Experience with the German Healthcare System

First things first, I am okay! No need to worry about anything! I was well taken care of at the hospital! So here’s the story:

On Friday November 16th, some friends and I cooked dinner together. However, I wasn’t able to actually enjoy the dinner because something got stuck in my esophagus. It didn’t effect my breathing only my ability to swallow. Now, this had happened to me before and it only took a matter of hours before the piece of stuck meat would go away. So, I just went home and relaxed all day on Saturday. However, by saturday night it still wasn’t gone and I was starting to be concerned. I didn’t want to go the doctor. For some reason, it really scared me to deal with it all in German. My mom suddenly wanted to Skype with me and I told her what was going on and then of course I was more concerned and she made me promise to go to the doctor. So through my mentor teacher and my roommate, I figured out the place to go on Sunday morning. I also did some homework on how to say certain things. I even wrote some of them down for reference.

One of the other ETAs in Mainz, Katherine, came with me to the hospital. I was relieved to have someone with me. At this point, it was really uncomfortable and I was rather dehydrated. After finally finding the right building, we had to wait a little under 2 hours till we saw a doctor. Finally, I was able to see the doctor and I managed to describe all my symptoms in German. Actually, it surprised me that the whole appointment was completed in German, not once did the staff switch to English. Anyways, I ended up having to show the doctor what happened when I swallowed water and then he understood. He tried looking through this thing that went through my nose and down my throat but it wasn’t long enough. So, he hooked me up to an IV and then talked about the options. He said it looked like I need to have surgery to get it removed.

With my IV and all, we walked upstairs to a hospital room. They gave me some  medicine to try help relax my muscles. Then, another doctor came and said he wanted to try using this other method that wouldn’t require surgery. So we tried it, but it required sticking a thick tube up my nose and down my throat. My gag reflex kicked in and they weren’t able to do it. Within 15 mins, I was being wheeled into surgery. It was a bit crazy how fast it all happened. The last thing I remember thinking: “I can’t wait for a big glass of water!”

The first thing I saw when I woke up was a sign that said: “JA! Ich lebe noch!” (in English: “Yes! I am alive!”). It was a bit funny to read that right when you wake up from surgery. In the recovery area, I was pretty much by myself for about 30 mins while they made sure everything went well. I drifted between sleep and consciousness for a while. The nurse showed me a little container with the pieces of chicken they took out.  Finally, the nurses came to get me and wheeled me back to my room. Katherine and another ETA, Austin were there waiting for me. It was so great to see their smiling faces!

The doctors kept me overnight to make sure nothing went wrong with the surgery. Katherine was amazing and she went to my apartment to get me pajamas, toiletries and other necessities. She even attempted to contact my mom to update her on the situation. I was able to drink some hot tea and water, but they wanted to wait for a while till I ate anything. However, I finally was able to eat some vanilla pudding! It felt so great to be able to drink and eat without any problem! The doctors came to check on me and said that the chicken was far down my esophagus, almost to my stomach. Other than that, he said everything went really well!

Finally, I was able to eat dinner which consisted of yogurt and bread. It was probably best to eat soft things. After dinner, we watched “She’s the Man”, one of my favorite movies!! Austin had never seen it, so we forced him to watch it! haha Around 10 pm, Katherine and Austin left. I watched a little bit of TV and then fell asleep. Surprisingly, I wasn’t disturbed too much during the night.

In the morning, the doctor came to visit to release me. Since everything went well, he said I was able to go home. I just had to take care of some paperwork things and then I was able to go home. After being super confused for a while, I finally figured out where to go. Luckily, the lady was able to speak English and she told me everything I needed to do. I didn’t have to pay anything up front and the insurance should cover all of it. Once I was done with all the admin stuff, Katherine arrived to go home with me. We went back to my place and just relaxed all day…Austin joined us later too.

The whole experience taught me a couple of things:

  • Eat slower and chew my food carefully
  • My German isn’t as bad as I think
  • I have some amazing friends and support here
  • I’m lucky to be in a place with excellent health care

All in all, I was thankful for this experience. It was a bit tough not having my family by my side, but I still was surrounded by love and support. I’m forever grateful for Austin and Katherine. They’re my little angels in Mainz! 🙂

Its been a week and I’m feeling much better! Everything has gone well and I’m now the slowest eater! Please just keep me in your prayers that this doesn’t happen again!

Here are a few pictures from the experience:

My lovely hospital room!
Photo Credit: Austin

The chicken pieces that were in esophagus

 

My view in the morning!

 

In Loving Memory of Urs Schneider

In Loving Memory of Urs Schneider

I distinctly remember the December day I got a phone call from my host family about the death of my host father, Urs. I was already at home from college for the Christmas Break. It was such a weird phone call to get because it was quite unexpected. He had died of heart attack while skiing in the Swiss Alps. The news saddened me greatly, but I don’t think it ever really materialized for me. In my head, I knew that he was dead, but somehow it wasn’t quite real for me. Urs played such a big role in my success in Switzerland. From the very beginning, he was very helpful and understanding. He was such a lovable guy and had contagious zest for life.

As I was in the train to Switzerland, I couldn’t help but think about him and everything he taught me. I knew this trip would be hard for me because his death would become real for me. However, it was much easier than I expected and quite relieving. On Saturday, Erika and I were able to have some good conversations about Urs and his death. She said that she knew he was gone while they were on the mountain. She knew he already died and she was somewhat at peace with it because he had died while doing what he loves, skiing. Plus, he didn’t have to suffer for a long time. I couldn’t agree with Erika more. Somehow it seemed to fit that he died in the Alps because he loved being in the mountains whether he was skiing or hiking. At first, I was weary to bring up Urs, but Erika was more than willing to talk about him. She said she lives with his absence everyday and its nice to be able to talk about it with someone. That makes her sound depressing and I don’t think she is at all. She seems to be doing really well and it lifted my spirits to see her happy. Her and Urs had such a loving relationship. They were like two peas in a pod, perfect for each other. I hope to have such a long lasting and successful relationship like theirs.

Erika and Urs at my presentation for Rotary

I would like to share this little note that I’ve written Urs:

Dearest Urs, 

Thank you so much for all you’ve taught. You’re zest for life was contagious and I couldn’t help catching it while I was living with y’all. You showed me the importance of life: to love no matter what. I will always cherish the moments we were able to spend together. I will never forget your amazing talent on the piano. I always loved hearing your music throughout the house. Whenever I see a grand clock, I will always be reminded of you. I will also never forget the moment I helped you bring a baby calf into this world. All in all, thank you so much for being an amazing host dad! I hope you’re up in the sky enjoying the best view of the mountains! 

Much love! 

Amarette 

On top of a mountain on one of my first hikes

Reflection from a Wonderful Weekend in Switzerland

So…I originally wrote this part of the series while I was on the train, but then decided the reflection part should come after the what happened part. So here’s a reflection of my weekend:

Familiar sounds, smells, tastes, sights and faces=all things I didn’t realize I needed. As I am writing this, I am sitting on a Swiss train on my way back to Germany. I am overwhelmed by a feeling of nostalgia because I talked to 3 current Rotary exchange students in the train station in Bern. One of them was wearing the infamous jacket (click here and here if you have no idea what i am talking about) so i went up to them and talked with them for a few mins. They had to leave abruptly to catch their train, but it seemed to fit that I ran into them before leaving Switzerland. It’s weird to think they are just barely starting a life changing year and here I am five years after the beginning of my life changing year. It’s crazy to think where life has taken me, however I know it’s where I am supposed to be in my life. It’s nice to have this feeling. I hope to maintain this feeling for the rest of my life. It also makes me grateful for all the experiences Rotary provided for me during my exchange year. I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it wasn’t for the Rotary Youth Exchange Program. It’s amazing how much that year affects my life, even to this to day.

My trip to Switzerland was filled with so many emotions, but overall it was amazing to be back in such a familiar place. It’s hard to put all my emotions into words. The last time I was in Switzerland and heard true Swiss German was over four years ago. So much has happened in those four years, but yet nothing seemed to change much in the four years. There hasn’t been a day that has gone by that I haven’t thought about Switzerland in some way. People liked to tease me because it seemed like I always talked about it, but my year spent in Switzerland was life changing and it will always hold a special place in my heart. I was surprised by how much Berndeutsch I could still understand because I hadn’t heard it in over four years. I am trying really hard to put down all my emotions and thoughts, but its just so overwhelming. The feelings are mostly good mixed with just a little bit of sadness because of my host dad. However, I feel much better about that whole situation (more on it in the last blog of the series).

Something huge happened this weekend: I found out the date of my best friend Debi’s wedding, which is August 1t7th 2013. I must be at her wedding. Before I left Switzerland, we had promised each other that we would be at each others weddings. We figured this would be a guaranteed way for us to see each other again. She means the world to me because of everything she did for me while I was living in Burgdorf. I am so happy that she has found someone to make her happy. It’s pretty crazy because we are still quite close despite the distance and time that has passed. Debi and Marius, her fiancee, are perfect together. Granted I only met him for an hourish, the two just seemed to make sense. As I am starting to make my future plans, I want to work around their wedding. I want to be there for that special day.  To me, it’s a gift from God that I have the opportunity to be at her wedding. The timing has just seemed to work out perfectly. This has brought me some peace about the future. It gives me something to work towards and gives me a time frame. For those of you that are curious, I still have no idea what my future plans are…flight attendant? Maybe! Internship with Fulbright for 3 months? Maybe! Second year in Germany? Maybe! Right now, I’m just trying to live in the moment as much as possible and just deal with what God brings to me in my life.

The Swiss Alps again…so breathtaking

Schönes Wochenende in der Schweiz

A wonderful weekend in Switzerland!

Since it was such a great weekend filled with many emotions, I want to put my posts into several posts: what actually happened, a reflection, and a memorial for my host dad Urs. (if you have no idea why Switzerland is so important to me, check out my not-so-great blog from my exchange year) This is the first of the series:

As the train was coming into Bern, I waited at my seat to see my favorite view of Bern…the city with the mountains in the background. I knew I had a good chance of seeing the mountains because it was a gorgeous clear day. However, it was a huge fail because another train crossed paths with our train right at the moment of the beautiful view. Once I arrived in Bern, I decided to walk around the city for a little bit to see some familiar sights. I grabbed my favorite iced coffee drink and headed to the Bundeshaus (the federal government building). When I was there in 07/08, I’m pretty sure the terrace side of the building was being worked on so I never went to that side. However, now it was open and the terrace has one of the best views of the mountains. Luckily, the weather was gorgeous and it was clear. You could see all the mountains. This view was breathtaking and I just soaked it in for 45 minutes.

The Swiss Alps ♥

After doing some more walking around the city, I hopped on the train to Burgdorf, my home city while I was living in Switzerland. I hadn’t made exact plans with my host mom, Erika. She said to stop by the practice because she would be working. Turns out she wasn’t working that afternoon when I stopped by. I didn’t recognize the person who was working. I think she was confused by my luggage and lack of Berndeutsch (the Bern dialect). Anyways, I figured Erika would be home so I headed that direction. She was working in the garden as I walked up. She didn’t see me at first and then we gave each other big hugs. We spent the rest of the afternoon chatting and drinking coffee. It was wonderful to see her, but still something or rather someone was missing: Urs, my host dad. He died in December 2008 after I left. While I knew he was gone, it became real for me this weekend which is why I’m dedicating a whole post to him.

On a much brighter note, Erika sent a text to all the kids, Kathrin, Theres and Stefan, saying I was in town and that there would be raclette for dinner. Surprisingly, all of them came were able to come to dinner. It was an amazing dinner with such great company. It was almost as if nothing had changed. The dynamics were exactly the same, same sibling bickering. It was wonderful and brought back so many memories. After dinner, us “kids” went to Bern to see the light show on the Bundeshaus also known as the Rendez-vous Bundesplatz. It was an amazing show. You could barely tell that the building was there on some parts, plus it was like 3D. They did the show last year as part of a celebration for the Bundehaus. Since it was so well received, they decided to do it again this year. Here you can wach a video from last year to see what I mean.

A glimpse of the light show. It was truly amazing!

Afterwards, I met up with one of my host brothers from the third host family, Nicolas. When I was in Switzerland, he was completing his military service which is part of the reason I was able to live with his family. We went out for drinks and just caught up on the family and happenings. His family doesn’t live in Burgdorf anymore so I didn’t get a chance to see them this time.  We eventually met up with his roomie and her friend. It was a pleasant evening, despite the ugly rain.

On Saturday morning, I had brunch with Erika and Regina, my second host mom.  Erika made some whole wheat bread that was amazing!  After brunch, Erika and Regina wanted to buy fabric, so we went to the fabric store. I decided to go along because I didn’t have plans till much later. We also visited the old neighbor, Hanni, in the assisted living home. She had no idea who I was, but it was nice to see her again too.

Afterwards, we went back home. While I was waiting to hear from my friend, the new neighbors that I had never met came over for coffee. They have two little kids who were adorable and tried so hard to speak high German with me. It was funny because they had a little difficulty understanding my accent.

Finally, it was time to see my best Swiss friend, Debi. The minute I opened the door, it felt as though this was a normal thing and that not time had passed between us at all. I think this makes true, life-long friends. Over the past four years, we have kept in contact, but it hasn’t been often. We just picked right back up where we left off in July 2008. We just went to her house for a little bit before the class reunion. The weather was rainy and gross, so it limited what we could do. However, it was wonderful to just sit and talk. I couldn’t imagine spending my time any other way.

Debi and Me

Then, the time came for the reunion party to start! I was super excited to see everyone and what they were up to in their lives. One of the girls in the class, Simone, hosted the event at her apartment, which was gorgeous and huge! Some were really surprised to see me there and had no idea I was going to be there!. We drank, ate fajitas (not exactly the same as home, but nonetheless delicious), enjoyed each others company and enjoyed delicious desserts! It was funny because everyone was almost the same, but just a little more grown up. It was really cool to see where everyone was going in their lives. Overall, I was really glad that I was able to attend the reunion.

Group Picture!

Simone outdid herself with the decorations!

On sunday, we slept in because we had been out so late on Saturday. Debi’s mom made a delicious meal of bacon wrapped chicken with rice and a delicious sauce. Debi’s brother and his wife, Sue, came over for lunch as well. I had met Sue when I was here and she was so nice to me as well. We ended up playing Uno after lunch and I did well the first couple of rounds, but ended up not doing so well after that. Anyways, the company was enjoyable. Debi’s family is so wonderful and welcoming! They offered me a place to stay anytime I wanted or needed it.

The time finally came for me to leave and I really didn’t want to go back to Germany. The weekend reminded me of all the love and joy that surrounded my time in Switzerland. It was wonderful to see all of my friends and family that I missed so much. I know this won’t be my last time in Switzerland over the next year.

Something German grocery stores don’t have….a large selection of chocolate

Mainzer Oktoberfest

Once the other ETAs in Mainz learned that there would be an Oktoberfest in Mainz, we all decided that we would have to take part in the festivities. Mainz isn’t known for the greatest or biggest Oktoberfest in all of Germany, however we still thought it would be fun to check it out! Overall, it was a blast! Not nearly as big or crowded as the Oktoberfest in Munich. It still had some of its own charm! I danced a lot more at this one and sang a lot more too! There was only one tent for the whole event! I think the most surprising part was the dancing of the YMCA….so entertaining to watch Germans dance to the YMCA! Anyways, this will be a rather short post because I think pictures can tell a better story:

First beer of the day!

The Whole Tent at Oktoberfest

Myself, Austin and Katherine

Germans dancing to the YMCA

Mainzer Bier!

Dancing the night away!

 

Carrying so many beers!

 

Herbstferien

Herbstferien means Fall Holiday. The one thing I’ve discovered is that Germans LOVE their holiday/vacation. I had two weeks off from school after only working for two weeks. Fall break was from Oct 1-Oct 14. So again, I’ve been slacking on the posts. I think I will try some sort of bullet system to make it easier and I will try not to add too many details:

Friday 28 Sept: attended a fellow teacher’s birthday party and went to the movies with another teacher. We saw “Speed”, which is a German documentary film about trying to find lost time. It was basically about how Germans are so connected to technology and that they have become so busy with our lives that it seems time has been lost. It was a great film. After the film, we went to a pub for a drink and I tried Spundekäse which is a specialty of Mainz.  It was delicious!

Saturday  29 Sept: went on an adventure to Ikea with my fellow ETA friend Austin. We needed some basic things for our apartment, so Ikea was naturally the best option! It was quite the adventure trying to get there!  There was some confusion with the bus, so we decided to just start walking in the direction where we had seen Ikea and it worked out. There were some other foreigners following us, they took a risk doing that! They were lucky though.

Adventure to Ikea with Austin

That night, we decided to head to the Ingelheim Rotweinfest aka the Red Wine Festival. Ingelheim is known as the Red Wine City, so going to the festival was a must! We had lots of fun and I saw several of my students there too!

The Red Wine City welcomes its guests!

Naturally, we had to enjoy a nutella crepe!

Sunday 30 Sept

My friend Maelia spent the night with me on Saturday night because she didn’t have a place to stay and her apartment wasn’t ready yet. On sunday, we slept in a little and then had some pastries for breakfast. Later in the afternoon, we returned to the red wine festival again with Heidi, Katherine and Austin. Of course, we ate more delicious festival food!!

Such a gorgeous day for enjoying red wine!

Monday 1 October: I decided that laundry needed to be done, otherwise I was going to run out of socks and underwear! So I did my first load of laundry. It wasn’t too bad! I just don’t have a dryer! So sometimes, it feels like I end up doing laundry twice. I have to hang up everything and then fold everything and my jeans don’t always shrink like they do when you put them in the dryer.

A glimpse of what laundry day looks like at my apartment!

Tuesday 2 October: hung out with some other ETAs at Austin’s place. His roommate and her friend joined us too! We attempted to go out, but it didn’t work out so well! I really am enjoying the people that are in my life here. I’m truly blessed to be around so many great people!

The next couple of days consisted of some laziness: lots of sleeping, reading and watching movies online. It was good to just be able to relax and not have too much to worry about! I think at one point, I also had a nail painting party with Heidi, which was wonderful! Over the whole break, I went running a couple of times…which is HUGE! Normally, I hate running, but the weather was nice and it gave me something to do with my time.

Saturday 6 October: Austin and I went to Wiesbaden to hang out with Heidi. We had a delicious dinner and enjoyed some delicious sangria. I decided to spend the night because I didn’t have anything better to do. We just relaxed and chatted to all hours of the night of course! 🙂

One of the Churches in Wiesbaden

Delicious dinner at Heidi’s place

The second week of break wasn’t very exciting either. I was hoping I would get paid at some point, but that didn’t happen. A lot of lounging and just walking around the city happened. I also tried to get my acceptance in the University figured out because I needed the Semester ticket, which allows me to take public transport, but that wasn’t able to happen till after break!

Tuesday 9 October: went to the local brewery in Mainz, the Eisgrub-Bräu. Its actually the only brewery in Mainz. They are known for the tower of beer they serve. So naturally, we ordered a tower of beer. It was quite enjoyable!

Austin and Allen with the tower of beer!

Thursday 11 October: I had my first meeting with the Immigration Office. Luckily, everything went well and didn’t have much trouble. I also managed to do it all in German too! I feel like its always an accomplishment when Germans continue using German, even though they can tell I’m not a native speaker.

Saturday 13 October: Traveled to Wassenburg, near the Dutch border to visit Martin, a guy who studied abroad at St. Edward’s in 2010. He invited me to a watch party for the Red River Rivalry Game. It was so much fun and really felt as if I had escaped to Texas for the evening! There were all kinds of American style foods! Overall, it was a good atmosphere, even though Texas lost.

The whole group…sadly Texas fans were outnumbered!

Reunited with Martin!

Sunday October 14: Martin was nice enough to let me stay at his house for the night. It was really cool to see where he grew up, which was on a farm! I think it’s soo cool! We had lunch with his family on Sunday. It was wonderful to have a home-cooked meal. His family was so nice! We also decided to head to the Netherlands for the day to explore! I had not expected to be traveling to another country and didn’t have my passport with me, but it wasn’t a problem. They don’t really have check points because of the EU. It was weird to be in another country for a day. Overall, it was great seeing Martin and his hometown. Plus, we got to catch up about everything since he had left SEU.

Roermond, Netherlands

My visit to Amsterdam was the best way to end my fall break. On the monday, I ended up not being able to go to school because I had to register with the University. However, that was worth it because I could finally take public transportation! Made my life so much easier!