Friday, April 2, 2010

The Gatekeepers of the Swedish Healthcare System

I grew up "going to the doctor". Throwing up, doctor. Fever, doctor. Bad cold, doctor. Annual physical, doctor. Left ear lobe ache, doctor.

Well no freakn' wonder we have to wait like 2 hours past our appointment times to get in to see "the doctor".

Here, it's different. Much different.

Gotta problem, any or all of the above? Call the local clinic, enter your number followed by the pound sign at the sound of the beep. "We will call you back before X time." And they do.

It's a nurse or a doctor, not sure. Describe your problem. All the symptoms. Then answer questions about said symptoms. And if it's your kid you're calling about, do your best to provide your own diagnosis. "I'm really worried here. His snot isn't quite green and more clogged than runny and he didn't even want to watch his favourite tv program this morning. He hugged me for twice as long as he normally does and I'm pretty sure his left eye is twitching. He needs antibiotics. I need to see a doctor."

And the hand goes up, so that I slam forehead-first into the virtual doorway. Access denied. The Gatekeeper has spoken. "It sounds just like a viral infection. There is no medication we can provide for this. He has to wait it out. Lots of fluids and blah-dee-blah."

"Ok, so what's the difference between a bacterial infection requiring antibiotics and a viral infection?" In other words, I can always change the symptoms to match the bad one!

Very detailed explanation ensues.

Damn it. This doctorish person of a gatekeeper has one over on me. I try a few more lame attempts at sneaking through the yellow tape but to no avail.

Wait it out. Call us back if anything changes.

Thanks. Damn.

On a serious and more objective note, this screening works quite well. Whenever I have made it past the gatekeeper (like twice), I'm kept waiting for a maximum of 10 minutes.

It's awesome.

But when explaining my conundrum to fellow Swedes, or expats who are in the know, I get the following answer: "Lie." If you're really worried, lie through your teeth.

I wonder how well this sytem of diagnosis-over-the-phone would work in North America. Heaven forbid the doctorish person was wrong. Hello Lawsuit!

"Antibiotics for everything" was the only solution in my uhmmm, day. And even though I realize that was due to paranoia and general ignorance and we are so much smarter now, it's still pretty heavily engrained in my psyche. I miss those pieces of yellow paper that confirmed everything was going to be alright.

I also miss waiting with a bunch of coughers and hackers in a too-full waiting room with years-old magazines to pass the hours and germy, used for decades kids toys. NOT.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wanna buy a... toothbrush?

I am a sucker for a telemarketer, mainly because I did it once (in French) and I hated the rejection and I feel bad for those poor people. And of course, heaven forbid a virtual stranger thinks "ill" of me.

But lately, I've been fortunate. Because I live in Sweden and the telemarkers are Swedish and when I hear that quick silence on the other end before the speaking starts (a tell-tale sign of a telemarketer, where it's all auto-dial), I can simply reply, "I'm sorry, I don't speaka dee Swedish" and they get all flustered, mutter something in Swedish and promptly hang up. And back to the kitchen I go (cuz they always call around dinner time).

But not yesterday. Yesterday, I answered, I rolled my eyes while repeating my get-out-of-jail-free line and just as I was about to hang up, "Oh, you speak English? Great. Well I'm calling from Dentablah and would like to ask you a few questions about your dental hygiene habits."

Now I'm the one who's all flustered. Say what? Did you, Swedish boy, just speak in almost perfect English to me while simultaneously puncturing my balloon of impenetrability? And then I thought, meh, it's just a survey, no biggie.

From "How many times do you brush your teeth a day?": 2 to "Electric or Manual Scrub?": Both, I answered the questions with honesty, integrity and a pinch of humour. He laughed at all my jokes. I was puffed up sufficiently. So thanks for the ego-boost buddy, gotta run.

Not so fast. "As a thank you for completing this questionnaire, we would like to send you a free electric toothbrush at no charge with an extra replacement head. You are still at INSERT address?"

Wow! You mean all I had to do was talk about my oral hygiene for like 2 minutes and I get a free toothbrush? SOLD!

And here it comes: "You know, dentists recommend you change the head of your electric toothbrush every 3 months to avoid bacteria buildup." Well DUH. "We will send you a replacement head for your free electric toothbrush every 3 months."

Well GOLLY! Is it my lucky day or what? "Great, sign me up," I say while counting all the money I'll be saving on toothbrushes and wondering if I can get one in pink.

"For the low cost of 399 SEK (like 40 euro), you'll get these replacement heads shipped to your address free 3 times."

Stop. You lost me at the words "low cost".

"Great deal isn't it? So I will now start the voice recording to confirm that you have actually agreed to this....blah, blah, blah"

Mind time to object.

Did I do it? Did I buy in? Was I duped?

You better believe it! Buddy deserved it. That company deserved it. That was some smooth talking and clever sales tactics. I mean, who backs out after all that? That company is betting on very few. I am in the majority.

He sold me. I was sold. But here's the thing: Had I not been so cleverly blindsided, I could have easily turned the tables. Actually, if I had been quicker on my feet, I could have flipped him. "I get your game. You won. But there are two adults in this house with teeth that need brushing with your revolutionary spinning toothbrush. So how about sending two toothbrushes, we go with the same deal at 400 SEK and we call er' even? Now start that recording with my amendment."

Counting the days until my one toothbrush arrives, along with the invoice, and planning to change my force field to:

"I can't hear you. Sorry, can you repeat that? What was that? You're breaking up. Where are you calling from? Bob, is that you? You lying son-of-a-B, I knew you were seeing her behind my back all along!" Click, and back to the kitchen.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Weigh-in Wednesday: Week 7 of 10

Shit. It's Week 7. And I'm up a kilo. How's that for inspiration all you Weigh-In Wednesday participants? F-word.

Wanna hear my "the dog ate my homework" excuses? Here goes, heavy drinking and eating one night last week really killed me. And then the stress of the BIG CONFRONTATION. And I've had the little man home from school all week. Just when I thought it might have been safe to send him today, barforama last night. Poor kid. But you know, what a trooper. All smiles and giggles, even whilst all congested and feverish.

Thank God I made a new friend because I had a place to get rid of the chocolate cake I bought for the company we were supposed to have over for dinner tonight. Disaster averted.

And now it's Easter Weekend. Thankfully, I'm not a choco-holic so should be able to stave off most of the temptation. The snow is melting around me and my sneakers are just waiting by the front door. Not that I couldn't/shouldn't be finding "other" ways to exercise but when you're covered in germs and the fragrant musk of "eau de vomit", exercise is the last thing on your mind. But it won't be, for long. I have a master plan (evil laugh).

How are you gonna tell off the Easter Bunny this weekend?
ps. Remind me to tell you about the "elder abuse" I witnessed at the grocery store sad...

Monday, March 29, 2010

You're Jennifer. You have long arms.

According to my son, I'm Jennifer because I have long arms. Not sure what's up with him pointing out how long my arms are and how short his are in comparison, or the fact that I am who I am because of my arm length but it's noteworthy.

I realized he, along with the rest of Uppsala's kids, are off school all next week (Easter break). Didn't they just have a week off like 2 months ago? Ahhh..Sweden, land of the Red Day, where every other day is a holiday it seems.

All of a sudden, I have friends. Last week, I invited some of my dearest chicks over for a long overdue girl's night. Perfect timing as hubby was away on business. Now, I don't really consider these girls "friends". More like family. We ate, we drank, we laughed, we drank, we ate. The evening ended with my loopy 35-year old friend convincing her likewise loopy 24 and 26-year old pseudo-family chicks to hit the town. Some partying and a lot of post-night barfing ensued. Apparently my "parties" are now epic.

And then, we got invited over to one of those acquaintances-we-met-at-a- mutual-friend's-party-but-where-things-never-go-past-the party-location's house for dinner last night. Just so happens they have a son a couple week's shy of our son's age. And the hubby is American. And the wife is cool and also a dear friend of the new/old neighbour friends's. I know. Too much information. But just for the record. My record.

And then...I got a text from the new/old neighbour friend asking me over for coffee today. But I got it too late and the little man is home with a fever so, it was a No Go. But still...Holy "Friends" Batman!

Could I BE ANYMORE POPULAR? Bahahaha. See what happens when you stand up for yourself? No, none of them knew about that. But maybe I'm exuding some other-worldly eau de "don't f with me" that makes everyone think I could be the schoolyard bully so they all want me on their good side. Bahahaha.

Work has piled up. I am somewhere under it. And of course, the little man is sick. But thankfully not SICK, sick. Still his happy go lucky, you-be-the-Mama-Brachiosaurus-I'll-be-the-baby-TRex-and-I-will-try-to-eat-you, self with a fever and a runny nose. I dreaded calling the school this morning. Cuz I'm scared of The School. Cuz they will ask me, "Does he have a fever?" and I will want to lie because if he does have a fever, he will need to stay home until it's gone and then one EXTRA day on top of it for good measure. And I will want to lie. But I won't. And I didn't.

So I have two press releases to write, some stupid document to serve as a foundation for all other documents, a bunch of leads to Google and a dozen other tasks. Plus, I have just been made the Master of Hubby's crazy schedule. But right now, the main task is playing hide-and-go-seek with a Spider Man costume wearing kid who only has two hiding places: under the covers of our bed or under the covers of his bed.