We Flu To Europe

Travel is about new experiences, right? Some of them are blissful. Some of them are thrilling. And some are experiences you simply wish to forget. I guess we just had a close encounter with the third kind. 

Coughing. Chills. Fever. Misery. Peter and I each caught a rough and nasty flu on the cruise ship crossing, somewhere between where the Titanic went down and Copenhagen. It was our first experience of getting sick traveling overseas. And it was relentless and tricky. One day it seemed as though I were going to die and then, miraculously, I’d feel well enough to get out of bed just a few hours later. Then without warning the fever spiked again and I was flung back down with the fury of a Sumo wrestler. We have never experienced anything like this. Even Peter, who has braved Dengue Fever, said this is the worst he’s ever seen.

I struggled mightily to recover on my own but after two weeks it wasn’t letting me go. A high fever spiked again on Day 12 and I awakened with a rash and swollen lymph nodes. Peter, a 32-year veteran of nursing, decided it was time to call in the big guns so we commandeered a taxi to the ER at University Hospital in Mälmö, Sweden.

University Hospital in Malmö

University Hospital in Malmö

Interestingly, the cost of an ER visit a Swedish hospital is about the same as a 1-hour RIB Boat ride for 2 on Geiringer Fjord. And that is about 1/8 the price of a similar hospital thrill ride in California Uninsuredland. And it’s not as much fun as the RIB Boat ride but it is much more challenging.

The experience kept us in a state of high alert because the language and alphabet here is so different. We got to feel what it is like for a foreigner in the US who cannot understand much – not “push to enter,” or “take a number,” or “admissions desk,” or even recognize the sound of her own name when the nurse calls her in to be seen. I kept thinking, “So this is what it is like to be a ‘stupid foreigner’.” And that is what we are.

Thankfully, most of the people we met at the hospital were helpful and kind. And that includes the nurse who called ‘Twase Lin’ for 10 minutes until the only one left in the room (me) staring mutely at the wall was determined to be the missing ‘Twase Lin’.

I got some tests (nothing lethal) and some meds (thank God for socialized medicine pricing) and a lot of good rest at our friends’ home in Varne. Then Peter relapsed.  So I shared the medications with him and he was in sick bay for another 10 days. Thankfully, we are each finally recovered: wiser and strong enough to hoist a backpack. 

On Monday we will resume traveling. Next stop is Stockholm.