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2010-11-05 9:16 a.m.

Welcome to Falun.

My first experience with socialized medicine was a good one.

One of the reasons I came to Sweden to get my permanent resident status set up was to see a doctor. My health is overall quite good. But, I have a few compressed disks in my spine that cause me problems a few times a year and it only gets worse as I race closer towards Old Age.

They have a special way of making a doctor's appointment here. You call the phone number of the main medical building for your city. There you use an automated system to enter your phone number and they assign a nurse to phone you back at a time you choose. And, unlike the USA, they don't pick a time in the year 2017. They scheduled me a callback for two hours later!

When the nurse called I explained to her that I had some back problems, but more pressing right now was I think I broke my toe last night. I hit it on a chair and it was swollen and the pain made walking pretty unbearable. She asked me if it was pointing in the right direction, she asked me to pinch it and describe the pain. After a few minutes she gave me her prescription.

She said, "You need some wooden clogs." Not ibuprofen, not surgery, not even a little toe-splint with a blue and yellow Swedish flag or anything. Clogs. "That way your toe won't bend when you walk. We don't treat broken toes, since there's nothing we can do. Go buy some träskor [the Swedish word for their traditional wooden shoes] and wear those until it's better."

There was compassion and understanding in her voice, and I felt better just talking with her. I felt like I'd come home to a person—and a place—that already knew me. It was like being back at mom's house, getting taken care of.

So I did what I'd do at mom's house. I went straight to the kitchen, took some ibuprofen, ate some cookies, and put back on my cowboy boots.