was bothering me. I really couldn’t believe it, I was dumbfounded by how incredibly cheap it was. Best of all, the treatment was very good! Both dentists that worked on me were very very good, they were friendly, professional, and were willing to squeeze me into their schedules even though I hadn’t given them any forewarning.
After this experience, I told my girlfriend (who works at a dental office), that if I EVER need to get some serious dental work done, I’m just going to schedule a trip back to Bosnia. I’m not kidding either, I mean the cheapest I can get a root canal in the US is $500-600, and a crown costs around $1,000-1,300, so for me, it’s actually more economical to book a round trip flight to Bosnia ($900), stay a hostel for a week ($12 x 5 days), and get a root canal or a crown that having it done in the states. It’s both amazing and a sad indictment of the state of our healthcare in the US.