A post in which I actually DON’T complain about Germany

I complain about things here. A lot. I know.

But it really isn’t all bad news bears here in the land of beer and pretzels. I mean, this is the home of the Biergarten. Where in July you can enjoy a refreshing beverage of your choice outside on a bench with your friends and not sweat to death.

So, I’d like to take a moment to brag a bit on one of the lovelier things here in Germany: the affordability of healthcare in this country. I don’t often get too political here on my blog, but I do have to commend Germany’s government and the healthcare system in general. The healthcare system in the US was, and sadly, still is broken. I think it’s only going to get more broken until some sort of French Revolution style revolt occurs with CEOs of insurance firms being guillotined in Times Square. I won’t lie, or hide my views. I am much more liberal than most of my friends and family. That’s ok, we all get along. I don’t stand up on my soapbox all the time. But I would like to highlight some of the positive things in Germany, so here’s my story:

My first pregnancy, I was unmarried and on a tight budget- I had just quit my job to go to nursing school. Now you an cast all sorts of judgement on me for having an unplanned, out-of-wedlock baby. All I can say about that, is that I really don’t care what your opinion of it is. It was what it was. And like a lot of things in my life, I figured I’d just struggle through it and somehow make it work. My first doctor’s appointment I was given pamphlets and lots of information. I was also given a sheet that said about how much it was going to cost. It was in the thousands, and that was just the costs from my doctors clinic. That didn’t include the hospital costs or costs for an extra special circumstance type things. It said to contact my insurance company and to find out exactly what was covered and to set up a payment plan. It was like a warning, they didn’t want you to freak out at the last minute with a huge scary bill.

A week later, I got a letter from my insurance company informing me that my COBRA payments would be upwards of $500 a month. Yeah, that was going to happen. So I did something that was painful to my pride: I signed up for Medicaid. I justified it by telling myself that I had paid into the system in the years prior when I was working, but still I felt a bit sick in my stomach.I wasn’t alone, people in all sorts of health predicaments face this same struggle and anxiety. The person with the chronic illness who got laid off, couldn’t get coverage for treatment with their new insurance because of their “pre-existing condition”. Or people reaching “lifetime” limits because a for profit corporation put a price tag on a person’s worth. Or hospitals charging $10 for 1 Tylenol. I just think it’s all a bit ridiculous.

I was actually very lucky. Louisiana was set up that all pregnant women without insurance could get on Medicaid if they needed to. And I could do it online without anyone seeing or judging me. I just thank God that I had an excellent doctor who truly cared about me and didn’t care that I was (temporarily) on Medicaid. He made sure that I got great care and never skimped on anything.

Flash forward 4 years and a different continent. I now have very good private insurance. But we only have a private policy because Armin is a government employee. Since they pay their employees well, employees are expected to contribute out of pocket. Most people in Germany are on one of the public systems. Want to know what we all have in common? We don’t really worry about healthcare costs. Public insurance people pay a flat fee each time they go to the doctor. We get our bill and then pay the doctor ourselves. The we send everything to our insurance company and get reimbursed. So I have an idea of how much things cost.

A few weeks ago, I had a bit of bleeding one Saturday morning. I wasn’t worried, as I know it’s not uncommon in pregnancy, it wasn’t a lot, and I’d had it once or twice with the first pregnancy. But that night I was standing in the kitchen and felt a bit of pain low in my abdomen. I sat down for a bit, the pain stayed. I decided that it was probably nothing, but I should see a doctor, just in case. (Who does that in the US?) So I drove myself to the hospital, told them what was happening and was taken into an exam room. The doctor asked if I had taken anything for the pain. I said no, she left the room and returned with a packet of pills. She gave me 2 and a glass of water. She asked if I had these pills at home. I said no, I didn’t even know what they were. She gave me the rest of the packet and told me I could take them home. They were over-the-counter meds, but her giving me the extras meant I didn’t have to drive to the one open pharmacy that night. She did an ultrasound and assured me that all was well with the little one. She said I probably had the over-exerted myself and I was given directions to go home and rest.

The next week the bill came, and as I opened it Armin grumbled about how much it probably cost for a late night weekend visit to the ER. Who wants to guess how much the total was? Seriously, take a wild guess. ER visit + Ultrasound = 100 € They didn’t even charge for the pills she gave me. Now, if you aren’t familiar, 100 € is about $130. So yeah, the whole ER visit was less than 1 Ultrasound in the US.

 

I won’t say the ACA is great. I see that it has flaws and that it has actually caused more problems for some people. But I think the idea that people can access medical care when they need it and not stay up all night worrying how to pay for it is great. I have a lot of things to worry about- I have a child, an elderly dog, a marriage that requires the normal amount of work and care. But I don’t have to worry about my health or that of my family. We can afford it, and while the culture and customs may be different, I don’t fee that the medical care here is lacking in quality. My sincere hope is that the US can figure out a way to bring this peace of mind to its people.

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Some days….

Germans actually think it’s a good thing when you have spiders in your house. It means that it’s not too damp.

Wut? o_O

I am clearly not a German. I spent the better half of my day waging a war against them. I think they hitched a ride in the boxes we’ve stored in my in-laws’ garage. But seriously, I found like 5 of them in my house. Fortunately, I have a lovely spider killing machine that also functions as a vacuum cleaner. It’s still so gross thinking they were here in my house. Ick. I’m probably not going to sleep well tonight….. I’ll be thinking I can hear them having a neighborhood watch meeting to discuss the crazy spider-killing lady….

Next I’ll be dancing naked by a fire in the forest

Warning: this post will contain references to my right breast (or the mole that used to live under it). Any family members out there that read my blog who might be uncomfortable with that, please just wait for my next post (it’ll be about Paris and have nice pictures, promise). To all my friends- well, it ain’t any worse than what you’ve heard come out of my mouth before.

It all started with a little mole that I noticed after taking a shower one day. It was dark, it was fairly new and it wasn’t all nice and even. But it was small and I didn’t have insurance, so I figured it could sit there for a while. I’m certain it grew a little over time, but it wasn’t as big as a pencil eraser.

Fast forward 2 years (yes, I know, too long to wait). Armin scheduled a dual appointment with his dermatologist. Because, you know, like most people in places like Germany where people have easy access to good affordable healthcare, he goes in regular intervals to the dermatologist. I show the ugly bugger to the doctor, who decides that although it doesn’t look to be too bad, it should go. Why? Because it is in an awkward spot and he already has to cut a good portion around it, but if it were to grow much bigger, then it would be much more complicated because he’d have to cut into my boob or something. At least, I think that’s what he said. He was speaking in German. And not just plain old German, He’s Schwabish- a totally different dialect that is insanely difficult to understand because they all kind of mumble and talk fast (imagine a non-English speaker trying to understand Ebonics).

So last week we go for our appointment. Did I mention I’m a terrible patient? I can’t deal with the sight of my own blood. I want to vomit or pass out. I also have incredible anxiety when I have any sort of procedure done. To the point where my Ob/gyn sedated me once. So there I am, praying to God that I don’t puke on myself, literally grabbing the table that I’m laying on. Shaking like a leaf- not because I’m cold- although that would be possible as I’m just laying there topless (it’s a whole different immodest world over here, y’all). I watch the doctor come in and he goes to the sink. And he uses some sort of hand sanitizing liquid. No, he did not WASH his hands. Just rubbed the mystery solution all over them. When I say I was horrified, I mean, I was FROZEN in fear. My God, was this man going to touch me with one of those dirty hands covered in mostly dead germs????? He treats patients with Herpes for f***’s sake!! I wasn’t sure what I could do about it. If I said something would he get angry? Leave me with some garish scar? I mean, he was cutting under my boob- did he know how make it hang a little more lop-sided? Then I saw him open the package of surgical gloves. To my relief, he at least put those on correctly. I think I would have died if had messed up that process. I mean really. I would have had to say something, or just leave. Just leave and find another doctor.

The actual procedure was only as bad as I assumed it would be. I felt minimal pain thanks to a local anesthetic. But I could feel the knife against my skin, and then him tugging my skin with the stitches. I could also hear them talking, and then something with the last stitch wasn’t right and he had to cut it and do it again. I just wanted to die. I mean seriously y’all, I know it’s all in my head, but it was just horrible.

Of course, the horror and humiliation live on. Because of the location of the stitches, I can not wear a bra. I do NOT have small boobies (they just look small in comparison to the size of my big ass). The last time I was out in public without a bra I think was 7 or 8 years ago. Some things just aren’t meant to co-exist: my boobs and a bra-less lifestyle are in that category! All movements= jiggling. Jiggling skin that is attached to the stitches- maybe you can guess how good that felt. So the next day, I send the Hubs to the pharmacy to get an ACE bandage so I can at least control the girls, if they can’t get the support they are used to. The pharmacist who is a bit of a douche, refused to sell it to him. He stated that it wouldn’t work and I didn’t need it and I should wear a sports bra. If I could wear a sports bra, don’t you think I would be doing that by now, ya big idiot?!? I eventually made it to a different pharmacy, was waited on by a woman and got what I needed.

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This one inch incision has been driving me bonkers for exactly one week!

Anyway, that’s my story about how after only a year in Germany, I’m becoming some sort of bra-less hippy. Darn.

Happy January!

Well, it has been quite a while since my last blog post. Things got busy with my German classes and then we had to get packed for our trip to Louisiana. We had a great time with family and friends and then we got sick. O got better, I got worse. We came home and that pretty much takes us to where we are now.

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Our Christmas vacation was great, really. We saw a lot of people and got to spend quality time with some of our favorites. I’m especially grateful for that time in light of the fact that a very special little friend has passed away since our trip. I hope that O will remember at least some of his time with his friend.

Now we’re back in the hum-drum of the everyday in cold, snowy Deutschland. I’m feeling better and ready to power through the next three months of German classes. I’m looking forward to the new challenges that 2013 will bring and hopefully I’ll have a few friends come for a visit!

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Biggest Challenge of 2013: My son decided he wants to be a rock star. How do you tell a 2 year old that eventually he’s going to have to grow up and get a real job????

What a man, what a man…

I’m sitting here, seething. Waiting for the coffee to finish and resisting the urge to walk into the bedroom and suffocate my husband with a pillow. The only thing keeping me from doing so at the moment is the thought that I might accidentally wake up our son sleeping so peacefully (finally) next to him.

So, let me take a deep breath and reflect on some reasons why I love my husband… hmmm…. well… uhhh…

I’m only slightly kidding. Lack of sleep usually puts me in a nasty, bitchy mood (who would have guessed?). He does have his moments of glory. Like last week when he killed an intruder. Well, it was more along the lines of squishing a bug… But still, hubs really stepped up to the plate. I walked into the kitchen to find a huge roach on top of the refridgerator. I ran out screaming like Gaddafi’s army had just stormed the place ( I have a completely irrational fear of those things, and we live in the very deep South, so they are huge and no matter how much you pay for pest control, you will inevitably see them in your home once or twice a year). Hubs just shooed me away from the kitchen. He then proceeded to knock it onto the floor and smash it with something (disposable, he promised). Then he sprayed down the area with Tilex and assured me it was now safe to go back into the kitchen.

Alright, now that I think about it, Hubs isn’t so bad. I guess I’ll let him live. At least for today…