News - April 21, 2011


My patriotism has increased since I have made international friends. My fellow students from Ethiopia or Indonesia compliment me virtually every day on our safe bicycle paths, ingenious polders, neat, clean pavements or the Keukenhof. A few weeks ago I even got a compliment for our organ donor policy. 'How nice that you don't allow people to sell their kidneys.'

If one or two of them see our forest reserves as a collection of lamp posts - 'if you call this forest then we don't have deforestation' - I take that in my stride. I tell them proudly that we even get to elect our water boards. Sometimes I get a bit nationalistic and arrogant, but our current Cabinet says that is OK. I had almost got to the stage where I was praising speed humps and speed cameras when my mother had trouble with her eyes.
Or rather, not so much 'trouble' as an internal explosion at the end of her working day. It turned out later to have been a haemorrhage in the middle of her right eye. She was suddenly unable to see anything through that eye. She immediately drove herself (which was extremely dangerous) to the hospital, feeling slightly panicky.
'I can't see anything any more, Doctor', she said to the doctor who had previously classified her eye complaints as a slight virus.
'Now let's see, what letter is this?'
'I can't even see you.'
'This is procedure, madam. What about this letter? Can you read this letter?'
When even the huge Q turns out to be difficult, the doctor decides to take a look.
He immediately decides to send her to a teaching hospital as operating straight away gives most chance of any recovery. 'You must have an operation this evening', he says.
But he changes his opinion after a short telephone call. 'You see, you have to understand, we have to make cuts too and...' Three days and at least three eye haemorrhages later - and consequently less chance of her sight recovering at all - there is a slot for an operation.
In the evening I catch the end of the news in which a GP explains for the umpteenth time that we really do not need a national digital patient file. He is pleased the Upper House voted unanimously to reject the proposal. The costs up to now: 300 million euros. Minister Schippers is disappointed.
So we can spend 300 million euros on enabling people to see our citizens' medical details but we do not have enough money to help our citizens to see. I wonder which international student will help me back to feeling proud again.