I moved to Sweden for family reasons years ago, and both my children were born there. I’m grateful to the Swedish health care system for giving them the best possible start in life, including prenatal care and obstetrics, regular pediatric check-ups and occasional visits to the emergency room. No health care system is perfect, and doctors’ waiting rooms in Sweden are not as luxurious as in some in the US, but we’ve always received excellent medical care. This is especially apparent in the extensive medical treatment necessary for one of my children, who due to a congenital deformity suffered from life-threatening kidney infections early in life. Many of us hope that we can avoid sickness and injury by leading a healthy and responsible life, but sometimes bad things happen anyway. It was terrifying for us as parents to find ourselves in the neonatal intensive care unit with a three-week-old baby in critical condition. But through our fear and grief, we could see that no resources were being spared for our son. In fact, costs and insurance were never an issue (there wasn’t any paperwork to fill out) because in Sweden medical care is free of cost for all children up to the age of 18. After several more hospital stays and surgeries, our son recovered. Throughout this experience, I was constantly impressed by the fact that not only my son, but every single child in Sweden receives the same high level of care, regardless of their parents’ circumstances. Swedes recognize that children are society’s future, and that children deserve society’s support. As a result of treatment by medical specialists in Sweden, my son, now a young teenager, is in full health and thriving. The doctors call him in for regular check-ups, and tell us that, though they do not expect him to have more problems, they will continue to monitor him throughout his life, just to be on the safe side. One day my son may want to move to his other home country – the United States – and if so, I hope he will not be denied insurance because of this pre-existing condition. Most of all, I hope that American society will do better by all its children and provide them and their parents universal health care. It’s the only compassionate thing to do.
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