Fifteen days have gone since my leg operation. Today is my first day out. Sun shines and the wind is not chilly. The neighborhood is empty; everybody is on vacations.
I was not entitled to borrow a wheel chair from the hospital, as I got both clutches and a walker to move at home. I tried my best to lend a chair somewhere else in Kolding, but it was impossible. The cost of renting a wheelchair for a month is basically the same as buying a new cheap one at the big supermarket chain. I think it is weird to buy a chair just for a month, actually not more than 4 or 5 journeys and then drop it away. So no, not “discardable” wheelchairs for me.
I came to Denmark, for the first time 25 years ago as an exchange student and lived together with a Danish family in Lolland. I guess that my Danish parents were not quite aware of what an enormous task was to foster an exchange student at that time. I came back to Denmark for my PhD together with my own family three years ago. Since then, we have had a wonderful time in Denmark and I am incrediby grateful for my Danish family, who have always been eager to share their lives and love with us. Once again I beg them for help with the wheelchair issue.
And as always, they found a way. They lent a wheelchair in Lolland, from an NGO that collects and fixes used items to send abroad to developing countries. It is a pretty, purple, ultra-smart wheelchair, provided with a holder for clutches which is extremely useful.
As I don’t want to spend all of my last month in Denmark at home, a wheelchair and a lovely husband to drive it are a bless. Today was the first time I used it. We went by wheelchair to take the Danish public transportation to the hospital. There, a caring nurse got rid of the stitches in my leg and let me fold the knee 30°.
City buses being run by Sydtrafik (a private enterprise) are well equipped for the handicapped. The middle door opens and sinks down to be almost at ground level. Furthermore, a ramp can be unfolded so that you can drive in the bus without any help. The bus has a designed area for wheelchairs, so travelling in buses is actually easier than taking a taxi. The hospital is incredibly well equipped: doors automatically open as you approach them, or are provided by hanging door-openers at a considerable distance. This type of doors are also found in public buildings elsewhere, and I thought of them to be pretty fancy. Now I understand that they are actually designed for the handicapped. I am very happy and grateful for them.
We have had three wonderful years in Denmark. Three years of different types of learning. This last stage makes me realize how important is to understand the “public” in the broader sense. I am incredibly grateful for the Scandinavian welfare, which comprises not only the public health system but also the provision of public transport, ramps and well-finished sidewalks for public use, and bike paths. I will really miss Denmark.