Navigating faith, love, and life in the Netherlands

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Doctor, doctor!

I was just reading my digital copy of The XPat Journal (page 22-23), and the summer issue focuses on health care in the Netherlands

Gregory Shapiro satirizes the use of the prescription "Go home and get some rest" as heard from the mouths of Dutch doctors.  That's all they ever say, and won't give you prescriptions (especially for antibiotics) all the time.

He writes, "The frustrating thing for an American is this: the advice is absolutely correct.  For me, staying home from work and healing myself has worked every time.  But as an American, I still feel compelled to stay on the job, pump myself full of antibiotics and keep on working."  He then mentions the generous allowance of sick days by Dutch employers.

There are so many ideas to unpack here -- medical, psychological, and social.  This seems to signify a close connection between productivity at work and one's own personal identity - a thought for another post!

In years past, if I was "home" on the East Coast, near my general practitioner, I'd visit within a few days (never more than a week) of coming down with something that made me feel miserable.  I never had the flu, chicken pox, or stomach bugs, but just things like colds, sinus infections, and sometimes strep.  In high school, I'd get sinus infections and continue attending classes, tissue box in tow.  Before moving to the Netherlands, I got copies of my records -- and was a bit embarrassed at how many times I went for what seemed to be little things.

Upon moving to Ukraine, however, I couldn't just go to my doctor, or any doctor for that matter.  We had 2-3 doctor parents within the school community, plus other "mom" types that would look out for me if I was sick.  I remember losing my voice a few times (my throat felt fine) and having some allergy issues, but still went to school.  Once during my first year, I woke up with a terrifyingly dry throat and had a few other symptoms that convinced me to stay home.  In my last year, I had a short bout of food poisoning or a stomach bug and had no sleep or food, so I stayed home that day as well - I felt a bit better by morning but hadn't rested well.  When you're a teacher, with only 180 or so days to do your "real" work, taking sick days just don't fit!

When I lived in the US last year, this time in the Midwest, I only came down with one or two minor colds but was not a full-time employee or student.  Hence, if I felt terrible on days that I already had off, nothing was lost!

Now, for the contrast of life in the Netherlands, as I've noticed so far.

Last weekend, I felt miserable.  Headache, body aches (I felt like a gramma), fatigue, loss of appetite.  It started on Thursday as I was in my video-conferenced class, and continued through Monday.  I had never felt this way in my life.  I figured it was the flu, and kept begging my husband to schedule a doctor's appointment for me "if I still feel like this in __ days."  He agreed.

As it turned out, all this was stress about my Dutch lessons - beginning BEFORE the first day and my crazy experience!  We figured this out once Tuesday/Wednesday rolled around, we changed my class schedule/level, and I "miraculously" recovered.  Thus, no doctor appointment needed after all.

Now, I'm on day 4 of a sore throat - no other symptoms, and it hasn't morphed into something more miserable.  I just want to go get a throat-culture done to make sure I don't have strep, but WebMD informs me that my symptoms (or lack thereof) don't coincide with strep.  (NOTE:  Using Google and WebMD can never replace the authority of a licensed doctor.  Don't try this at home.)

So, it's off to Kruidvat (like CVS or Walgreens or an аптека-type thing) to buy some Strepsils!

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