The Odyssee


It is the middle of the afternoon on a Monday and I am sitting in a café in a southern part of Düsseldorf I never usually go to. If you think that sounds great…I’m sorry to disappoint you. I am not here because I have a day off and chose to explore the city. I am here because I am supposed to see a specialist.

This is the third one for the same matter so I am already used to agreeing to appointments on any day at any time in any part of the city. Can I drop everything and come at half an hour’s notice? Of course I can.

But this time, that was not enough. There are two specialists for this in Düsseldorf. In all of Düsseldorf. That means two doctors for probably a million people (if you count the surroundings).The first one told me on the phone that she couldn’t give me an appointment before next year. „Um, okay, then I guess I will wait three months. Can you give me something in January?“ I asked ”No, I can’t give out appointments for 2019 before December first this year. You have to call again”. Because I deemed the risk of calling in two months and possibly being told the first appointment available is in March too high, I called my general practitioner. You can call her once a day between 12.30 and 1 pm and you spent 12:31 to 12:59 in the phone queue. I manage eating my lunch while having one ear on the phone. ”You have to literally go to the specialist at 8 before they open and ask them to give you an appointment. I know it’s kind of far to go there but if you stand right before them, chances are they won’t just send you away“. She also gave me a letter from her expressing the specialist should really really see me. (If you are at this point worried that I have a terminal illness – I don’t. Or at least I don’t think so.  A specialist would maybe know for sure.)

So I was gonna travel to the doctor’s office at dawn, armed with letters by two doctors, begging them to give me an appointment. What if they said no? Was I going to throw myself on the floor of the specialist’s practice and throw a tantrum? How do other people get an appointment? I am telling you, this never happens in Grey’s Anatomy and the U.S. health care system’s reputation is worse than the German’s.

This morning, I showed up. The friendly receptionist smiled. She looked at the doctors’ notes. ”You can come back at 2 p.m. We have a walk-in open hour then for new patients. You’ll have to be prepared to wait“. I nodded obidiently and rode the subway 30 minutes back.

I am lucky I have overtime hours to take out and work that I can take with me. It is only therefore I was able to leave work after lunch and head 30 minutes back to the doctor‘s. I was ten minutes early, I was proud. As I walked up to the house, I saw a queue. There must be some apartment viewing. Wow, times keep getting worse if more than 40 people wait to see an apartment in this kind of far off part of town, I thought.

As I came closer, I saw. German cities do not only have a constantly intensifying housing problem. We also seem to have a health care crisis. These 43 people in front of me were queuing for the walk-in at the doctor’s. At first, I was too flabbergasted to do anything but stare with wide eyes. Eventually, I took out my Kindle and started to read. It took me 25 minutes to get inside the practice. It took me an hour until they had registered me. That means I spent an hour in line before even getting an estimate on how long I would have to wait to see a doctor. 70 minutes after my arrival to the scene, the receptionist chirped, „You can go get some fresh air. There’s a nice cafe next door. Come back in 90 minutes“.

Rarely have I been so glad to have my Kindle with great books from the L.A. Public Library (thanks, Emily!) with me. Seldom have I appreciated being able to work remotely this much. Oh, and the café is nice. I would know, I’ve been here for a while. I wonder if the doctors get commission.




In the waiting room with Mr Müller-Pasquier

I am allowed moderate movement so I spend quite some time walking around my hood. Luckily, there are some amazing views.

I am allowed moderate movement so I spend quite some time walking around my hood. Luckily, there are some amazing views.

Thank God I am not a professional blogger  because if I was, I’d probably be fired by now given my update frequency. Or maybe I would simply been certified unfit for work which I, unfortunately, actually really am. You know, the spinal issues. It is really not a fun topic but since this blog is not a forum to depress people, I will focus on the lighter sides of not being able to carry things/bend/sit/sneeze.

I fill my days by making excessive use of the German health care system. (As I moved to Germany also because I deemed the Swedish health care to be flawed, it kind of makes sense.) You would not think how many different doctors you can be sent to see. The waiting rooms are crowded and we, the ones waiting, are starting to form a kind of community, we are starting to bond. Sometimes it feels like these are my new colleagues and the doctors are my new bosses, giving me orders.

I was at the orthopedist’s on Monday sharing the waiting room with Mr Müller-Pasquier, and on Wednesday, I met Mr Müller-Pasquier again in the waiting room of the MRI practice. It is not surprising but it shows both Mr Müller-Pasquier and I undergo comprehensive treatment. Mr Müller-Pasquier is around my age as well and probably also unfit for work since he can make appointments in the middle of the day. Sadly, Mr Müller-Pasquier does not frequent the same physiotherapist as me so we could not further deepen our relationship there. 

Another sign that I spend lots of time at doctors’ is that there is nothing new in the various waiting rooms’ magazines anymore. I’ve read it all. My knowledge about Kim Kardashian (whose existence I was barely aware of before) has expanded exponentially. I am also slowly figuring out which magazine is closest to my favorite Swedish journal and maybe German “Grazia” is some kind of equivalent. This is almost working because knowing the media landscape is very important in my job. Even so I feel like I have to bring my own books to the doctors now.

To make sure the resources laid on me come to the best possible use, I share them. (Not my medication because my neurologist said that I am not allowed to give my narcotics to anyone. If you, like me, are bewildered by this comment and believed no one would give prescription-only-meds to others, let me tell you: people apparently do, as my neurologist told me.) I share my new, deep knowledge on physiotherapy with, of course, Ingrid. She believes she has contracted back pains from me (yeah, right) so I taught her the exercises I was taught. Secondary benefits of health care resources!