It’s been a busy few weeks. In mid-March, I visited my older sister Karen and dad in Ohio, where my sister lives. Karen is doing a lot better and recovering well from her cycling accident in October. She will have eye surgery over the summer which should make a big difference for her. She’s not able to see all that well yet. I have lots of pictures and stories to share from our trip to the heartland – look for a post about that in a few days!
A week ago Monday, the day before my daughter Rosebud and I were due to fly back home to Germany from Cleveland, I started feeling sick with a cold. My daughter had been sick the previous few days with this cold. I was mostly fine on the flight back to Germany, but due to fatigue from flying, jetlag and the cold, I wasn’t feeling any better. And being pregnant, there aren’t many medications that are safe for me to take.
On Friday night, I barely slept because of my symptoms and in fact, I felt like I was getting a sinus infection. I decided on Saturday morning that I needed to see a doctor. I wasn’t sure how to find a doctor on a Saturday or how to get there (our car is still not ready – more on that later). What eventually transpired is that a doctor came to my house to see me!
Saturday morning, after breakfast, I went to my neighbors to ask them about seeing a doctor on the weekend. I asked if I might need to go to the hospital – not knowing if there is such a thing as a weekend clinic here in Germany or how things like this are handled. My neighbors immediately said, “Oh no, you don’t need to do anything like go to the hospital!” In the newspaper, my neighbors found the number for the weekend medical service and on-call doctor. They also offered to drive me to a doctor if I wanted, which was awfully nice of them!
I called the number and was connected to the Bavarian medical service. They took my contact information and asked me about my symptoms, and then said they would have a doctor contact me. The on-call doctor then called me a little later and said that he would stop by house to see me.
When I heard that, I couldn’t believe it! That certainly did make things a lot easier for us, not having a car, but I was also amazed that a doctor would actually make a house call. While we waited for the doctor to arrive, I told my neighbors that a doctor was coming to me. They said that although this doesn’t happen quite as often as in years prior due to health care reforms here, they were very glad that a doctor was going to pay me a visit.
The doctor was very nice and also appreciative that I speak German. He mentioned that other times when he’s seen Americans, they aren’t often able to communicate about their health in German. The doctor said I could take paracetamol (what we know as Tylenol in the US) for the aches I was experiencing, and then prescribed a cough syrup that is safe for me to take in pregnancy. It’s made from the ivy plant, and it has made all the difference.
This evening, the doctor even gave me a call to check on me and ask if I was feeling better. I was pleasantly surprised by that, and thanked him for giving me a call and for helping me to feel better.
I think that the care I received this weekend says a lot about the German health care system. Our health insurance is part of the Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung – the public health insurance that is legally provided to us. We could have opted for private insurance but it would have been a lot more expensive. I know that my husband does have a premium he pays based on his salary, but in comparison to what we paid in the US, it’s a lot lower. Like in the United States, health care costs are rising here, but I think that the fees are lower for services than what they typically cost in the US. With the recent passage of the health care bill in the United States, one concern that Americans have is whether or not treatment might be delayed in a public system. I don’t know if that happens here in Germany on a frequent basis or not, but so far whenever we have been sick, we’ve always been able to get medical care right away (and at our own house, no less!).
I’ve only been to a few OB appointments at this point; I’ve been very happy with the care I have received – and, I can also see a midwife, which I plan on doing. Midwives are also covered by our public health insurance. A group of midwives are associated with my OB’s office, and I plan on meeting them to see if there is one I particularly like. I’m sure over the coming months, I’ll have a deeper understanding of how medical care is handled in Germany.