Sunday, October 25, 2009

Yellow Card

I hereby apologize for the ridiculous lack of blogging that has plagued my life the last several weeks. Every time I sat down to write, something else would beg for my attention. I had planned to write about my first experience with the Danish healthcare system, my trip to London and Oxford, how I finally cleaned my room, the field trip to Christiania, and how Troells threw an onion at Fredrik last night and how Thomas ate a pig heart and set his hand on fire.

Unfortunately, there hasn't been time. You've been stuck reading my posts on syndication. I'll start now, begging forgiveness, with Episode 1 of the Second Season of The Kitten Sandwich: The Yellow Card.

Foreigners who stay in Denmark for an extended period of time are highly encouraged (and possibly required by law) to register for a CPR number. Akin to a social security number in the states, your CPR number entitles you to free healthcare and library books! Two of my favorite things, you know. When I arrived at DIS, I filled out a form and lost it somewhere in the abscess of my room before retrieving it a month later and dragging it to the local Kommune.

Don't freak out, that's just what they're called. This isn't Soviet Russia.

The woman at the registration office (that's basically what a kommune is) stamped all over my passport and forms and I got a CPR number. I was told a yellow card would arrive in my mailbox within a few weeks.

And arrive it did, in a non-descript envelope I nearly threw away unopened (note: never, ever do this in Denmark). It's rather aesthetically pleasing, with its yellow center and neat white border. It looks a little like a plastic egg. In card form. My CPR number features prominently in the design, in raised black type, over my Danish address and under the name and number of my primary doctor.

That's another thing to note--when you receive your card, you are automatically assigned a doctor in your area who will refer you to a specialist if necessary.

The sides of my card serve as excellent examples of the Danish adoration of behemoth words: REJSESYGESIKRINGSKORT on one side and SUNDHEDSKORT on the other, the former translating to travel health insurance card and the latter to health card (I actually knew that without looking it up!!)

Within a few days of receiving my card, I made an appointment in order to get a referral about the pesky toe problem that's been bothering me on and off for years. The only problem I've encountered with the Danish healthcare system is this--it takes FOREVER to make an appointment. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that receptionists often only answer the phone between 8 and 9 in the morning (when I'm in class) or even just whenever they feel like it. And that American fear about long waits and lists is partially true; the first surgeon I was told to call told me--and this was in September--"we have an appointment on November 21".

Navigating this sea of red tape, however, isn't that difficult. I made a few phone calls, and got an appointment for the very next day. That's the secret---call every doctor in Copenhagen until you get someone on the phone, and then keep calling until you get an appointment in your desired time frame. They do exist, I promise you.

I arrived at the doctor's office not knowing what to think. Anyone who knows me in real life will likely be aware that I am a supporter of Universal Healthcare in the states, but I'm not afraid to admit that I was a little scared at facing the real thing. Glenn Beck can do that to you.

I needn't have worried. My doctor was the sweetest, kindest surgeon I've ever met. In between shots of anesthesia, he patted me on the arm and got me some water. And let me tell you, Danish anesthesia is strong stuff. I couldn't feel anything in my toe, not even the usual pressure I've felt in former surgeries. He might has well have been operating on the air beside me. After the surgery, he gave me a free supply of gauze and painkillers and swiped my CPR card. I had to stop myself from whipping out my checkbook--there are no co-pays in Denmark. When I realized that I could no longer fit my foot in my shoe due to the gauze, HE DROVE ME HOME.

That would never happen in America. I can tell you that much.