Well, sadly for me, but luckily (perhaps) for you guys, I have some first-hand foreigner-in-an-emergency experience to relate to you. Perhaps it will be of assistance to you if you find yourself in need of medical attention. First of all, if you go rollerblading, even if you are just ‘trying out’ the skates. Wear protective gear. This is something I already knew, and yet… I didn’t do it. I didn’t have knee and elbow pads (sure wish I had had them as you will understand shortly), but I had a bicycle helmet that I “woulda-shoulda-coulda” used. You may already have guessed, this is the story of my (literal) trip to the legevakt (Emergency Room). It was my first, and, although it was basically a good experience, I do hope it is my last!
This would have been a good idea… image: http://www.amazon.com/skateboarding-protective-gear/b?ie=UTF8&node=3416271
Here’s what you should (definitely not) do for your trip to the legevakt in Norway.
Step 1 Injury yourself in some stupid and humiliating way when you should be working on your thesis.
Yes, I still have a back injury (see my other embarrassing post about failing the 7 Mountain Challenge), and yes I got on rollerblades anyway. No, I wasn’t wearing protective gear when I knew I should be because I’ve rollerbladed before. And, yes, I feel very very dumb. My norwegian boyfriend, Grim, and I were just “testing” out new rollerblades so we were gently/slowly rolling around next to Amalie Skram Videregående Skole when I think I must have hit a bit of gravel. At any rate, I went down fast, catching myself on my right elbow before my glasses (which I initially thought may have shattered, but really the frame broke in one place, popping the glass from the right eye neatly out onto the sidewalk) and then my temple connected with the asphalt. I immediately regretted my decision to rollerblade without protective gear, as well as my choice of outfit for the day, as I didn’t relish heading to the legevakt in it, although, at that point, I still hoped I might not have to go.
A beautiful place for a fall?* Amalie Skram Videregående Skole. Photo: http://www.skoleanlegg.utdanningsdirektoratet.no/artikkel/101/63/Amalie-Skram-videregaende-skole-Bergen
*please don’t fall there also.
Step 2 Manage to get lucky enough that you do it near a trained lifeguard
I very quickly started verbalizing (as well as I could in the situation) that I fell and hit my head and that might not be an ideal circumstance. Grim came over quickly and tried to help me up, but I was quite woozy and felt the allure of laying down on the sidewalk a bit more. He got (or perhaps my fall had already gotten) the attention of a lifeguard in the the Amalie Skram Videregående Skole swimming pool and several lifeguards came over to attend to me, bringing me ice, water, cleaning the cut on my head, and eventually calling the legevakt (thanks, guys, you were all great!). Sadly, the legevakt didn’t answer, so the lifeguard suggested taking a cab there to get checked out in person.
Hilarious… and appropriate… Image: http://www.ymcabham.org/velifeguardcpr
Step 3 Have a Norwegian speaking friend willing to go with you/call a cab
Grim sat in the front listening to stories of other stupid people getting rides to the legevakt because of rollerblades, while I tested my ability to sit upright in the back seat. My ear, which had been ringing after the fall, seemed to settle down, and my ability to sit upright seemed a bit better.
Get a cab, stat! Photo: https://www.holelas.no/bergen-taxi/
Step 4 Let your friend wait in line while you slowly realize your elbow might be a tiny bit broken
Grim waited in line for me while I kept changing my mind about whether sitting down or lying across the bench-like row of chairs I was stationed at was a better idea. I slowly realized that although I could move my arm it didn’t seem to be feeling any better; worse was, perhaps, a more accurate, if understated, way to put how it was feeling. And I increasingly wanted to use it less. Grim came back for me when he got to the front of the line and I got up and to give the administrator my information. We (he) had waited in line about 30-45 minutes, but I didn’t wait much longer to be seen.
Waiting room selfies help you realize how injured you may actually be. Photo: Stand Hiestand
Step 5 Have the doctor tell you you’re dumb and lucky (which you already know)
My doctor looked me over, checked for signs of concussion (the definition of which is apparently different in Norway than the US? In the US you don’t have to have lost consciousness or had memory loss, but it seems here you do), and took a look at the cut on my head. A nurse had taken a look at it before the doctor arrived and had concurred with some the lifeguard had mentioned – it might need one stitch, or maybe just glue. I was sorta up for a stitch, as I’d never had one before. However, the doctor said the edges were clean and I did not need a stitch, glue and a butterfly closure would do. After teasing me, with meaningful and unsubtle undertones about not using safety gear, especially considering my masters is in something called Health Promotion, he said he was more worried about my arm than my head. Perhaps that had something to do with the fact that when he greeted me with a handshake I didn’t even attempt to move my right hand to meet his. He determined that I should get an x-ray to see what was going on.
Butterfly closures as delicate as a butterfly. Photo: Stand Hiestand
Step 6 Get X-rays
There was much waiting for x-rays as only one doctor was on duty at the time. During my wait I determined I had probably sustained a blunt force fracture of the elbow, messaging Grim out in the waiting room with my self-diagnosis. He, understandably, made fun of me (one shouldn’t self-diagnose via the internet). Here, despite his teasing, I want to note my gratitude for all Grim’s help on a day I wish had been a lot less exciting.
My doctor took this shot for me so I could see the x-ray of my radial head. The fracture is small enough that it is difficult to see on an iphone image of an x-ray.
Eventually, I got the x-ray, and my doctor came back to tell me that I had indeed had a radial head fracture (the radius, of course, being one of bones in the arm – and the head of the radius essentially being by yer elbow), albeit an itsy bitsy one. I was sorta excited, as this was my first broken bone – and since I’d been robbed of my first stitch, at least I got one first in. He said that I was lucky that it was such a minor break, and if I had to have a broken bone, this was the one to have. I got set up with a sling, to be with me night and day for about a week, and then I finally got to head towards the exit.
Step 7 Pay
After about 2-and-a-half hours in the legevakt, concussion check, butterfly closures, x-rays, and sling, all told it cost me less in kroner for an emergency room visit here in Norway than one non-emergency appointment with no insurance in the United States cost me in dollars (about 690 kroner to over 700 dollars). I cannot imagine what it would have cost to have had a similar ER visit in the US without insurance. One (sketchy) site said it could cost about $2500 for a broken arm; and this article indicated that the average cost for an ER visit in the US is about $2,168. I could imagine it being at least that much. So, I’m grateful to be in Norway right now, weird injuries and all.
Need the legevakt?
Now, I will note here to please try not to hurt yourself so you have to repeat any of the above steps. But if you do find yourself in a situation where you have to head to the legevakt, try to:
- Bring a friend.
- If you can’t get an ambulance by calling 113, do take a cab – don’t risk wasting time getting help.
- If you’re unsure if you need emergency medical assistance; it’s always better to go and have the doctors rule out the worst case scenarios.
- Remember, the legevakt has moved and is now located at Solheimsgaten 9, 5058 Bergen.
Grim thought I’d maybe have a black eye… again, I thought, “my first black eye!”, maybe I’d at least look like a badass. Naw, not so much. More like poorly chosen and poorly placed makeup. Photo: Stand Hiestand
Remember these emergency numbers
- Fires and other major accidents: 110 (fire department emergency number)
- Criminal offences that endanger people’s lives: 112 (police emergency number)
- Ambulance: 113 (medical emergency number)
Memorize them like my friend Chriz told me, “112, they’re coming for you. 113, come and save me. 110, fireman’s your hero!” – or, just put them in your phone, but have them on hand. And I hope you never need them!