Year of Grace, Day 124. Cards and socialized medicine

I went for my quarterly eye exam the other day, and that’s when I realized that among the other casualties from my brush with Barcelona bandits was my medical insurance card. The receptionist at the eye doctor’s, despite having seen me regularly over several years, insisted on my calling the insurance provider to have them send a fax confirming my coverage. It would take ten days to have a new card mailed to me. Until then, every time I access any medical service, a fax would have to be sent by the insurance company. I am grateful that my insurance provider has English-speaking assistance, a concession no doubt to the proliferation of UN offices here. (Under duress, my facility with spoken German declines.)

The other card taken was my Bonn commuter’s card. This allows me to go on all the Bonn transport services – bus, train, metro, tram — with a minute reduction for over 60s, unlike the very generous free bus pass to seniors in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. I shall have to reapply for this in person. Quite annoying.

How fortuitous then that I had removed all the other cards normally carried in my wallet just before we travelled. My library cards for the Bonn University Library and the Bonn public library; my loyalty card for Knauber’s, my favourite craft and garden shop, etc. What would modern life be like without these handy pieces of plastic we habitually carry and use?

There’s a new opthalmologist at my eye clinic, and being new, or perhaps this is how he is usually, he was exceedingly thorough. The only one who ever came this close to painstaking was the one I went to in England. The new doctor went repeatedly over what must have been every capillary and vein in my retinae. It is comforting to have this level of meticulous investigation on what I consider my most important sense. And I learned something new – those who have extreme myopia are at greater risk of retinal detachment as they grow older. All is well with my eyes, the new doctor said. There are no holes or tears. My eyesight has not deteriorated, I am gratified to hear, and I am to come again in three months, as usual. Unless, he said, I see flashes. If I do, then to come without delay.

My dilated eyes were extremely sensitive to the bright afternoon sun as I went home, but I was gratified to have my eyes declared fit. Not 100% perfect, but at my age, one does not expect the clarity of eyes belonging to someone aged 20, the doctor said. “Or am I allowed to say that?” he asked, perhaps anxious that I would consider his statement ageist.

I am truly grateful for modern medicine and the range of excellent medical services and facilities available here in Bonn. Especially as Bonn University has an excellent medical school for which it is renowned, and the University Clinic, actually a research and practice hospital, is just minutes away from the house. Contrary to those who decry “socialist” medicine, I am deeply thankful that I live in a society where medical insurance is compulsory and affordable and available to all at the same highly professional level of treatment, irrespective of social status.

It is interesting that Maimonides, the Jewish sage, born in Cordoba in 1135, and physician to the court of the Vizier Saladin in Cairo, had this to say, among other things, on how to live a good life — “Reside only in towns or villages where you know the following are available: a physician, a surgeon, … flowing water, a school, a teacher, a scribe, an honest treasurer of charity [the ancient equivalent of today’s social services?], and a court” (Simon Schama, 2014, The Story of the Jews, page 343).

I leave you with contorted hazel catkins, photographed the other day in the back garden: the long tassels are male, the small bud ending in tiny red rods, female. Unless you come very, very close, the female flower would be all but unnoticeable.

Flowers on a contorted hazel

Flowers on a contorted hazel: the long tassels are male, the tiny bud with red tips, female.