Sunday, November 27, 2011

Saving Hugo- When Swedish and American Healthcare systems get it right, together

One of the questions I still get asked, on both sides of the pond, is 'But what is the healthcare like, really.' And I am pretty sure that what they really want to hear is 'Yeah, it pretty much just sucks over there, you guys have it so much better, here.'

In truth I am kind of on the fence on this one. There are things I love about both systems, and I will say that I never, in the US, had to beg, lie and threaten to get a doctor's appointment and I never, in Sweden, received a 5 figure bill (in dollars) on a pre-approved procedure. But I have had such experiences in the opposite countries, and they sucked.

But my healthcare experiences are not the point here. This is a story that illustrates how both systems have great things to offer and they can actually help each other, without bucket loads of prohibitive bureaucracy.

Now please excuse my summary to follow, I am not an expert here, I'm just summarizing some of what I read. If you really want to know more, I suggest you go and read the websites, mostly in Swedish, but Google translate helps.

So there is this little baby named Hugo – you can read about him here if you understand Swedish. He was born with a horrible disease, whose name I am not going to even try to spell, because the spelling of it is probably the least horrible thing about it, but is nightmare in and of itself. It is a disease known as EB.There are, apparently, several kinds of EB, and the kind Hugo has is terminal. Most babies with EB of this kind die before they turn 1. EB means there is something wrong with these children's skin, if it is touched it forms blisters. This happens not just on the surface but in their throats, mouths and ears. It is a terrible disease for which there is no cure.

There is, however, one hospital in the US, which started running experimental bone-marrow transplants on children suffering from various forms of EB. Most of these patients were in pain and had short life expectancies. There have only been about 20 patients thus far. Some have seen great success, better skin quality and improved quality of life, some have died during the process – which is also painful and difficult. But the fact is that this bone marrow transplant is the only window of hope for these families.

Which brings us to Hugo's parents, who began a campaign last month to get their son this bone marrow transplant treatment under the Swedish healthcare system. They got some publicity through Expressen and suddenly things started moving. Almost immediately they met with teams of doctors in Sweden who specialized in this sort of thing. And in a few short weeks, they managed to get approval for their young child to go through this process.

I cannot say how impressed I am by the Swedish healthcare system that they were able to get this procedure approved so quickly and so efficiently that it might actually benefit Hugo and his family. Even more importantly, it makes it so much easier for other families in this situation to be able to step up and ask for this treatment if need be.

To me this represents the best of the American and Swedish systems, and I am so happy to see them collaborating in such a positive light. I wish the best to the families involved and hope this can be the miracle they need.  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Happy Swedish Thanksgiving

This weekend we continued our Ameriswedish tradition of Thanksgiving whenever the hell we feel like it.

It was a success, as usual. I love spending the day with The Swede's big family. Lots of people around the table, lots of loud conversation. Laughing. Talking. It is a pleasure. Every time.

A few things I noticed this year:

It is really great to have a hands on guy around the house. At my folks house the guys always disappeared to go watch football (I'm guessing that was the sport given the time of year) and my Mom was left to stress out like crazy around the house. This made me loathe Thanksgiving, since I always had to do 99 things I hated.

But not in my house! In my house I've got the pies, Swede has got the turkey. I get the salads and the Swede bakes the rolls. We both clean in shifts. There is a flow that makes me feel like I earn extra grown-up points every time we manage to pull the whole shebang off.

But most of all, our TG dinners tend to go off without a fight. It is great. Maybe its because we don't celebrate it ON actual Thanksgiving. What do I know?

All I know if I am satiated with pecan pie, red wine and lots of scrumptions broccoli salad (Hey, I'm vegetarian, remember?)

Although on Thanksgiving we do serve Turkey. And for some reason the Swedes seem to shy away from the on the table carving a la American TV. But hey, we gotta Swedify something right?

In furry pet news - our girl is home, but it is still touch and go, and while I am cautiously optimistic, a lot depends on these next few days.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Swedish Furbaby Sadness

So I had big plans this week (don't I always?) of having a little 'best of' Surviving in Sweden. I thought I'd dig out my most controversial posts - like that time I ranted about check-out lines at the Swedish grocery store. I thought I would also point out that I am aware of the fact that my Swedish post a week promise died in the water (I have a good excuse for this, but now is not the time or place - perhaps I will do it in Swedish soon)

But we've had a tough week here in the Surviving household - and most of it has been trauma related to friends and family on a large scale level. But that doesn't mean we aren't terribly miserable at the fact that our first Swedish furbaby, our little Meow, suddenly lost use of her back legs and tail on Sunday afternoon for no apparent reason.

We are very sad. Swedish furbaby 1 is at the animal hospital and we are hoping and wishing that she will make a full recovery and gain usage of her limbs back - something the vet said is a possibility. But also trying to figure out what we are going to do in case things don't work out.

Sad sad sad.

BUT since this blog is about Sweden and not the sadness of my poor and most loveable snuggable Meow, I need to take a moment to say THANK YOU for awesome Swedish pet insurance. Our little Meow is an indoor kitty who has been spayed (yes, I am SO American - I've spayed both my cat and dog) and because of those two things,  for the price of about 40-70 dollars per year (its increased over the 8 years) we've had insurance coverage for her.

In the past, Meow has had some strange health issues and we have had to claim quite a bit (but not anywhere close to our cap) from the insurance and they have come through for us every time - and no raised cost and no raised deductible (other than the normal annual changes).

I am very happy that we could, knowing this is going to get expensive, check our cat into the hospital for observation without going into a total panic about expenses. This is going to be expensive. But after everything, I estimate that insurance should cover about 60% (they don't cover the tax and only pay out 80% of expenses).

So what I am saying is - if you are in Sweden and have a fur baby - look into pet insurance, we use Agria. It's inexpensive and has been a real peace of mind for us.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Happy Blogoversary to ME! Surviving in Sweden Q & A

I cannot believe it's been a year since I started this blog. I cannot believe I've actually managed to keep it going.

I started this blog as a bit of an experiment, something to get me back to writing.

I only told about 3 people close to me that I had this blog - I wanted to see what would happen building an audience 'in the wild'

And here I still am. Surprised and happy to find that not only do people read, but they also have been amazing at commenting, sharing, agreeing, disagreeing and basically making this little experiment a great learning process for me.

I've appreciated all of the feedback I've gotten and all of the great comments. I am so happy to have gotten to know and read such amazing blogs from Swedes around the world, from all types of foreigners in Sweden, and people considering moving to Sweden.

I joined the Blogher group, you might see their ads on this page, mostly because I have really enjoyed a bunch of blogs in their network and am happy to be a part. But I decided against doing any sort of sponsored posts because it never really seemed to suit the style of writing I like to use here. And really, I'm not a saleswoman. Thus, this blog hasn't made me as rich as Blondinbella, but that was never my goal.

I would say 90,000 page views in that this little experiment has well surpassed my expectations, and most of all is fun, so I hope to continue for a bit longer....

To celebrate my first year, I thought I would address some of the questions that people asked Mother Google that led them to find my blog. Hope they help!

Can you be happy in Sweden climate?

Oooh, this is a good question. Especially in November I ask myself why anyone these days lives in Sweden climate. But at the end of the day, I would say, yes.... you can. But I admit the darkness of winter is harder for me than the climate.

Swedish where find if word is ett or en?

This is a very good question. One I do not have the answer to, and am unsure if an answer exists. And what about stolen words like CV? Is it en CV or ett CV? It boggles the mind.

Do Swedes hate Sweden?

I don't think so, maybe some do? Do Americans hate America? Or should the question be do Real Americans hate Real America? Hate is such a strong word - I think Swedes are pretty proud of their country.

Do Swedish people use shampoo? Do Swedish people bathe? Do Americans shower too much?

I seem to get a LOT of questions about bathing habits across the cultures. I do not know why. In my experience Swedes and Americans have similar hygeine habits. Swedish women shave their armpits and everyone uses shampoo. I am a little puzzled why the older generation of Swedes seems determined to rid the world of bathtubs. I would not survive a Swedish winter without one. So maybe the answer to 'Do Swedish people bathe?' is 'Not so much, they prefer the shower?' I don't know....

What does 'suga min kuk' mean?

This would very much depend on the context the phrase was used. Either this person wants to get to know you a little better, or does not like you at all.

I love a Swede, what to do?

Ahh, I know this dilemma. But thankfully Swedes are good people to love. Good luck on your adventure. I recommend coming to Sweden!

What do you think of the girl's name Sweden?

Do you mean you want to name your daughter Sweden? I don't think you really want to know what I think....

Can I pick and eat my Swede early?

I hope you are talking about the root vegetable Swede and not the Swede growing in your womb or living in your house. If this is the case, I have no idea.... If it isn't, I will have to report you to the authorities.

What to do if I touched someone else's chewing gum?

Run around the room screaming? Or more practically, I suggest washing your hands.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

5 Reasons Why My Swedish Day Care Would Be Shut Down By American Child Services (And why I don't care)

It has taken me a little while to adjust to Swedish day care life, but don't get me wrong here, despite the things I might mention here, I love it. It is a good system where kids really get to explore, learn and be exposed to a lot of germs.

  1. Kids eat fruit straight from the tree (and the ground): There are a few fresh fruit trees growing in the outdoor play area. Lots of apples fall onto the ground, into puddles, wherever. I have seen countless kids just grab an apple from the ground and pop it into their mouths. This means the kids are exposed to all kinds of dirt AND they eat actual apple skins without choking.
  2. Popcorn Fridays: We found out one of Little Swedes favorite moments at daycare is popcorn Friday. This is when all the kids get a bag of popcorn to chomp on. The Swede and I wondered if he had ever had popcorn before and realized, no he hadn't. I did a quick internet search and found out that not only is popcorn considered a huge choking hazard, it isn't recommended for the under 3's because it can be easily inhaled. Little Swede is walking on the wild side.
  3. Petting Zoo Dangers: I went with Little Swede and his class to the petting zoo where we saw sheep, chicken, horses, etc. Then we all sat down and had a cookie. There was no Purell in sight. I admit, although not a clean freak, this kind of creeped me out a bit. But lesson learned, we were all healthy and fine afterwards. (Swedes are pretty diligent about Salmonella outbreaks).
  4. Outlets uncovered: I don't know if American daycares are really stringent about this, I just know that ever since Little Swede could move his fingers, he was trying to poke them in outlets. So seeing all of the uncovered outlets at day care made me a little nervous. But so far, so good.
  5. Diaper disposal: Again, don't know how the American daycares work, but here they have one giant bin for all of the towels from washing your hands and all of the dirty diapers. It is also the type of bin that is just the height that Little Swede can reach his hand in and grab things. Now, he isn't out looking for diapers, but does enjoy reaching up to see what is around. I didn't invest in one of those silly over the top diaper disposal systems for home use, because we just take our garbage out daily, but for day care use? Ah well, they will learn!

BUT, despite all of these horrors, the kids have a grand old time. And aside from the class biter, there have been no (knock-on wood) major accidents, and my kid has learned a lot. So YAY for Swedish day care and breaking out of the Super Safety Mode!