European Diary

Retreat From Eden II

Last summer the inimitable Taki and I were staying under the same roof at the London house of our friend Natasha.  I have loved our angelically guileless hostess for a quarter of a century, Taki since she was a baby, but all this is just a pompous way of relating that, like I this fateful summer, some months earlier Natasha had had a life-threatening brush with the heirs of Hippocrates.  I recounted my Italian experience in last month’s column.  Natasha’s had taken her from London to Los Angeles, where she was successfully operated on by a world-class luminary of a surgeon at the cost of $60,000.

Then there was the postoperative care, and that is really why I’ve mentioned Taki’s compatriot.  Hippocrates was probably spinning in his grave.  The postoperative care at Cedars-Sinai—in other words, a nurses’ station within the patient’s yelling distance—had cost our friend, or else her private insurance company, $60,000 a night.  That is to say, the same amount of money that a one-of-a-kind luminary of a surgeon had charged Natasha for performing a complex lifesaving operation of several hours’ duration.  After three nights Natasha moved into a suite in the Beverly Hills Hotel and engaged a team of private nurses to look after her, whereupon, by comparison with Cedars-Sinai, as guilelessly she put it, “all of a sudden it felt like everything was free.”


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