Blog – Staying Healthy and Playing with a Bishop

The good news is that the Doctor said I was fairly healthy, the bad news is that he said I had the “English Disease”.

No, not that disease, my new American doctor says we English all have a vitamin D deficiency.

My first introduction to the US Health system started a month ago.  If you are not aware, the American nation spends twice as much per person on Healthcare as the UK, or France, Germany or Sweden.  But the system in the US is very different to the UK, with the majority of cover here being private, as opposed to being funded out of taxes in the UK.  There is a complex set of partial “safety nets”, but it is estimated that 16% of the population have no cover at all.

Male life expectancy on average in the US is 4 years less than in the rest of the high income countries in the Western World.  A combination of bad lifestyle, and a huge gap in the availability of proper health care to the poor.  Most observers reckon that the US is now the only “developed” nation that doesn’t offer universal healthcare, and there certainly isn’t a majority interest in fixing this problem as Mr Obama has discovered.

But I guess I have to be happy that we have taken out a top of the range health care policy.  Dr Igor has a lovely bedside manner, and a strong Czech accent.  We swapped Prague drinking stories, and he told me my liver was fine, great news, I will have to drink to that later.  Off to a fake Irish pub to celebrate St Patricks Day, something they obsess about around here.

Dr Igor asked when I had last had a health check, the answer of course was “never, we just don’t do that in the UK”.  He then gave a thorough examination, including checking my prostate.  Ummm.  And then he told me what he was going to do for me….8 blood tests, a scan of my kidneys and bladder, and a colonoscopy.  Back a month later, and he decided my cholesterol levels were high, and with absolutely no discussion of my diet, I have magic statin pills.

My blood pressure was slightly raised, I tried to explain it might have something to do with the internal examination he had just done.  But, hey, another pill for my blood pressure.

So what does all of that tell me?

I am obviously delighted to have been put through such a thorough check up.  And I loved the good doctor, great sense of humour, even with his finger inserted in sensitive areas.  But how much of this is necessary, and the cost of it all is unbelievable.  We have the best of schemes, but we still co-pay, up to a maximum of $2k per annum.  Each prescription cost me between $10 and $70, there is a charge for everything, mostly covered by the insurance, but every price to my mind is over inflated.

Vrinder and Mandeep, our dear colleagues had their lovely baby out here, the charge to the insurance company was over $20k.

The American nation is a great and prosperous place.  We love most aspects of our life here, but the population are being ripped off big time by the Health sector, paying twice as much per head, and yet not, as a nation, getting the proper return.  The well off do pretty well in the system, but bad exercise and diet for large swathes of the nation, and a huge underclass who can’t afford to be sick, paint a bad picture.

And to prove I am healthy, I have been playing tennis twice a week.  Unfortunately the only people who will play with me on a regular basis are the old age pensioners, an interesting bunch.  This week I was partnering the Bishop of Denver who has his eye on me, he wants to convert me to the ways of  the Lord.  I would have been more co-operative, but his belief didn’t save us from being embarrassed by a bloke who took his heart pills between games, and an 81 year old.

The Bishop then told me he had used me as an example in his sermon at Denver Cathedral last Sunday.  I was the English non believer, part of the 95% of Brits who walk on the dark side.  He says he will give me the CD when it is available this week.

A strange week, with lots of bashing from a doctor and a bishop.  Only in America.

Language – joining people or separating them?

Language is a strange thing, words are used in different ways in different cultures.  The locals here in America still laugh at the things I say, last month it was “Punter”, by which I rudely meant prospective customers.

But pants is one of the funny ones, what does that mean?  Always a problem if an American says you have nice pants.  And please don’t react when someone compliments your wife on having a nice fanny.

Not that they would.  Sex is something that doesn’t exist in America.  A singer “accidentally” pops a very small amount of breast out on TV, during a strange event called the Super Bowl, and everyone is still talking about it two years later.  Bizarre, somehow they want to protect their children from these things.

Our Jake is off to a school prom tonight, huge palaver, an hour and a half of photos with their mates before they even get on the bus to take them to dinner.  And they all get searched getting on to the bus, 17 year old kids, but of course they can’t have an alcoholic drink until they are 21.  The problem is they go to college at 18, are they really not going to drink?  Away from home, over protected and fussed over, but in theory they still aren’t allowed to drink.

But of course they do, the licensing laws here just do not make sense.

Cars are close to sacred beings in some parts of America, but at least here in Denver they aren’t any different than they are in England.  In fact there are considerably less high end Porsches and Ferraris than you would find in Oxford or London, but otherwise the cars are very similar.  However take a short flight to Texas, and you find a different world.  Huge trucks, enormous wheels, and 12 lane highways.  I love Texas, and Texans are so positive that it can be very refreshing, but almost to a man, they don’t get English cynicism at all.

In most American cities there are at least two freeways to get from A – B.  In theory the grid layout makes navigation in America easier, and certainly cities like New York are much easier than London or Paris.  But GPS…..sorry Sat Nav is still a boon when travelling in America, even if no Americans understand they didn’t invent it.

If you really want a fun argument, try and explain that they didn’t invent mobile…..sorry Cell Phones.

But back to Sat Nav.  Denver has a strange problem with street names.  We live in Galena, and there are 6 of these in the Denver Metropolitan Area.  Goodness knows how many Fulton’s, Ida’s and Geneva’s there are, they are everywhere.  It is as if they got a job lot of road name signs and they just never managed to buy any more.

So you have to be very careful when looking for a street, you have to know the post code……sorry Zip code, and area.  The situation is further complicated by the mania for redevelopment.  So a street is named, split up, but not renamed.  Last month I was in an unfamiliar area, about 3 miles from our house, and found myself on Havana Street.  Another of those repeating names, but no, I realised it was the same street which passes the end of our enclave….sorry, estate.  The only problem was they broke up Havana, with a reservoir and a state park.  Some roads stop totally at the freeway and start again on the other side – with no connecting tunnel or bridge.  It all makes driving very complex.

Early last year I came over to Denver to look for an office, I needed an address for our Visa application.  I had been to the Denver Tech Centre area many times over the previous 6 years, but you learn to rely on Sat Nav (sorry GPS).  I had spoken to a managed office provider locally and arranged a visit to view the premises.  So I left my 9th floor hotel room, went down in the lift, and got in to my car in the car park.  I keyed the address in to the Sat Nav, and 6 or 7 minutes later I was parking at the Regus office centre.  Up in the lift to the 9th Floor, and the manager proudly then showed me their best available room.  I stared out at a fantastic view of the mountains, and ………straight into my hotel room which was exactly next door, 50 yards away.  No, technology doesn’t always give you the best result.

Some of the oddest language differences have appeared in the last month.  Remember the green stuff you put in stews for flavor and garnish?  It’s called Erbs.  Every time Heather asks for kitchen roll, the American ladies laugh out loud.

But the one that cracks us all up is the Italian cheese you put on pasta in nice restaurants.  No it is not ParmeSHAN, why oh why would it be called that?

Two countries, one language, yes, but actually it is a very different culture here.  There are 6 churches within half a mile of our house, priorities are different.  We are adapting slowly, and there are huge benefits, great food, fantastic service, and some really nice people, but we still really miss our lovely open friends.

And when you think of America, please don’t ever make the mistake of thinking we are very similar.  Two very different cultures, with one messed up language.  Remind me to write about Ben and the Spelling Bee contest (very Lisa Simpson) some time.