Tuesday, December 4, 2012

No-Car Update: Medical Issues and Emergencies

Yep, I knew the day was coming, but I still wasn't ready.  We're all fine now, and things could have been a lot worse.

Still, last week was definitely not our greatest.

For some background, you can read more about our no-car lifestyle here, but suffice it to say that in our view, the three main issues with not owing a car are:

1. Shopping (we're managing fine)
2. Travel (we're managing okay here too, the most "luxury" of the issues)
3. Medical Issues and Emergencies....

This last one is the no-car issue I care most about - the one I fear.  The others are just lifestyle and attitude adjustments, suffering some inconveniences but often trading for other great benefits.  But issue #3 was put to the test this week.  I wrote out the whole story the other night, long and detailed, but decided against posting it all here.  It's just too, too long and woe-is-me.  Instead, I'll just mention that the three problems we encountered last week were: 1) my back went out completely and I basically couldn't move, 2) James gashed his head, resulting in a a trip to the ER, and 3) Daphne developed a nasty double ear infection.  These maladies resulted in 5 separate interactions/visits with doctors.  Through a combination of bus rides, walks, rides from friends, a bit of luck, and even one house-call, it all turned out okay in the end.

So this will still be a bit long, but mercifully not as long as what I'd typed initially.

Here are 7 lessons learned from last week:

1. It's difficult to make a plan until you are faced with the actual situation the plan would address (duh).  I think this is especially true in a foreign country, where you may have "heard" about what to do and where to go, but have never done it in person.  After you have experienced the system once, medical or otherwise, you can make a plan for next time.  When you don't have a car, this plan requires an extra degree of creativity and resourcefulness.  Even so, you can't predict and plan for everything and will always make decisions on the fly, car or no car.

2. (And a subset of #1) - I need a special list of people I can call if we find ourselves in a medical pickle or emergency that requires a car.  The key to this list will be that I have specifically talked to each person ahead of time and they've agreed that they will drop what they're doing, within reason, and come to our aid.  Then I will know exactly who to call, and they've already given me permission to "bother" them.  (Side note:  It's always amusing to me how "bothering people" is pretty much the cardinal sin in modern Western culture.  But I digress...)  And I will be happy to help them if they're ever in trouble.  I'll just have to take the bus/walk/bike to get to them, but in many situations this is sufficient.  Perhaps I can watch kids or bring something from the store or just provide company and support.  But the point is that I'll help in any way I can. Exchanges of help, friendship, and goodwill need not be one-for-one, apples-to-apples transactions.  However, because of my North American guilt and worry, I'll feel better if I have the list.

3. In some instances this week, a car of my own would have really helped, and in some it really wouldn't have made much difference.  If you can't walk, you can't get to a car.  I can't have both eyes on both kids 100% of the time, and accidents happen.  They can happen near your car if have one, or far away from it.  One must often rely on passers-by and good Samaritans to give you the help you need.  But in a serious emergency, car or no car, you just call an ambulance, which I do know how to do here (and which we did not have to do this week!).  It's comforting to know that this is always an option.

4. It's a bit daunting to face navigating public transport after a traumatic ordeal or during an illness, particularly in the cold/wet with kids thrown in the mix.  But guess what?  It's also sometimes daunting to face grocery shopping on the bus, particularly in the cold/wet with kids thrown in the mix.  Heck, it's sometimes daunting to grocery shop by car!   So?  You gotta eat, so you buck up and do it.   As Daphne would say, you "pump up your feelings!" and find a way.  Still, common sense dictates the situation, and there will be times when we just need a ride.  Then we must "pump up our feelings" and "bother" someone.  (And Western civilization sucks in a collective gasp of horror!)

5. Whether or not you have your own car, but if you do have kids, it's great to call someone to come help when medical problems arise.  As I say, I think we--people--should do this more.  It could be your spouse or another family member, but sometimes they can't get there.  Maybe we should all reach out to some friends to make that special list of people to call day-or-night, car or no car.  Although we took the bus to Daphne's appointment for her ear infections, we got a ride back.  Not only was it helpful in transporting a sick kid, but it also meant Daphne could sit with my friend in the car parked a block away while I ran into the pharmacy to get antibiotics, and while I ran into our friend's house to pick up James on the way home.  Not to mention, a friendly face and a little company goes a long way these situations.

6. The medical system in Luxembourg is quite good in dealing with urgent cases and semi-emergencies - accessible, prompt, user-friendly.  No complaints.

7. Free comics from the doctor's office to read on the bus are entertaining in any language.

I still don't know what language this is, actually.  I know it's not French, German, or Luxembourgish...  


siegler.anna said...

Sorry to hear about your recent troubles, having sick kids/being sick is no fun. You might already know about this but there are several online grocery delivery services, such as Luxcaddy and Cactus@home. We did luxcaddy for a while when we first moved to Luxembourg--the pluses were: the service was great and products were fresh; delivery is free with a minimum purchase (30 euros); you can choose a 2 hour window for delivery; and the website is in english; also I actually would end up spending less than at the store since there was less "impulse" shopping. Negatives were: the prices are at times more than at the grocery store and not all products are available that you can find at the store. I don't know much about Cactus delivery but I know that the delivery is 5 euros.

This is probably not a long term solution but it is definitely an option and a big help when you cannot go to the store or have to buy more than you can carry.

Fiona Lynne Koefoed-Jespersen said...

As I said - add us to the "bother" list :)