I have to admit any time I see Dutch athletes, I always say, “Even the Dutch army don’t wear orange!” The Olympics is so fun!
Congratulations to all who guessed correctly on my round of Where to Invade Next! You guys are good!
Some Other Updates:
The Netherlands isn’t going to be a permanent solution. It’s the best option in the EU for now. The Netherlands has the Dutch American Friendship Treaty which is a good pathway into migrating to the EU. I guess you never know when one of your passports will come in handy. I want to get my EU citizenship back, and the Netherlands doesn’t allow dual nationality. While I am living there, I will be able to assess different countries in the EU that do allow dual nationality and move to one of them someday. It shouldn’t be too hard to get permanent residence in the EU either. They might take into account that we have lived in the EU (including pre-Brexit Britain) for about 15 years. So, we might get fast-tracked to permanent residence. We are building a strategy, but we know laws can change at the drop of a hat.
I can’t say for sure when we will be moving, but it will definitely be sometime this year. Additionally, my Mum needs a hip and knee replacement this year. We are going to go to another country to get it because there is no way my Mum can get that surgery in Canada. There is a two-year waitlist, which she can’t get on yet because we don’t qualify for healthcare and she can’t wait that long to get it.
We also found out even Canadian citizens have to pay about $28,000 CAD for orthopedic surgery. Note: Other surgeries in Canada are paid for through the healthcare system, but orthopedic surgery has recently changed. It’s the most expensive type of surgery and now requirements for paying for it out-of-pocket are being implemented. We met someone recently who had gone to Lithuania for a hip and knee replacement at a fraction of the price and two months after the surgery, he was walking in the snow and ice!
Another note: this information keeps changing and it’s what we have found out right now. So, don’t take it as the Alpha and the Omega.
Before I leave, I will do my best to finish my Parks Challenge. Additionally, I have a few other posts about Canada and expat/TCK life that I still want to do. I will also be doing posts on learning Dutch. I know that they learn English to a high level there, but so what? Moving to another country and not bothering to learn the language, or travelling without trying to learn some basic words and phrases of their language is rude. That’s a universal rule. Frankly, people like that get on my nerves and I question their upbringing.
Note: I am going to be honest about why we have had to leave. When I hear the Canadian government talking about how they want to welcome more immigrants, I laugh! There are problems on provincial and federal levels! We just got a survey from Statistics Canada about healthcare, and my Mum and I let them know if they want highly skilled migrants, they need to do a better job! Highly skilled migrants know how to compare countries and they will go elsewhere!
That being said, some of my readers seem to be under the impression that I don’t like Canada anymore. That’s absolutely not true! My emotions have been rather intense since concluding we had to move. It’s not the people or the culture that’s the problem. It’s immigration, healthcare and economic systems that are not in our favour. Although that seems to be true for anyone in Canada, regardless of whether they are citizens. I am going to come back to Canada for the eclipse in 2024, and for other things. Canada is one of my homes now, and I have no regrets at all about moving here!
After my recent family emergency, I felt it was important to say some things about how hospital etiquette has changed during COVID-19. So, I decided to do a post about dos and don’ts for hospital patients and family members during this pandemic. I will also say some more things that I didn’t say in my previous post. Again, I will be talking about medical issues that people may find disturbing.
Additionally, if you want to share my post with credit, please do! It’s important information. Please note, my post is kind of location-centric though.
Be Familiar with the Current Hospital Situation:
I can’t emphasize this enough. When we were in the Bay Area between March and October last year, we knew that some of the hospitals had COVID-19 under control and some didn’t. We kept an eye on whether or not that changed.
When we moved to Calgary, we learned that right before the pandemic, our newly elected Premier was starting to cut public health spending. Obviously, Alberta Health Services (AHS) knew that our Premier was hoping the pandemic would be the death of public healthcare. So, they clearly had to gird their loins! This scene from the Devil Wears Prada sums the situation up perfectly. Think of Anne Hathaway’s character as the provincial doctor who does whatever our Premier says.
At the end of September, when the hospital situation was dire, Mum and I promised each other we wouldn’t do anything stupid that would have us end up in the ER. Of course, my Mum’s emergency was different. You have no control over when your appendix decides to quit on you. Fortunately, it happened when things were starting to calm down just a little bit. That didn’t mean the defunding of healthcare stopped though.
Within this past week, it’s been found during this fourth wave that 15,000 elective surgeries have been cancelled in Alberta. There is no timeline for resuming the surgeries. The province only allows surgeries that must be done within a 3 day period (aka emergency surgeries). Even though I was super happy that this situation didn’t affect my Mum’s care, my heart goes out to those 15,000 people needing surgery in Alberta.
Talk to A Trusted Healthcare Provider:
If you want to make sure you need to go to the ER or need to take someone to the ER, talk to a healthcare provider that you trust. Get a recommendation from them on a hospital that has their COVID-19 situation under control. I said in my previous post that under normal circumstances if my Mum said she had abdominal pain, I wouldn’t have consulted the nurse at our family practice. I was glad I did talk to the nurse though because she told me that all the hospitals in Calgary have a super strict triage protocol. She had been to the ER right when the pandemic started and she assured me the hospitals aren’t letting COVID-19 run amok in their wards. All I had heard was how the hospitals have been stretched to breaking point. I hadn’t heard much about which ones had it under control.
A week later, when my Mum wasn’t getting better, she had further questions. We called our practice nurse again and our doctor called us back. There are 24-hour health lines in Alberta that you can call and speak to a nurse, but you might have to wait a while. The lines are busier because of people calling in with COVID-19 symptoms. We did call one of those health lines when we had a question about what was going on, but we did it too soon. Plus, sometimes there is a certain inaccuracy calling a nurse that doesn’t know your case. That’s why we prefer to speak to the nurse at our family practice. She and our doctor were very helpful and told us to call if we have any further questions or updates. I could tell when we visited the office for Mum’s follow-up that they were sincere.
Find out about Hospital COVID-19 Policy:
Some things you find out as you go. For instance, I couldn’t be with my Mum when she was in the ER, or right before she had surgery. Mum noticed in the ER, they automatically separated COVID-19 patients from regular patients. Our hospital kept the COVID-19 patients in an entirely separate building. Mum said the only reminder that there were COVID-19 patients was that sometimes the PA system would call nurses to the COVID-19 building. I’m glad the hospital did its best to limit the reminders of the pandemic. No patient or their families want to be constantly bombarded with that.
The second time my Mum was in the hospital, she was allowed two visitors, maximum, and they had to be on a pre-approved list. I was only allowed to see her for an hour a day. I never enquired about this, but I noticed none of the patients had flowers. That might have been banned because of COVID-19. I did something better for my Mum though. I brought her some essential oils and rubbed them on her before my time was up.
Find out about Hospital Practices during COVID-19:
I’m pretty sure that hospitals are improvising when it comes to regular patients needing intensive care. After my Mum had emergency hernia surgery, two nurses worked all night to keep her stable, but she was on the ward. She was not moved to an ICU. No one explicitly said that she required intensive care, but I pieced it together. After all, no one just has emergency surgery for the fun of it, and you don’t just end up on 100% oxygen all night. The ICUs really are all occupied with COVID-19 patients, but there was nothing to worry about. They did some good improvisations in that regard.
There was another thing the hospital did that was different because of COVID-19. If patients exhibit any symptoms that are the same as COVID-19, they are put in isolation. Further COVID-19 symptoms mean being moved to the COVID-19 ward. A common symptom of appendicitis is vomiting. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has the same symptom. Mum was in isolation until her diagnosis of appendicitis was confirmed. She said that someone said to her, “We know why you threw up, but we’re making sure it’s not COVID-19.” Strangely enough, when she went back to the ER because of the complication, they didn’t put her in isolation, even though she had thrown up a few times. I guess they knew for sure that she was exhibiting classic signs of a blockage in her bowel.
Wear A Mask:
This is the point where I am going to whip a few dead horses and this is one of them. If you are a family member visiting the hospital PLEASE KEEP YOUR MASK ON! If you happen to be a patient if you can keep your mask on, do so! The first time my Mum was in the hospital, she kept her mask on all the time, except when she was in surgery and post-op. The second time she was in the hospital, she couldn’t wear a mask because she needed a nasogastric tube. I was a little worried, but then I saw that the nurses on the ward were careful, and some of the patients were able to wear masks, so that was okay.
One thing I hope to see after the pandemic ends is visitors continuing to wear masks while in the hospital. I was in the hospital before the pandemic, and as happy as I was for visitors, I did feel a little concerned about germs. I think it’s a sign of respect to wear a mask in a hospital, even if there isn’t a pandemic. My hope is that it continues, even when the pandemic ends.
Show A Little Respect:
I can’t believe I have to whip this horse. Manners cost you nothing! Even when she was feeling her worst, my Mum made a point of being respectful to her healthcare providers, so being sick is not an excuse for being a jerk! Mum could barely talk with the nasogastric tube in, but when the nurses did simple things like their health checks, she always said, “Thank you”. Whenever she felt a little better, she would interact with the nurses and doctors more, and continue to praise them and thank them for being the heroes that they are! She also wasn’t openly obnoxious to other patients. She has always been like that. I followed her lead when I was hospitalized too. People don’t call me my mother’s daughter for nothing!
Additionally, the nurses were happy to answer whatever questions I had about Mum’s care. They and the surgical team were supremely grateful when I brought some quality goodies to thank them. I know it’s their job to save lives, but a little appreciation makes their day!
Mum knows as well as I do that if we have to say that we are US citizens here that people might be suspicious of us (thanks Trump!). She had to reveal her nationality at one point, but she talked about the five countries we have lived in and compared their healthcare systems. That, combined with the respect we all showed to the staff assured them that we aren’t “like that”. Her nationality didn’t affect her care in any way though, for which I am very thankful. I am aware not a lot of people are as lucky though. Watch John Oliver’s show on bias in medicine if you don’t believe me.
If You See Something, Say Something:
Yep, whipping another dead horse. This point is especially true these days with Covidiots around, and also applies more if you are visiting a patient. If you’re a patient and too sick to deal with it, this doesn’t apply to you.
If you see people behaving badly, whether it’s yelling, physical violence, or another type of violence, report it! Remember how I said in my previous post how my Dad noticed an empty room on the ward where someone had defaced a patient whiteboard with Covidiot slogans? If my Dad had told me he had seen that while we were at the hospital, I would have asked at the nurse’s station if they knew about it and gone from there. Seriously though, I hope they caught the person!
Hearing stories about healthcare workers experiencing violence from Covidiots made me a little warier about visiting a hospital. Seeing peace officers at the hospital affirmed with me that the Covidiot situation is serious! Mum did tell me a story from the ER that affirmed with me that even though the nurses are kind and caring, they don’t take any crap.
Shame Anyone Who Needs Emergency Care:
For the people who need emergency care during this pandemic, don’t shame yourself either! It’s not the people who need non-COVID-19 related emergency care that are tying up the hospitals. The Covidiots are the real problem. It’s completely normal to feel guilty for adding to an already stressed healthcare system though. Mum and I initially felt guilty too. This is why we called the nurse at our family practice. I knew I had to take my Mum to the ER for abdominal pain, but it was great to get confirmation and reassurance.
Thousands of people are waiting for non-urgent surgery and procedures. It can potentially cause resentment and concern among those people while non-COVID-19 emergency patients get priority. In this case, mutual empathy is critical. Whenever someone tells me they are waiting, I let them know I am really sorry to hear that and that I hope they don’t end up needing emergency care because of delayed surgery. Thankfully, those people have extended the same courtesy to my family by saying they are happy that my Mum could still get the emergency care she needed. That’s the way to do it! I know empathy probably won’t take away resentment or concern, but I hope it helps a little.
Think Post-Op Instructions are the Gospel:
I have had appendicitis myself and I found Mum’s post-op instructions confusing! We called a 24-hour nursing line because we didn’t know if Mum had to go back to the ER. People’s bodies don’t work according to post-op instructions, and the added pressure to the question, “Do you go back to the ER?” doesn’t help. In this case, it is good to speak to a nurse about any grey areas you find between the instructions and what’s actually happening. Although, we realized later we called the 24-hour line too soon for any definitive answers. We ended up talking to the nurse at our family practice again. Because Mum ended up with a rare complication, it felt more difficult for me to pin down what was happening. I needed help from a medical professional with that.
Hide Information from COVID-19 Screening:
Poor horses, but it has to be done. I was in a bit of a situation though. My Dad arrived from California two days before I brought Mum home from the hospital. I did want to have the option of bringing Dad to the hospital to visit. Plus, I didn’t know if I needed his help collecting Mum when she was released. It worked, so here’s what I did.
I told the ward Dad was flying in from California to help me take care of Mum. They asked me questions about his vaccination status and told me he would have to bring his documents. I also mentioned that he was flying in from the Bay Area and said that in terms of COVID-19, things were pretty good. We kind of had a laugh about, “at least he’s not flying in from Texas or Florida!” Additionally, I assured them that we have lived in a few other countries, so we know to respect the laws of our host country. After all that, they put him on Mum’s visitor list! They also told me to double-check with the screening area at the entrance.
The screening area reiterated what the ward said. The day after my Dad arrived, the COVID-19 screening went smoothly and he was able to see Mum! I think the ward and screening were happy that I checked with them before Dad arrived if it was possible for him to visit. What they don’t like is people acting shady and pulling a fast one on them. Be transparent, and have the necessary documentation. Plus, I could see that they were nervous initially when I said we were US citizens, but they relaxed over the fact I was honest with them.
Be Racist, Sexist, Rude or Immature:
The horses don’t like me now, but this is the last dead one I’m whipping. I promise. Besides, I live in Alberta. I don’t want to get on the wrong side of our ranchers.
We all have biases, but PLEASE don’t act entitled! If you do, you’re not only hurting whoever it’s directed at, but you disturb other patients who are too sick to deal with your crap. Even if other patients don’t call you on your crap, it doesn’t mean you aren’t bothering them. On the other hand, patients may cry out because they’re in pain, or frightened, or something. As long as they aren’t being jerks, don’t shame them for it. I have cried while in the hospital because I wanted to go home, but I didn’t say anything inappropriate.
I will be sharing personal stories on this subject, but I wanted to say this first. A while ago, I learned that it’s normal when you need hospital care, that you’re frightened and your biases surface. Regardless, I didn’t try to hurt anyone and I learned a valuable lesson. The point is to recognize them and don’t lash out because of them. I felt guilty about my biases, but I know now that shame isn’t the point unless I had caused harm.
My Own Personal Stories on This Point:
I wanted to share two different personal stories I have had in the hospital. The first one was when I was in London and had my lower wisdom teeth out. That meant day surgery in the hospital over there.
I was put on the day surgery recovery ward with several other people. There was this woman who was talking too loudly and being generally disruptive. At one point, I was coughing and she called the nurse to help me (even though I didn’t need it). She said, “Sorry, I thought you was going to throw up!” Yes, she said was. Even though I still needed to cough, I held it in. She was also yelling on her cellphone at her deadbeat boyfriend to come and get her. No one called her on her crap, not even the nurses. Later on, I realized no one would put up with that crap in the USA. It speaks a lot about cultural differences.
The next story has to do with realizing my own unconscious bias. I was in the emergency room for a ruptured appendix back when I was in California. I was terrified, had 8/10 pain, and the infection was advanced. Because of all that, I kept thinking that the men were doctors and the women were nurses. I slipped a few times before I realized my mistake and apologized. Once I had more presence of mind, I told myself to look at their uniform. I joked about it later, like, “Damn! That was one nasty infection!” I haven’t slipped up since.
So, here are my hospital dos and don’ts during COVID-19. What do you think? Anything you would add?
Whew! I have a lot to say on this subject. Dealing with medical emergencies while abroad is one thing in life that I wish came with an instruction manual. I’m coming down from dealing with a medical emergency that happened right before I marked my first year in Canada. For those of you who don’t know what happened, my mother got appendicitis. I mentioned it in my One Year in Canada! post. What I haven’t talked about is that she had a rare complication a week after her appendectomy. Fortunately, she’s home and recovering well. Here’s my story, which I wanted to write while this was still fresh in my mind.
I will do another post or two on tips for current and prospective expats on dealing with emergencies while abroad. I wish I could provide a rulebook, but I hope sharing my stories and personal tips will help. My posts will also include tips for native-born citizens who want to know how best to support migrants when they are dealing with emergencies.
Please note, I am going to be brutally honest here because this subject is not often discussed. If you don’t wish to continue reading from here, I won’t hold it against you. Disclaimer: I will be discussing medical things and mental health problems that some people might find disturbing. That being said, if this post helps someone else through an emergency while they’re abroad, I will have done my job!
Some Relevant Things I want to Mention:
I had appendicitis a few years ago, and I still remember vividly how it presented. It was my first hospitalization experience and I had trauma to work through in counselling afterwards. I learned the hard way that you MUST go to the Emergency Room if you have abdominal pain! If you talk to anyone who has had appendicitis, you will see that they have an intense fear in their face. Appendicitis generally happens when you’re under 30 years old and it’s normally someone’s first hospitalization experience. It sure was with me, anyway. So, I’m not surprised to see people who are part of the Appendix Free Club look scared when they remember their experience.
A month ago, the hospitals in Alberta reached a breaking point with the Delta variant. They were short-staffed and the military and Red Cross were called in to help. Additionally, when Alberta introduced a proof of vaccination program, Covidiots were protesting outside hospitals! Fortunately, that was made illegal, but it wasn’t done out of concern for people on hospital premises. Anyone who wishes to rant about this in the comments, please do! Mum and I decided to be vigilant because we didn’t want to have to go to the ER under those circumstances.
How Things Started:
Canadian Thanksgiving was on October 11. Mum and I had a great day cooking and listening to music from Canadian singers while we worked. It perplexed me though that Mum didn’t feel like eating much. The next morning, Mum thought she had a stomach ulcer, but the things we tried didn’t work. Later that day, I called the nurse at our family practice for a phone assessment. When Mum said the words “abdominal pain” and described certain symptoms, a warning bell went off in my mind. Even though the situation in the hospitals had improved a bit, I felt like I needed to talk to the nurse before taking Mum to the ER for abdominal pain! Under normal circumstances, I would have taken her as soon as she said the words “abdominal pain” HANDS DOWN!
The nurse told me to take Mum to the ER and I asked her which one is best to go to, considering the circumstances. She assured me all the hospitals have super strict triage protocols. We almost felt bad for imposing on an already strained hospital system, even though it was a genuine emergency. When I took Mum to the ER, they told me I couldn’t go in with her because of COVID-19 protocols. I had a hunch Mum had appendicitis though, so I encouraged her to ask to be tested for it. She’s not in the normal age range for it, but it’s not unheard of for older people to get it. I have said many times though that appendicitis is a young person’s disease. This study says the same thing.
I know some older people who have had appendicitis and they have struggled with it or were misdiagnosed at first. That was not happening to my mother!
My hunch was correct! To be clear though, I have no medical background at all. I just have vivid memories of my own appendicitis experience. Plus, I have had a lot of conversations with others about appendicitis. We got the diagnosis late at night and Mum was in surgery the next day. I wanted to visit her, but I couldn’t. They would only allow me in if it was an hour before surgery, but we had no idea when that would happen. By now, my Fuck This Pandemic List was a mile long! I know we all have our lists these days, but I was so livid that I threw something across the room! That never happens. Let it be known that the Covidiots, who find new ways of acting entitled, took away my opportunity to be with my mother when she needed it most!
I was able to bring Mum home the same day she had surgery! Sometimes, things just work! I bought a cake for the ward that took care of Mum to thank them. If I said I was ecstatic, that would have been an understatement! I was proud of Mum for not only going through this but doing it during a pandemic when I couldn’t be there to hold her hand! There was a certain amount of guilt and flashbacks too. I have often said how grateful I am that I didn’t have appendicitis during the pandemic. I don’t know if I would have been able to deal with it. At this point, I was also hoping Mum wouldn’t have any complications because of the hospital situation. I threw myself into taking care of her and decided to deal with any mental health repercussions later.
Things Were Only Beginning
After Mum got home, we discussed whether we wanted my Dad to fly in to help out. Ultimately, we decided we didn’t need him to come unless something else went wrong. At first, things seemed okay, but there were some warning signs. I was confused about what to do sometimes, and Mum kept asking me questions about my own experience. I could tell she needed major reassurance. We called this 24-hour line where you can speak to a nurse, which, in retrospect, we did too early. A week after she came home from the hospital, we had to call our family practice nurse again. Mum mentioned something that set off a warning bell for me. Plus, our doctor calling us back didn’t help.
I spent the night trying to help her with the concerning thing. I knew if it didn’t work, it was back to the ER. The writing was on the wall though, because since she had got home, she had barely eaten and was tolerating liquids at first, but then that stopped. I was considering force-feeding her, if necessary. The dread I felt when Mum went back to the ER was penetrating. Mum tried to reassure me by saying, “Think of me just going to Banff for a weekend.” Or, “I likely will only be in the hospital for a day.” Somehow, I knew that wasn’t true. I felt terribly guilty like I had let her down.
The Next Day:
I was able to visit my Mum the next day for an hour. The nurse said the current diagnosis was a paralytic ileus and Mum had a nasogastric tube to drain her stomach and relax her digestive system. Yes, that is as bad as it sounds. Plus, she couldn’t wear a mask. Surgery was a possible treatment option, but we didn’t know if that was necessary. Mum was super happy to see me! It did us both good to see each other. I asked her if I should tell Dad to fly in to help us, and she said yes. I was already about to tell my Dad we needed him anyway, but I wanted to make sure Mum wanted it too. As soon as I left the hospital, I called my Dad and told him to come as soon as possible.
Later on, Dad said that he would arrive in two days and stay for a week. He had the option of extending it if he needed to. I started counting down the hours until I saw him again! He called me later to tell me he had a problem getting a required travel COVID-19 test before flying though. Apparently, it’s hard to get COVID-19 tests for travel at such short notice. For a minute, we thought Dad would have to change his flight. I contacted my friends in my TCK group and one of them told me that SFO was doing rapid COVID-19 tests that met the requirements for international travel. After grumbling about the fact that SFO charges a premium on their travel tests, Dad decided to go with that. As he said, “They wear you down into paying the costs.”
Then, It Got Serious:
I went to see Mum the next day. She had a CT scan and was awaiting the results. She seemed emotionally better, especially after seeing me the previous day, but I was concerned that physically, there was no change. I hoped the CT scan would give us an answer. She seemed happy when I told her Dad would be coming in less than 30 hours. She knew what I was up against with logistical problems, so she encouraged me to prepare for Dad’s arrival and pick him up at the airport. By the time I left the hospital, I knew I wouldn’t be seeing her the next day. So, I said a variation of Mama Imelda’s line from Coco, “Mum, I give you my blessing to get better, be strong, and never NEVER forget how much your family loves you!”
There were some nice things that happened that day. I called my Dad in the afternoon to update him, and our neighbour was over talking to him about looking after the cat, so I talked to her too. Later on, my aunt surprised me with a phone call! We talked for about half an hour. That made my day! She and Mum email each other frequently, and she got worried when she didn’t hear from Mum for a week.
I was happy for a while, and then Dad called the hospital that night. They found out Mum had a hernia and she was about to have emergency surgery! Then, everything good about the day came crashing down around me.
An Emotional Day and The Worst Night:
That day was a super emotional day. I had been hiding my feelings behind a wall for so long, and then it broke like the Oroville Dam. Before I saw my Mum, I had a chiropractic adjustment and then started crying. One of the receptionists at the chiropractic office gave me a hug. At this point, I was like, “To hell with COVID-19! I NEED a hug!”
That afternoon, I didn’t know how to feel about seeing my Dad again after a year apart. I watched YouTube clips from movies about kids seeing their parents again after such a long time apart. I needed some tearjerkers. The one that REALLY got me going though was a music video from one of my favourite bands. It’s SO TCK!
To those of you who are either experiencing an emergency while abroad or have done so, this music video is for you!
I went to bed knowing my Mum was having a life-saving operation. I had questions floating around my head and I was shivering. Even though I had tried everything in my anxiety toolkit, it got to the point nothing worked. I was alone in a foreign country worried that I would get a call from the hospital in the middle of the night. My sleep was interrupted by panic attacks. At 3:30 in the morning, a few of my friends in my TCK group were having a call and I jumped on. I am not the only one in that group that’s been going through something lately. So, we all just talked and held space for each other. I don’t know what I would do without that group sometimes! Once I hung up, I was able to get some sleep.
When I woke up, I called the hospital. I told my Dad to call me from SFO so I could give him an update on Mum. When the nurse spoke to me in a happy voice and told me Mum was stable and recovering well, I was fighting back tears of joy! She had made it! They were going to take the nasogastric tube out later! YAYY!! I also talked to Mum and she was already sounding better. I told her to sleep and that I would visit her the next day at the hospital, possibly with Dad!
Mum told me to get some treats at our favourite patisserie for the ward and the surgical team that saved her life! I did it without hesitation! You would not know that the hospital staff were under so much pressure with COVID-19! Any time my Mum said that she or I were vaccinated, the response was always, “Thank you!” EVERY. SINGLE. TIME! Whenever Mum felt right, she would always have words of gratitude for her healthcare heroes. They truly ARE heroes doing what they do during a global pandemic and being screwed by the institutions they work for and people who deny there is a pandemic! I don’t have the words to say how grateful I am to the heroes that saved my Mum’s life!
I did a dance for joy and suddenly had a burst of energy for the rest of the day! It was quite a coincidence that it happened the same day that my Dad was due to arrive. I happily relayed the news to Dad when he was at SFO and told him I would meet him at YYC! Then I set to work preparing for his arrival.
A Note about Logistical Problems:
Every emergency has logistical problems. I had to plan my day when I called the hospital in the morning. I had some logistical problems with getting to the hospital. When you’re a caregiver, time is of the essence, so I would Uber there. I didn’t even have the bandwidth to check public transport options. Plus, the first time we went to the hospital, we had to go on one of Calgary’s famous trails. The trails are connecting roads in the city, which turn into mini-freeways. I find using public transport to be difficult when trails are involved. Either you get windy routes or infrequent service. That’s not good if you’re a caregiver. Every day, I wondered if Mum going to have surgery, or if I would be bringing her home. If either of those answers was “Yes”, I wouldn’t visit her.
I didn’t know if I was going to get my Dad from the airport until the morning of his arrival. I didn’t know if I would be visiting Mum the same day Dad arrived or have other stuff to do for her on top of preparing for Dad’s arrival. By the time my Dad arrived, I had been in limbo and running on empty for over 10 days, even before Mum went back to the hospital. I didn’t know if I was going to be ready for Dad to arrive either. Fortunately, Dad said that if I didn’t have everything done, he would help me when he got there! The relief!
Ready or Not:
Thank goodness for that burst of energy that I got that morning! I had less than 8 hours to set up our small apartment to fit another person before I had to leave for the airport! Mum and I were planning to do a massive clean of the apartment, but then she got sick. So, I had to improvise, find stuff that I needed in the weirdest places in the house, stress over whether we had too many plastic bags, and move everything to a convenient location.
Meanwhile, I kept checking the time, my text and email messages, and the real-time flight tracker. I kept making sure I had the route to and from the airport planned out. It rained the whole day and I was hoping it would clear up before Dad got here! No such luck. I tried to rest because I had time to do so. Nope. Too excited and wondering what would happen to have Dad here. Finally, it was time to leave.
I took two buses to get to the airport and whenever I was at a certain point in my journey, I would take a guess on where Dad was flying over. That’s one excuse to keep looking at a flight tracker, I guess.
When I got to YYC:
I hadn’t been to the international terminal before. I had arrived at the domestic terminal when I moved to Calgary because of doing a layover in Vancouver. Therefore, I had to take a photo of this beautiful glass sculpture of the Canadian Rockies! It calmed me a bit too. I had a certain amount of nerves about seeing my Dad again. Fortunately, I was texting with my friend Hilary Tan from Sereneluna! I want to give her an extra special shoutout for her unconditional support during this time! At one point, I said, “Fuck COVID! I’m hugging my Dad!” She said, “Do it!” I am so grateful for you continuing to check in on me and being there to text whenever, Hilary!
PSA for international travellers! Even if this might not be applicable to every travel situation, take note! I had told my Dad that I would meet him at the baggage area, but when I got to YYC, they had a COVID-19 testing line and I couldn’t go past it. At the time, I didn’t know what that was for since they don’t even let you on the plane if you don’t have the required tests to enter a country. I kept hoping, “Dad! Please put two and two together here!” Fortunately, he did because I saw him in the line to go past security. I jumped and waved to make sure he saw me! When he saw me, he told me he had been selected randomly for a COVID-19 test. Because of course, he did. I hung around all irritated that I had to wait to greet my Dad properly.
I gave Dad an extra long hug!!! And then on the way home, we didn’t stop talking. We were like the magpies we feed every morning having their little corvid party… Lol. It was getting dark as we left the airport, but I was still able to point out a few things, like Chinatown and the Calgary Tower. Dad insisted on calling it the Space Needle. Oh well, we’ll get there, eventually. It was after 8 pm when we got home. When I called Mum in the hospital, I told her no, even with today’s technology, I didn’t do a three-way voice call using my cell phone and our home phone with Dad. He was really here! Even though it was a long day, I still had to go over living logistics with Dad. We relaxed with the first two episodes of Schitt’s Creek before going to bed.
Mum said later on that she was moved to a private room before surgery. She had tested positive for MRSA. The room overlooked the city and the night Dad arrived, she felt well enough to watch the sunset. She watched the time knowing that Dad was arriving and I was picking him up at the airport. Somehow I knew that Mum was there with us in spirit. That was a tissue moment when we shared that!
Visiting the Hospital… With A Twist
Dad was able to visit Mum with me! They asked him a few more questions at the screening area and he had to show his documentation. I also brought the treats that Mum told me to get. I got a lemon meringue tart, a box of 24 macarons and some little boxes of chocolates at my favourite patisserie! When I dropped them off at the nurses’ station, the looks on their faces were priceless! I also told them to pass some on to the surgical team that saved Mum’s life. I wasn’t allowed to hug Mum because of the MRSA, but I was happy to see her eating and looking MUCH better! There was talk of her being discharged the next day!
Then, I told Mum I had a surprise for her and went to get Dad. We were only allowed on the ward one at a time. I let them catch up for a while. In the last ten minutes, I talked to Mum and she told me why she was in emergency surgery. Apparently, her bowel had got into the area where they had removed the appendix and started twisting. It’s a rare complication that has only happened four times in the history of the hospital! The surgeon that saved Mum’s life said he had only seen it once before.
Dad said he was able to walk around and see the views from the hospital. There was the city on one end and the Canadian Rockies on the other. I knew he couldn’t leave without seeing that! He’s SUCH a Montana boy! When I shared the photos below with my friends, they asked me if the hospital rents out rooms!
Mum’s Finally Home!
I was able to get Mum the next day! I felt like I was about to explode! When I was pushing her in the wheelchair out of the hospital, I calmed down though. As my Dad said once when he was pushing me in a hospital wheelchair, “Let’s try not to break any speed records here!” I added another phrase to use when going into an elevator, “Excuse me, precious cargo here!” I didn’t get to use it this time though.
For the next 5 days, Dad helped me out with whatever major chores I needed help with and tag-teamed with me on caregiving duties. Whenever we had some quiet time, we either watched Schitt’s Creek or slept! We managed to get through all six seasons of Schitt’s Creek before Dad left! I can’t tell you how grateful I was that Dad dropped everything and came to help out! He could only stay a week though because our cat is living with him and she gets separation anxiety if we leave her too long. There are times I wish he could have stayed longer though. We’re still exhausted from this experience, and I estimate that it’s going to be at least a month before my Mum even starts feeling normal again.
We’re getting to the point though that people assume we aren’t struggling anymore. In reality, we still have problems. When you’re going through an emergency, people who normally give you toxic positivity cool it for a bit, but then when the danger ends, it resumes. People ask me if I have any fun plans coming up, and I say not for a month at least and move on. That being said, I am still super grateful for the outpouring of love I have got from family and friends!
I wanted to give a shoutout to my TCK community at TCK Global and my followers here and on Instagram for their support and love! I know I said I am taking a break, but I wanted to write this post and share it with you all.
One important thing I forgot to say is when my Dad was visiting the hospital, he was enjoying the views from an empty room. He told me that someone had defaced a patient whiteboard with comments such as “Lies, lies, lies!” and “Covid is a hoax!” Now that you have read my story, look me in the eye and tell me that! If you had seen our healthcare heroes go out of their way for their patients to give them quality care despite being screwed by Institution X and Covidiots, you would have more respect for them than ever! You would not know they were under so much pressure and risk. I may never meet the people who saved my mother’s life, but my gratitude for them will stay with me forever!
What was even more touching was giving the ward and surgical team treats to say thank you. Mum said that after I did that, the surgeon who saved her life came up to personally thank her! Apparently, the box of macarons went to the surgical team and the ward had the cake. I don’t know who got the chocolates. As Mum says, “It’s not every day when someone saves your life.”
To those of you who are struggling with a medical emergency while living abroad, my heart goes out to you. I hope this post gives you strength and peace.
To all my followers, I want to say thank you for following my journey! It’s been an absolute pleasure to share my experiences with all of you!
Speaking of sharing my experiences, I am still on a hiatus right now. I am dealing with a family emergency. My mother got appendicitis and things are going to be a hot mess for while. So, if I don’t comment on your posts, you know why. To those of you for who I have said I will do guest posts, I will email you soon.
I am going to do a post in the future about dealing with emergencies when you live in another country. Plus, I have some other posts planned. Yes, this emergency means I am on a hiatus from my Calgary Parks Challenge as well.
I will celebrate my one year in Canada later on, but I am still taking a moment to celebrate! To those of you who know about my mother, thank you for all your support!
Hey everyone! I just wanted to say before starting this post that I have had trouble with my self-hosted website system. So, thanks to those who have notified me about not being able to interact on my blog. I will be switching to a new host soon, so bear with me! Fingers crossed it works out this time!
This is a continuation of my posts on expat finances. I am learning a lot as I go, especially now that I’m an adult and have more financial responsibility than I did when I previously moved to another country. See my previous post Finances: Part I- The Basics for my first post on this subject. Now, without further ado, let’s bust these money taboos!
I was really young with my first two international moves. However, when I was old enough, my parents told me stories of their money experiences while transitioning and adjusting to a new culture.
When I repatriated to the US, things were relatively easy for me. I didn’t have assets in the UK, so I decided to move all my money to the US. Additionally, the exchange rates were favourable between the US Dollar and the Pound Sterling at that time.
Financially Transitioning to A New Country:
There is a common misconception that Third Culture Kids are wealthy because of their mobile lifestyle. Family wealth is not always a factor in being able to move overseas. There are a variety of factors that make a mobile lifestyle possible. Companies can pay expenses for transitioning overseas, and include other perks for expats, so that’s a big deal. Additionally, it depends on where you are moving and how you move. Believe me, moving across an ocean and most, or all of another country can really compound the costs of moving. Plus, everyone’s situation is different, and people handle money differently.
As an example, I had to cancel my cell phone number in England before I moved. So far, I have been able to keep my US number while living in Canada. I had to upgrade my cell phone plan to allow calls within Canada and also be able to call the US when I have needed to do so. My initial plan was to change to a Canadian cell phone number after a month. However, Canada has some of the most expensive cell phone plans of any country, and I still have to make calls to the US now and then. I decided to keep my US cell phone number for a little while until I feel more financially stable.
Open A Bank Account Before or After Moving?
That’s a critical decision. When I moved to the US, there was no urgent need for me to have money there, so I waited until after I moved to open a bank account. However, with moving to Canada during the pandemic, I knew that I would have to quarantine for two weeks and I needed to be sure I had a bank account there. My Mum decided to wait to open one until after we arrived.
I bank with HSBC, so I was able to set up a bank account in Canada to be ready for when I got there. I had to go through an application and setup process that took some time, but it was worth it. Plus, I was able to sort out any problems before I moved! On the other hand, I couldn’t get a debit card for the account until I had arrived in Canada. After quarantine, I had to go to my branch to sign a couple more papers, and then I could get a debit card.
We realized later that I had the right idea all along. Additionally, we learned that the finances with moving to another country never really end, and it’s too much for one person to bear. Mum decided to take on extra tasks with moving so that I would have more bandwidth to deal with the finances. The reason why the situation ultimately worked out was that my Mum and I communicate well.
Striking A Balance:
When you’re in transition, it’s not a time to cut corners. If you need to pay for something, suck it up and do it! I’ve had to pay more for my US cell phone plan, but so what? It works here in Canada and that’s all I ask! Plus, in my Quarantine Diaries Week 1 and Week 2, I talked about my Mum and I not getting our mattresses from Overstock. I caved and ordered them from Amazon because we had been sleeping on the floor for NINE days! We needed mattresses so badly we didn’t care about buying them again. Overstock delivered the mattresses a month later.
At the same time, unimportant costs can add up. As I said in my Finances Part I post, you are one decision away from making a financial mistake. I learned over the years to save any potential discounts for a time when I might really need them. There is no better time to use discounts than doing an international move.
Want to know how much it cost me and my Mum to fly from San Francisco to Calgary via Vancouver? Nothing. We saved our credit card points for a time we really needed them. Of course, I offset our carbon emissions, and I was happy to put a little money towards it. My attitude was, “Sorry Mother Earth! I know you’re hurting, but my Mum and I need to get out of a crappy situation! Here’s a little something for you to say thanks.”
What You Need to Get Settled:
Again, it depends on your personal circumstances. You need to decide how much furniture you need to get and whether you actually need it. If your place is already furnished, great!
Sometimes, you can’t know what you need until you actually get there. My Mum and I had to buy PROPER winter clothes when we arrived. When my Mum was talking about getting winter clothes in California, I said, “You don’t go to California to get winter clothes.” Get what I mean?
Additionally, you have to get used to what shops are around when you move to a new country. I had to ask a Canadian friend what the difference is between Canadian Tire and Home Depot. Plus, when I discovered Co-ops in Calgary, I felt like a kid in a candy store! It was the best Co-op I had ever seen! Your general daily expenses are not going to settle until you decide where you like to shop and for what.
A Note on Healthcare:
Getting used to a new country’s medical system is something you need to budget for! Different countries have different rules for when new immigrants qualify for healthcare. That is if they have a government healthcare system.
In the UK, it took about a year to qualify for healthcare. Although, from what I saw with my family and friends, they don’t give quality healthcare to new immigrants until they have paid taxes for a while. In the US, you have to pay ALL medical bills until you get insurance! You absolutely MUST read the fine print of what your insurance covers! Plus, medical costs there are sneaky! You learn a lot of soft skills to save money on healthcare costs. For example, I decided early on what hospital I would want to go to if I had an emergency. I was certain of their quality care, but they didn’t charge me any out-of-pocket costs for using their resources like a hospital gown, or soap. It pisses me off that hospitals charge unreasonable costs that your insurance doesn’t cover!
How I feel when I hear about being absurdly overcharged for out-of-pocket costs:
Canada has a law that you cannot enter without health insurance. Plus, you have to live there a minimum of six months and one day to qualify for their government healthcare. That system works well because it’s a good time to get acquainted with a healthcare system before you qualify for care.
There are Cultural Ways of Dealing with M0ney:
You CANNOT ignore this! Countries will have different ways of banking, managing and transferring money and you have to work with it. It can feel overwhelming at times.
Before my Mum and I moved to Canada, we had to put a deposit on our new apartment. The landlord told us how to send the money, but at first, I didn’t understand the instructions. I thought it was a simple wire transfer and the instructions didn’t make sense. Google didn’t help too much when I tried to find “what does ______ mean??” I figured because my ISP was in the US, I couldn’t access it.
Eventually, I figured out the banking feature I had to use was called Interac eTransfer. Even though I had my Canadian bank account, I hadn’t really explored the features since I was busy moving. Then, I suddenly had to do a rent deposit and I was FREAKING OUT!!!! Plus, it seemed counterintuitive to me that there is actually a banking feature that doesn’t charge you fees for using it?! What kind of a country IS this where they don’t charge you for every banking service you use?! After a failed attempt at the Interac eTransfer the first time, I was going to blow like a volcano! Finally, I found a page on HSBC Canada about Interac eTransfer that explained it.
Mum said, “you’re going to love this service someday!” She was right. There was so much stress the first time, but now I love it! Now, I look back on this story and laugh. That story is another reason why I was glad to open a Canadian bank account before I moved there. I don’t know what I would have done about the deposit if I didn’t have a Canadian bank account!
Bottom line: It takes a MINIMUM of a few grand per person to get settled in a new country. The more you move to a new country, the better you get at making financial decisions. Mistakes don’t completely go away, but you’re less likely to make a serious one if you go by past precedent.
Additionally, it was a lovely surprise to find the best French patisserie in Calgary. Whenever someone does something nice for me or my Mum we get a box of macarons. When you’re an expat, you need a lot of help, and it’s really touching when people come through for you. There’s no better reward than seeing their faces light up when we give them macarons. You’re probably asking, “You have money for that?” The answer, “Yes, I have money for that.” I’m new here, and I’m building connections. Sometimes, I have moved and really been thrown into the deep end because people weren’t willing to help. Canadians are among the most generous people I have had the pleasure of living with, and I have given out a lot of boxes of macarons to say thank you!
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with what I have to say about finances as an expat?