Naming a child in Denmark

Here’s a weird post, but I figured I should leave a breadcrumb trail on the Internet for people who will be following in my path – if there are any, that is!  At the least, this is information that would have been useful to me before hand.

If you’re having a child in Denmark, the process by which you give your child and name, and subsequently have proof of said name is not obvious, unless you’re a Dane.

Contrary to what I expected, a child is given a CPR number as soon as they are born.  Within minutes of being born, in fact. This number roughly translates to the SIN or Social Security Numbers for North Americans, so I was expecting to have to apply for it, which is not the case.  In fact, the process is a little different in that the child is entered into the Danish system immediately, and the rest of the process is simply filling in the details in the computer.

The first thing you need to do is decide on a name, which isn’t as easy as it might sound.  First, the name you pick MUST be on the list of acceptable names for a child.  If it is unusual, foreign or otherwise novel to Denmark, you must apply to have the name recognized.  This does not apply to last names, however, just given names.  Fortunately, the name list is quite extensive, and any reasonably common name (and some that really aren’t) are already there.

[Edit: I forgot one thing – the usage of names in Denmark is different from North American in an odd way – middle names, here, are not the same – at least, they are not analogous.  In the end, despite trying to convince me to use the Danish convention where “middle names” are maternal last names or something similar, neither I or tr woman at the church office felt strongly enough about it to change what I’d already entered into the computer.]

Once you’ve selected the name, you can head over to https://www.personregistrering.dk/, where you must log in using the mother’s identification.  (If you’re not in Denmark, you won’t be familiar with the system, but it involves using your CPR number, a password and a disposable key card with ~200 key/response pairs.  It’s quite a neat system, really.)  The mother can then enter the name of the child into the system. At this point, the computer then will Email the father and require that the father log in (using the his own CPR number, password and key card) and confirm the name in the system.

However, this is where it starts to become interesting.  If you will be christening the child, you’re more or less done the process at this point, and you can head over to your local church to finish the process.   If you won’t be christening the child, you’re more or less done as well – unless you’d like a birth certificate – in which case, the process is a little more involved.

What you need to do, at this point, is to figure out which parish you live in.  In my case, I went to city hall, and told them I wanted a birth certificate for my child, and they said “Go Here” and handed me a piece of paper with an address.  That address (Vestregade 21) turned out to be a church run office, where I had to figure out that I needed to enter through the front door, walk up a flight of stairs, and through a sitting room to find a woman who is in charge of church registrations.

What you then find out is that the church waits exactly 15 days after the child is born to enter the baby’s name into the system from the information in personregistrering database manually from a printed out copy.  Once it’s in the church system, they can simply print off a sheet of watermarked paper with the information on it – in both English and Danish, if you ask politely.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t contain the basic information on “where the child was born”, simply in which parish they’ve been registered, which took me by surprise.  In any case, at this point, you will have the equivalent of a birth certificate for your child – which, if you can read the Danish, you will find out is actually a certificate that you have registered the name to the child, not that the child was born.

And there you have it, now you know how to name a baby in Denmark!

Contentment

It’s always easier to blog when you’re upset about something than when you’re feeling content.  Content isn’t a strong emotion that motivates people to get out of their chair and write something, but today, I feel content enough that I wanted to share it.  That’s a huge change from the past 6 months.

Yes, the arrival of my daughter has something to do with it – she’s already impressed me with her wonderful personality – and she’s not even two weeks old yet.  As a father, I couldn’t be any happier.

But, it’s not just that.  A LOT of my complaints about our relocation to denmark have been solved.  Not all of them, but enough of them.  Relocating to a house that suits us has made a massive impact on our quality of life, and is probably most responsible for the change.  We’re close enough to the city that I was able to bike out to get take-out dinner from a Thai restaurant – and the Pad Thai was awesome. (Thanks to a colleague for the recommendation!)  The day before, I was able to bike out to our favorite bakery and pick up some great bread.  Little things like this were impossible from our last house and it’s amazing how much of a change it is to be able to run errands without a 45 minute bus ride into town.

Additionally, the weather in Denmark suddenly “snapped” into summer mode a few days ago.  From the dismal highs of 12C and blustery winds, to suddenly becoming 20C with a wonderful gentle breeze, the weather is gorgeous by any standard.  And the long summer days stretch late into the evening, and start early in the morning.  The 4:30am diaper change this morning was done without turning on the lights, as the sky was already bright enough to illuminate the room. Truly, Danish summers are shaping up to be glorious.

And finally, after about 6 months, I’m starting to understand the language around me.  I was able to listen to a few minutes of news and grasp the point of the discussion (Aarhus had to buy bigger ambulances because the patients they’re transporting are too fat…)  – a new high point in my life in Denmark.  I’m also able to read emails and I’ve begun to read the local weekly newspaper.  I use my phone to translate a lot of words, but I’m learning and I can make sense out of things.  I no longer dread walking into stores and not understanding anything, and having even a basic comprehension feels like a huge weight off my back.

So, there you have it.  Nearly 6 months in, and suddenly, Denmark isn’t so bad after all.

On the bright side, I think I’ve learned a lot about myself – about being more aggressive in going after what I want and need, about not making assumptions, about being more understanding of those who have the courage to move to a new country.  This has been a valuable lesson for me in so many ways, and has probably helped shape me into a better person, which is worth some amount of pain.  Now, the goal is to build off of it and use this to become a more productive person.

It’s a bit late for a new years resolution, but I’m not going to bask in my contentment today – I have things to do.  Blogging it was just the first on my list.

One more Fejes!

Well, she’s half a Fejes, anyhow!

If people are wondering why Fejes.ca has been way off topic for so long, a good part of it has been that I’ve been pretty preoccupied with getting ready to expand the family.  This week, we’ve welcomed our daughter Amelia into the world – and she’s a cutie! She’s already let us know her favorites are: sleeping, eating, having her fingers played with and long walks in a bassinet.

However, because I’ve been blogging all about our experiences in Denmark, I thought I should share a few of the surprising events we discovered for those ex-pats who might be having a child in Denmark.  If you’re not interested, I suggest you stop reading here.

First off, the whole thing went well – Overall, it was a pleasant experience and the hospital staff was always supportive.  And, we only met one person who didn’t understand English – a member of the cleaning staff.  People always went out of their way to be helpful, regardless of what else was going on.

The biggest issue we had was communication, however.  Like every other experience in Denmark, people feel awkward communicating in English, so they rarely go out of their way to explain what will happen, or what should happen.  Thus, I spent a lot of time “taking control” of the situation by asking questions – constantly.  I often had to pin down a nurse and say “Why are you doing this, and what do you expect to happen?”  Once I realized that the only way to make sense of things was to insist the staff take the time to explain things, our experience became infinitely better.

Also, learning a few words of Danish made all the difference.  Staff frequently spoke to each other around us in Danish, and just being able to figure out what they were talking about in vague terms was sufficient to make me feel a bit more part of the process.  Considering I only recognize a couple hundred words in spoken Danish, it’s not like I could have communicated – but knowing the words for simple concepts (like nurse, newborn, mother, father, etc) was a great big help in not feeling so isolated.

Beyond communication, there were a few other surprises.  We had attended a class on childbirth education in English, where they explained what we should expect during labour.  The first thing that they explained was that the process would be nothing like the movies, where the mother’s water breaks, then the rush to the hospital, followed by a lot of drama.  Actually, it was EXACTLY like in the movies – including the speeding cab ride at 1:30am.  The biggest difference was the final stage of labour, where there were only 3 of us in the delivery room – including the midwife who was shy about speaking English. That left me to do all of the coaching and communicating – a task I was utterly unprepared for, and had to learn “on the job”.  My wife was very patient about it, all things considered.

We did have a few communication breakdowns as well – such as the discharge from the maternity ward to the patient hospital.  The midwife sent us away too soon, before the IV port was removed from my wife’s hand and before they had checked to see if my wife was ok. (She wasn’t.)  They sent us to the patient hospital, where we sat for a few minutes, before a nurse discovered us and realized we’d been sent to the wrong place.  While she did identify the problem, her solution was to have us walk to another ward – about 400m away,  (a 12 minute walk in my wife’s condition) where it was discovered that my wife wasn’t doing well. She wasn’t supposed to have been walking and she shouldn’t have been allowed to walk that far so soon after delivering a child.  After completing all the checks and finally having been treated for pain, swelling and completely crashed blood pressure – 4 hours later – we were allowed to return to the patient hospital by shuttle.

Once in the patient hotel, we were provided with pamphlets (in Danish), brochures (in Danish) and a kind nurse tried to accomodate us by passing some of the information on the web through google translate. ( It was completely unreadable.)  Despite being friendly, the information wasn’t particularly forthcoming, and we failed to understand the purpose of the hotel, which turned out to be nothing more than a space in which families can relax, the mother can learn how to breastfeed and to make sure that the parents have some indication of what they’re supposed to do with a child before leaving the hospital.  It wasn’t until I asked on the second day that they explained it to us – and that we discovered those are the criteria that you must fulfil before they let you go home.

In any case, the nurses were incredibly helpful and came immediately upon request.  They were surprisingly non-challant about the child’s health, however, claiming that weighing the baby should only be done if they think there may be a serious problem with feeding – because all babies lose weight the first day, and it is too “depressing” for the mother. (They weighed our daughter in the evening on the second day, anyhow)  A healthy baby will only ever be “eyeballed” by the nurses to make sure that they’re doing well.

Fortunately, my ability to read Danish has improved by leaps and bounds since we arrived, so I started reading through what I could in the brochures.  By about the 28 hour point, however, the lack of information was overwhelming and frustrating., and I ended up compiling a full page of questions that hadn’t been addressed, such as

  • Am I going to have to pay for staying here with my wife? (Yes, and meals are extra for the father.)
  • Is there an internet password that we can use for the wifi (Yes, but only if you specifically ask for it.)
  • How do we get a birth certificate for our child  (no one knew, but I found it later online, through borger.dk)
  • Can you give us the information on how to care for your child that you provide to Danish speakers in the course offered in the afternoons, to which we weren’t invited? (Yes!)

and so on and so forth.  It was much like playing 20-questions, however, as you might miss something by asking a question that was close, but insufficiently accurate.

For the first 24 hours, our best lifeline to information was our smartphones – and thank goodness for them!  Email, Google searches and advice all in English.  Without it, we would have been lost and uncertain about a lot of the little trivial things that we didn’t know, and that no one had volunteered. (For instance, letting a newborn baby suck on your thumb is a bad idea, because the child is supposed to be learning how to breast feed and it will develop bad habits if the thumb is offered – no soothers for 2 weeks!  Who knew?)  Once we became much more aggressive about demading information, our stress level dropped considerably, and things became quite a bit easier to deal with.

The other fascinating thing about the patient hotel was the room we were put into, which was on the edge of a rennovation zone for the hotel.  At times, there was a backhoe that was litterally 3 inches from our window, moving dirt, breaking up concrete and separating metal from the construction debris… and despite that, we managed to rest, learn to breastfeed  (well, I didn’t do much on that front personally) and stay comfortable for 48 hours.

 Anyhow, that’s just a summary of what went down. My wife and I have already spent an hour passing along the details to a friend of ours who’s expecting a child imminently, with the hope she’ll be able to put some of the information to good use. Hopefully the above will be useful to other people as well.   If you would like more information or details, as usual, feel free to send me an email or leave a comment.

Masterchef Australia 2011

This is going to be a rather off beat post, as if the whole last year wasn’t off beat enough for my blog.

Since moving to Denmark, there’s been one thing that’s been constant the whole time: Every night except Saturday, at 7pm (19:00 for the Europeans), MasterChef Australia 2011 has been on. We’ve watched the entire season, and other than maybe the first week, the only episodes I’ve missed were when I went back to Vancouver to defend my thesis and one or two nights when we visited with friends.  That’s probably a good hundred or shows that we’ve watched.

From MasterChef, I’ve dutifully read the Danish subtitles and “reverse-engineered” enough Danish to be able to read the written language.  Everything I’ve bought at the grocery store has been enabled by the words for food I’ve worked out from the tv show.  Additionally, I’ve followed the contestants and learned and tried new recipes from the show.  We even adjusted our dinner time to match the time slot for MasterChef, so that we could make it a part of our evening.

It has been one of the few scheduled items of our life in Denmark.

I’m sad that it is now over.  Even more so, I’m depressed that it’s being replaced by “Backstage with Oprah Winfrey” or whatever it’s called.   I’m *really* not a big Oprah fan.

So, as strange as this is, thank you Master Chef.  Thanks for teaching me Danish.  Thanks for entertaining me for nearly five months, and thanks for all the recipes.  I’m going to miss you, and my evenings won’t be the same anymore.

Pictures of Aarhus in March

I’ve been slacking in blogging for a while, for good reason.  February was the “hump” month for us.  We hit several major crises all at the same time, but the past week has been a very sudden reversal for us, as things have started to get sorted out, both financially and with respect to our living situation – and of course, now that I finally have some resolution on my thesis defense.  I’ll admit, for a while, we were seriously ready to toss in the towel and head back to Canada on the next flight, but I’m pretty sure we’ll pull through.  We’ve been looking at moving to a new house, which will cut our expenses dramatically while moving us out of the suburbs.  (NEVER move to a suburb if you don’t have a car!)  Suddenly, our outlook on life in Aarhus has improved dramatically!

Anyhow, with things looking up, I thought I’d share a few pictures from my phone.  Some of them are terrible – but they give you some insight into our world.  I haven’t yet pulled out my real camera, but as soon as the temperatures warm up a bit more, I’ll get around to it.

The first is the view in the morning from the bus stop, taken back at the start of February, when the sun was just rising when I left the house at 7:45am.  At this point, I’ve got my bike in working order (for the most part), and the sun is up by 7am.  Not that every day is sunny, but all the snow is gone, and I’m not really out of the house to see sunrises anymore.

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The second is a bottle of ginger ale.  You don’t know what you’ll miss till it’s gone – and after three months of searching, we came across this bottle in Germany during a weekend trip with my parents – and we’ve now found a source closer to home.

Apparently, ginger ale is American, here.  (And I’ll my life, I’ve been drinking Canada Dry…)

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Last weekend, we went for the opening day of the Paradis ice cream shop. (A play on words, as “is” is the danish word for ice cream.  We stood in line in temperatures hovering around 4C, with a 30km/h wind for about an hour to get two scoops of ice cream in a bowl.  It was worth it.  Danes seem to know what they’re doing when it comes to ice cream.  It was so good, I forgot to take a picture till we were down to the bottom of the scoop.

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And this is the line – it never really shrunk as it just stayed the same size the whole afternoon.

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You might find this odd, but this is the parking lot at the grocery store.  Danes seem to be in love with paving stones – and I thought it was a nice “texture” picture.

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We were at the grocery store on one of the warmest days of the year  – it went up to 14C, and the whole city seemed to be breaking out of it’s shell.  In fact, the warm temperatures were supposed to end today, going back to the freezing point again, but somehow, they’ve stuck around.

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At home, the “death ray” has repeatedly sucked us all in to taking naps in the sun.  The dog even warmed up enough to start panting in the sun.  Fortunately, with the warm weather, we’ve been able to turn off the heat in the house, and let the sun warm it up.  I really hope our hot water bill goes down a bit.

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And this is lunch at Ikea.  the $1 hot dog is in the front, and the $2 hot dog is at the back.  Frankly, I don’t get either.  The bun on the first one is about half the size of a regular North American bun, and the hot dog is long, skinny and doesn’t even fit in it.  Condiments are limited, comprising two types of mustard and one type of ketchup.  The more expensive hot dog is actually made up of a bun with the end cut off, and a circular hole in it, inexplicably called a “French hot dog”,  which enables you to fill the cavity with ketchup before putting the thin tube of meat into it.  What you end up with is kind of like a “pig in a blanket”, except the ketchup gathers into a pool at the bottom making it soggy and inedible.   Frankly, I don’t think I’ll trust a Swedish company in Denmark with French food anymore…

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Our current house is situated at one of the higher points of the city – which makes for a long bike ride home from work, but some nice views.  I took this while taking the dog out for a stroll.  Yes, we really do live within 3 minutes of a forest and a farm.

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This morning, we decided to go have lunch out. (Dinners here are way to expensive, so once a week, we try to do something out of the house.)  We ended up splurging at Emery’s, for our first real lunch out in nearly two months (excepting the misadventure at the pub with my parents, of course.)  They have a relatively expensive brunch special, which comes with a bread buffet, some meat and cheese and sauces.  I’m sure we didn’t look at all like Danes eating it, but it hey, no one called the cops on us. The people next to us used their hands too, instead of the usual Danish fetish for cutlery, and they didn’t seem to be Canadian.  Either way, they make a wicked hot chocolate.

For the record, the brunch is overpriced on weekends – it’s cheaper on weekdays, and the charcuterie platter seems to be similar, but slightly cheaper on the weekends. (-;

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After lunch, we spent part of the afternoon walking around in the cobbled streets, checking things out.

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Well, there you are – a quick snapshot of our life in Denmark, with a few of the highs, this time!  I promise that if the weather turns a bit nicer, I’ll pull out the real camera and get some decent pictures for next time.

Stuff is here!

I’m taking a ten minute break to take our laundry out to the clothes dryers, as we don’t have one in our house.  My parents are visiting tomorrow, and we’ve shuffled beds around, now that ours is here. (European and North American bed sheets are not interchangeable. FYI)

Anyhow, the delivery was quick, and our stuff seems to have arrived unbroken, although the packing seems pretty haphazard.  I don’t understand why.some things were packed together, but that’s now a 2 month old mystery.

The other surprise is.some of the things that did get packed – clearly things we forgot to recycle before leaving.  A plastic yogurt jar lid, a stack of aluminum pie tin I used for BBQing.  Fascinating artifacts from our live in Vancouver.

Anyhow, with the weather being so cold, the sun has at least come our, making Denmark quite pretty…  Not a bad day all in all – and its only noon!

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DIY weather forcasting in Denmark

After two months, I pretty much have this figured out.  When you look out the window in the morning, you can work out what the weather will be with a few simple metrics:

If the sky is clear, you can expect strong winds from the west, and that star gazing will be pretty good.  You can’t really expect clear skies during the day.  Once the sun come up, the clouds will come back.

If the clouds are moving rapidly from the West, expect mild temperatures and rain.  Probably strong winds (45km/h) will accompany it.

If the clouds are moving rapidly from the East, expect cold and dry weather, probably snow and freezing temps, along with strong winds.  Definitely winter-like weather.

If the clouds aren’t moving rapidly in any direction, you’re probably not in Denmark.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my stuff is here from Canada!

Visiting Germany

I was fortunate to have been able to tag along with some good friends from work yesterday to do some shopping in Germany.  We spent the day in Flensburg, a reasonably small border town, where all of the goods are about 1/2 the price they’d be in Denmark.  Not a bad way to spend a day – and, equally important, we were able to find a lot of simple stuff that you just can’t find in Denmark (e.g. corn meal, cheap condiments, salad dressings, etc.)

Anyhow, I thought I’d share some pictures, ’cause Flensburg is pretty cute.

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The main pedestrian shopping area.

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A cute store, selling liquors, spirits, oils and other liquids in “bulk”.

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A hurdy-gurdy player (they still exist!) who cranked out a version of Mac the Knife.

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The docks, with a bit of snow.

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And yes, I even had my hair cut while we were there, which was an experience in itself. They started by asking if I’d like a wash, whether I’d like them to use scissors or a trimmer and which blades I’d like them to use on the trimmer.  I believe the translation my friend gave was “He doesn’t know – just be creative!”.

In the end, my haircut didn’t turn out too badly.

Danish Health Care Adventures.

So, I think my family and colleagues already know about events this weekend, so I’ll post a bit of a summary.  If you didn’t know, then you can find out below, although the purpose of this blog is really to give a summary of my interaction with the Danish Health Care System so far, for those who may be considering moving here.  Thus, I’m writing it to cover our interactions over the past two months – not just this weekend.  But you can skip on below, if you’re just interested in that part of the tale.

First, for those who don’t know, my wife and I are expecting a child in May – and so we’ve already had a few opportunities to learn how health care works here.  It’s not better or worse than what we’ve left behind in Canada – it’s just different.  Americans will probably freak out when they hear about it, but for Canadians, there are a lot of similarities and a lot of very subtle differences.

My wife has had the pleasure of meeting health care professionals already in several capacities, and her appointment with the ultrasound clinic stands out vividly for me.  The first ultrasound at about 8 weeks was done in Vancouver, done in a private health clinic.  The Canadian health care system paid for the visit, but the clinic was still private – and was plastered with adds for having a 3D ultrasound done in order to get a better picture of your child.  The appointments were fast, the technician highly competent and the results were given quickly.  If you ignored the brochures, you wouldn’t have known you were in a private clinic.

In contrast, the 20th week ultrasound was done in Denmark, at a hospital near our house.  Oddly enough, we were given two separate appointments – one on a Friday, and one the following Monday.  Unable to determine why we we had two appointments, but repeatedly told both were necessary, we simply went to the hospital when we were told to be there.

We walked over (as we walk just about everywhere), and got lost in the sprawling but nearly empty hospital.  Once we found our way to the ultra sound clinic, we swiped a card to notify them that we were there and then sat in the waiting room till the appointed time, when the technician showed up in the doorway and called my wife’s name.  They asked if we spoke Danish (we didn’t) and then were relieved to discover that we spoke English.  (The alternatives would have been difficult, I’m sure.  My French is highly rusty, and I doubt they know any Mandarin.)

Once in the room, we were told that a pre-natal heart specialist would join us, if he could – and, slightly more than halfway into the hour, he joined us and worked with the technologist to do a very throughout investigation to rule out any possible heart defects.  Apparently, having taken my wife’s history, they had flagged the need for a specialist and made the second appointment for the following week – but then had discovered that the heart specialist would be available at the time of the first appointment and amalgamated the two appointments.

In Canada, it’s unlikely that the specialist would have been involved, or that all of the components of the health care system would have been synchronized appropriately to blend, reschedule and coordinate specialists and technicians for our convenience.

To say the very least, we were very impressed with the efficiency of the Danish health care system in this respect.  (And, also to have been reassured that the baby is looking healthy from all angles!) Appointments continue to be scheduled for my wife with great efficiency via letters that frequently appear in the post.  Alas, they’re all in Danish, but we’re becoming more adept at reading them with the help of google translate. (Google translate employees, if you’re reading, we owe you big time, not the least of which for helping us learn Danish quickly!)

With that in mind, the events this weekend were a challenge to the health care system from a completely different direction.

Last Tuesday, I started to get sick – my voice dropped down into the range of David Attenborough’s, and the tissues/kleenex began to sprout in big piles.  Unfortunately, I started a business trip on Wednesday last week to Holland.  I won’t cover that in any detail except to say that by Friday, I was coughing quite a bit.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to say much during the meetings, but I’m sure I seemed unusually quiet and reserved.  (or sniffly, depending on the meeting.)

By Friday evening, I was at home and my cough worsened – probably due to the flying and cold air on the way home.  By Saturday, my cold had gotten a lot worse, and with the rainy weather, my wife and I canceled our plans for walking around downtown.  Saturday evening, the pain set it.

I’m no stranger to chest pain – I’m a tall and thin male, prone to spontaneous pneumothoraxes.  That’s when little weak spots develop on the lung, which can spontaneously burst, letting air fill the space between the lung and the chest wall.  Normally, that space is empty, which causes the lung to inflate as the chest wall swells, and to deflate as it contracts again. Hence, inhaling and exhaling as your chest moves.  With air in that space, the lungs are constricted, and it can be hard to breath in and out.  Normal causes in people who aren’t tall, thin males include gunshot wounds, being stabbed with a knife and broken ribs puncturing the chest wall.

Fortunately, I haven’t had any of the latter, but with a history of collapsed lungs, I have had a staple installed to hold up  my right lung so that it doesn’t collapse on me.  I don’t notice it anymore, and if my lung does anything stupid, it usually fixes itself quickly.  When a sharp pain started in my chest – in response to a LOT of coughing – I just assumed that’s what it was.  Another collapsed lung that would just pass in a bit.  Unfortunately, it didn’t.

It hurt to lie down, but like a collapsed lung, hurt when breathing in and out and changing positions was like having a knife shoved into my back.  It hurt a lot – but nothing I couldn’t handle, I though.

Sunday morning was a disaster, though.

I sat up slowly from bed and the pain was immense.  My wife asked if we should go to the hospital, and I said no, I’d be fine if she give me a minute.

Then I started to feel faint – and I changed my mind.  We should go to the hospital, I said… and then I blacked out.

Coming out of the blackout was strange.  I couldn’t feel anything – I couldn’t tell if I was breathing (I thought I wasn’t)… and it took a while before I could open my eyes… and even longer before I could hear again, and then another few seconds before I could control my limbs.  Apparently, I was thrashing around for a while, while trying to regain feeling.  I must have looked like I was a goner.

The scary part was that she didn’t yet know the emergency phone number (112 in Denmark) and couldn’t reach any of our friends.  She had to wait helplessly for me to regain consciousness before I could remember the emergency number from the welcome to Denmark package we were given. (Thank goodness for that package!) and was able to contact a nurse.  Here, you’ll see the differences between the Canadian and Danish systems.

First they asked if I was still awake and to see if I was likely to fall unconscious again, and when they determined I wasn’t about to die, we were asked if we could get to the hospital ourselves (No, we don’t have a car), then told that a doctor would be sent within the next 2 hours.  In about 10 minutes, the doctor arrived.  She quickly checked to see what the problem was and to ensure I’d live.  Once my life was clearly determined not to be in danger, she placed a call for an ambulance to pick me up.  Again, we were told the ambulance would be there in the next two hours. The only question I was asked that wasn’t directly medical was when they asked for my CPR number (Danish identification number) on the phone – equally likely to find my medical history as for billing, however.

15 minutes later, an ambulance crew arrived at the door with a gurney.

I was able to walk to the ambulance and felt comfortable sitting in one of the jump seats in the back.  The guy in the back with me kept me talking (in English) all the way, clearly making sure I didn’t fall unconscious again, and even gave me oxygen.  Unfortunately, the guy in the front of the Ambulance, where my wife was riding, didn’t speak English, so the front was a lot quieter than the back.  I have to say, though, that the driver was fantastic – I could feel every bump with a sharp chest pain – and it was one of the smoothest car rides I’ve ever taken.

Within a few minutes, we arrived at the hospital downtown from which we were redirected to another hospital downtown.  (All this, despite the fact we live a 3 minute ride from yet another hospital.) In any case, after a second ambulance ride, we arrived at the correct destination, where we said thanks to the ambulance crew and were ushered into a room with two beds.  For most of the day, the second bed stayed empty, giving us an almost private room. (When it was occupied, it was by a smoker, who kept going outside for nicotine fixes… which didn’t really help, but nothing I could do about that.)

With a few minutes, I was taken for a chest X-ray, and shortly after that, the nurse came to see us and let us know (in rather halting, but understandable English) that the doctor would check out the x-ray and blood would be taken shortly.  At this point, I was feeling better, but in a lot of pain – that is, I was clearly in stable condition and in good hands.

The biggest visual difference between the Danish heath care system and the Canadian health care system is the uniforms.  At the risk of offending people, lets just say that the doctors uniforms are vaguely reminiscent of an outfit that would fit well in a Village People’s video.  Tight fitting shirts and pants in white, with a fitted lab coat.  It is the anti-thesis of scrubs.  In contrast, the hospital itself was quite spacious, plenty of room and well maintained.  It didn’t have the same underfunded/understaffed feel of typical urban Canadian hospitals.

In any case, we had a great doctor who spoke quite decent English. He explained that the condition was not my lung at all (a giant shock to me.) and that it was probably an inflammation of the membrane around the heart.  The symptoms all fit, and the chest x-ray showed absolutely nothing going on in the lungs at all, as confirmed by a radiologist.  At this point, I must have dropped way down the priority list, as long waiting periods crept in.

We were offered some food (meats and sauces on open faced sandwiches – a typical Danish meal), and then a colleague from work came by to check on us.  She cheered us up, helped ask some questions for us and made the day go by much more quickly.  Later on, she even helped by walking our dog!  Apparently, she also told everyone we knew as well – which wasn’t a problem, but a surprise.  It led to a lot of offers of help from a lot of people, some of whom I barely know.  A fantastic show of support from my Danish (and non-Danish) colleagues for which I’m very thankful!  (I won’t drag any of them into the blog, though, without their permission.)

Although the time between contacts then slowed down, throughout the afternoon, I was given an EKG, which found some slight disturbances in the force…  (electromagenitic force, that is.)  My heart then became the key suspect.

Further blood tests would be done on the blood taken earlier in the day and an ultrasound of my heart was scheduled, which brought in a second doctor, who’s name was Tor.  (He said it like Thor, tho…  and who hasn’t wanted to be treated by a doctor named Thor?  Seriously, I doubt there’s a single doctor in the entire Canadian system named after a Norse god.)

The ultrasound was unfortunately inconclusive and we were told we’d have to wait about an hour for the blood test.  One hour turned into two, and the blood work itself was inconclusive as well.  However, the doctor was relatively certain of the diagnosis of paracaditis, for which the treatment is anti-inflamatory medication and painkillers:  aka, ibuprofin. I was let go with a day’s worth of medication, orders to fill a prescription at the pharmacy and with a strong suggestion that I get some rest.

So, here I am, two days later, feeling a lot better, but still on some mandatory down time.  The cough is going away, helped by some over the counter throat lozenges, and the pain is masked and relieved by ibuprofin.

The only interesting addenda to this adventure is that I was told that anything a doctor prescribes in this country is free – anything you chose to do on your own is self-paid. That’s not quite true – I don’t know the full cost of the pills I was prescribed, but I did pay about $6 (31 dkk) for them.  If that was a dispensing fee, it wasn’t explained to me.

Finally, the drug stores here are also interesting: the doctor won’t give you a prescription to take there – instead it’s entered into the computer system, which the pharmacist can then verify when you provide your CPR number.

Slightly stranger, the pharmacy to which I went wasn’t actually a pharmacy – it’s an outpost of a pharmacy.  When you go in, they place the order at the other store, and have someone bring it over a couple of times a day.  So, the first trip over is just to tell them you’ll be using them to get the drugs and the second visit is to pick up the drugs and pay for them.

As it happens, the woman at the pharmacy was very interested in learning English and Spanish and made me practice my danish pronunciation when picking up the pills – as well as advice that I should learn spanish and go on vacation there… (-:

That said, it’s been a couple of hectic days.  I’ve come to respect the Danish health care system and it’s staff – and I’m glad I took the time to ask a lot of questions over the past week.  Without some of the basic information, the whole process would have been a lot more scary than it was.  And, word to the wise, learn the emergency code in every country you travel! You never know when you might need it.

Finally, in case anyone is worried, I really am doing better, and I don’t think anything in this whole misadventure was life threatening.  The treatment was swift and efficient and I’m sure I’ll be back at work shortly.  I have lots to do, and I’m very eager to get back to it.

 

Pictures of January in Aarhus

Life isn’t all doom and gloom in Denmark, although you might have thought so with some of my earlier posts.  That said, there are still things that are challenges to overcome.  Fortunately, it’s great to have a few friends around who have helped out quited a bit – and I’ve received some support lately that’s helping out quite a bit.

I thought I’d share a few pictures I’ve taken this past week.  Yes, they were taken with my phone, so they’re not great, and I even find composition difficult compared to my usual camera.  Fortunately, I expect our stuff will be arriving in a week or so.  I CAN’T WAIT!!!!!

First picture:  We had a gloriously sunny day on Saturday, so we took some time to go downtown and find the market.  Admittedly, produce available in Denmark in January is limited, but there were a few things out.

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Next, My cat has found the empty rooms in our house endlessly fascinating.  Here he is checking out the back yard.  Normally the doors to the extra 3 rooms are shut, but occasionally I let him in for the entertainment factor.

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Then there are sunsets.  Although they happen around 4:30, they can be pretty when the clouds don’t obscure it all.

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And one more.  Looking across the back yard.

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There you have it – a quick glimpse of Denmark.   Hopefully the quality of the photography will improve drastically once my camera arrives!