This is a question I ask myself today, after a week of having a good old-fashioned flu and cold. In this day and age of COVID-19, monkey pox and all other contagious diseases, it is hard to believe that one can have a simple viral infection know as the flu and the common cold. Although there is nothing common about a cold anymore, and it is almost impossible to catch the flu without panicking that it might be something else.
I have to admit, when I left work last Monday feeling as though I had been run over twice by a bus, the first thing that crossed my mind was I was about to become another COVID statistic, since the symptoms are almost identical to the flue. However, I had tested negative the day before and that morning as well, and knew I was cleared on that front. I’ve been very careful thus far, doubling up on vitamins to strengthen the immune system, especially since I commute. Considering that this is the first time I catch the flu in over two years, I’d say it is a pretty good track record. Alas, I could not remain in perfect health forever, much as I would love to be.
I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say that I went through two boxes of tissues, copius amounts of flu meds that had me really loopy, and lost all sense of time as I drifted in and out of sleep. I suppose this was my body’s way of telling me rest was long overdue and if I wasn’t going to do it voluntarily, then by force.
I continued to test daily for COVID throughout the week and still came up negative each time. Today I got my clearance to return to work, with a warning that viral infections remain in the body for about two weeks, and until then, I am to take it easy and ditch the flu meds. This gave me an opportunity to test the Portuguese healthcare system, and compare it it the German one I have been living with for the past 25+ years. Needless to say, it was enlightening and I have a newfound respect for it.
Access to medical services in Germany is determined be the type of health insurance you carry – private or public, and the bottom line is no healthcare, no doctor. The Portuguese healthcare system is similar to the British NHS, where you are part of a publicfly funded national healthcare system that is “national, universal, general and free”. You have access to medical services regardless of whether you have insurance or not. If you happen to have health insurance, of course there are certain advantages to avail of, but if you don’t, it is not a reason to stay away from doctors or hospitals, as long as you register with the your local health centre.
Being a foreigner in this country had me wondering how to go about the whole healthcare and insurance, having been programmed by the German system for so many years. Much to my surprise, there are several options available to those who are not yet permanent residents, and this was a delight to discover. Long story short, I got my medical certificate clearing me to return to work. I almost fell off my chair laughing when I read the document declaring me “robust” and the document itself if called a Atestado de Robustez (literally translated a certificate of robustness). OK then… no other language has made me feel like a tree, albeit a bonsai, but a tree nevertheless!
Once the laughter subsided, the wording got me thinking… what are we really aiming for when we consciously choose to eat healthy foods, cut down on fats and cholesterols, eat less meat, not binge on sweets or alcholol, etc.? Yes, yes, yes, to be healthy and all that, but what does healthy really mean? For it is one thing to be healthy, and quite another to be robust. Are you physically, emotionally and spiritually robust?
- Withstand the test of time
- The outward changes do not diminish the strength of the core
- Stand proud after the storm
- Be cleansed by the rains and dried by the sun
- Have roots that run deep to keep you anchored
- Be the inspiration and comfort to others in spite of the agony and pain they bring you
- Remain steadfast amidst the ever-changing landscape
- Losing a branch here and there allows more room for growth
I may not be the tall oak or mighty pine that towers above the others in the forest. I think I am more of an old magnolia tree. All these years I considered myself a resilient bamboo, bending subserviently to the wind but never breaking. Today I realised that my true word is robust.