Dental

On top of what’s expected, like packing, trying to get rid of the stuff I do not need, and painting, I am also doing one more implant. 

I should have started it in November, but then I thought I was too busy with the book and work. As a result, I am doing it now, when I am even busier!

Today, I went for a tooth extraction. Since the dentist had to restore a part of the bone that deteriorated, I have to wait for four months till the implant. 

Although that is not my first implant, I did the previous ones with another surgeon. I liked this new dentist the moment he started talking to me during the initial consultation. So nice and kind! Not only he explained to me what should be done and why, but he also followed all his actions with verbal explanations of what he is doing at that very moment.

As you would expect, he gave me the paper with all my dos and don’ts for after the surgery. There was his cell number at the top of the page, and he told me to call him directly if anything. But what really shocked me was that he called me at 8 PM today to check whether I am feeling OK. Not the nurse, but the doctor himself… I do not think that ever happened to me!

J&J!!!

On Monday, my vaccination group (1C) finally became eligible in Illinois, which meant that I could start to participate in these endless waiting rooms on the Cook County Health Care department. Starting from last Sunday, I already did three of them, and each time with no luck.  

I heard from other people how they would spend hours on the phone or online trying to find an appointment. And I started to think that having everything that’s going on in my life, I will have to wait until the vaccine becomes more available – I have no time for than hunt.

On Thursday, I received yet another text alert about the release of appointments and was ready to start trying again when I decided to check my personal email. I do not have much time for that during the workday, not like I am not allowed, but I do not have time. For some reason, I looked at it that very moment (and it was April Fool, mind you:)) and I saw a Palatine Township newsletter. There could be absolutely nothing urgent, but for some reason, I opened it. 

The first paragraph read:

April 3 Vaccination available for seniors (65+)

and their caregivers (55+)

While the first part was no news, the second part was, and I could not believe my eyes. There was a phone number to call, and I did. There was no wait, and there was a person, a human being, who answered. I sheepishly started to ask whether that’s true and whether the caregivers indeed are eligible. She asked for my date of birth and said – yes. She put down all my information and said that the vaccination center would call me and please pick up the calls and check my emails.

Twenty minutes later, my phone rang, and another human being was on the line to verify my information. 

I said that I do not want to cut the line, and I am not a full-time caregiver, but the lady said: yes, but you do take care of your mom! Of course, we want you to be vaccinated along with your mom! She told me where I need to go -a senior center on the North Shore, and she added that they do not know which vaccine it is going to be; it will be delivered that morning. But if I would need a second dose, she added, they would schedule it as well.

It all happened so fast! That was the end of my workday on Thursday, and when I came home, I found a consent form in my Inbox. And then it was Friday, and then – today. Everything was organized exceptionally well; there was no wait, the flow was smooth. However, the best part was that when I arrived, they told me that I would get Johnson & Johnson!!! I thought that it would be great, but not that many chances, and it happened! As my mom said, those who are above us realized how little spare time I have! 

Our athorities ask us not to post selfies with vaccination cards anymore amidst the fraud concerns, so here comes a picture of the goodie bag I got in the senior center 🙂

Chicago’s Austin community and the complexities of COVID-19 vaccine equity

For the most part, Illinois is till currently in Phase 1B of the vaccination program. In order to get inoculated, you have to be 65 or older, or (with a few exceptions) an essential worker, or a teacher, or (in most parts of the state) be an adult with some kind of a long-term health issue. This means that most adults and none of the kids still can’t get it.

For the most part.

In the end of February, the City of Chicago quietly launched the Protect Chicago Plus initiative, where the city is offering vaccinations to everybody age 18 or older who live in certain community areas and set up temporary vaccination sites. The idea is that the majority-black and majority-Hispanic neighborhoods have seen higher-than-average number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, but also have fewer opportunities to get the vaccines. For example, the Lakeview neighborhood up on the North Side has a number of doctors’ offices, clinics and pharmacies. In North Lawndale, you can count those on two hands and still have fingers left over.

The city decided to set eligibility based on community areas, which makes sense. Neighborhoods come and go, their borders shift, and there isn’t always consensus on what they’re called and borders even are, while Chicago community areas have endured, with very few changes, for almost 100 years.

But it does create some interesting wrinkles.

Continue reading “Chicago’s Austin community and the complexities of COVID-19 vaccine equity”

Getting Tested In Helsinki

Two weeks before I left for Helsinki, I started to research where I can take a COVID test prior to my return. All my online searches ended the same way. After finding a place end trying to see how to schedule an appointment, it would bring me to the page, which would require identification with the local bank card (that’s how people in Finland get access to their medical records.
Natasha called them, and they told her that I do not need to go to the airport. I can call and schedule an appointment in the city. The cost of the test and certificate will be 265 euros, which is 315 dollars.
I came to Helsinki on Saturday, and on Monday morning, we started calling. Yes, the nurses speak English, but the automated system speaks Finnish :).
On the second try, we figured out what were the hours of operation and called later. There was a new message :), which asked – press one to call back. There was no option to “remain on the line.”

All was good, except we had no idea when they will call back, and Boris had to teach online for three and a half hours on that day. That was the reason why I chose Monday to meet with Natasha.
As we expected, they called during the class, but thankfully they called back one more time, and I was able to schedule an appointment for Wednesday. On Tuesday, we walked there to make sure we know where the place is. It was a good call because the testing lab and the medical office were in two separate buildings.

On Wednesday, I went for the test. On the phone, they asked me to bring a passport to put the passport number on the certificate. But they didn’t do it when taking the test; they only checked it to see that that was me :). Also, they told me that I would need to pay when I am picking up the certificate. And that I should not come back until I know I have a negative result.
All of this left me slightly worried – what if the result won’t be there on Thursday morning? However, Thursday morning, Boris received a text message: login to view your test results. Ha. I can’t log in! I do not have the banking identification!

We called them again; and, again, pressed one for a callback. An hour later, somebody called. I started to explain that I can’t view the results, and a lady said: yes, that’s why I am calling. Your result is negative, and you can pick up your certificate. But first, tell me your passport number so that I can put it on the certificate.

I went there, paid for the certificate, and we even stopped in the Fazer cafe for some salmon soup – that was the only day I was officially out of the quarantine, and also, we found a cafe where every other place was marked as “do not sit here.”

Funny story. When we were already back home, the medical center called back: did you call us? It turned out, that the nurse who called us in the morning, didn’t “call back,” but just called, because she knew I won’t be able to view the results 🙂

Everything was great. We stopped to buy some bread and dairy for me to take back to Chicago. Then we came home, and I went for one more short walk before starting my half-day at work.

I planned to start working at 4 PM (8 AM Chicago time) to do some coding before my first meeting at 9 AM. I printed the attestation copies, which are now required to enter the US, and took my certificate out of the envelope. I looked at it and saw that my last name was misspelled!!! Three characters off, which is not a surprise with the last name as long as mine!

I looked at my watch. It was 4:05. Boris said: three characters are OK for the airlines, but… I said: yes, not these days! The Aavo center was still open, and I hurried up there! It was -3F, and ai had to put layers and layers on myself. Fortunately, the tram came right away, and when I arrived, they told me to go to the second floor to the nurse. The whole thing took less than fifteen minutes, and I hurried back with the new certificate. On the way back, the tram driver saw me running to the stop and waited for me. I opened the apartment door at 4:58 🙂

Vaccination One More Time

They called me three times on Friday! First, to confirm mom’s appointment for Monday. One more time, because they forgot to remind me that mom needs to bring her ID to verify her age so that she won’t be turned down. And the third time – from her doctor’s office, because they didn’t receive that information yet, and they wanted to make sure we know about the vaccination. It was very touching, but I can’t stop resenting it took so long to figure things out!

On the same day, I received a message from my health care provider that the vaccine is available to the patients and that everybody will be contacted individually when there will be a turn for their age group. Once again – great, but why in the world it took co long?!

About The Vaccination

All this vaccination thing in the Northwest Suburban Cook County is so disorganized! I knew for several weeks that my mom is in the priority group 1b and will become eligible starting on January 25. The date was approaching, and nobody knew anything! All the officials were like, “please be patient!” And I am fine being patient, but I wondered why there couldn’t be a normal wait line like they have in Finland. 

There was literally no information at first. Then, the Tribune published the URL where everybody was supposed to register “to receive updates.” In Lake County, everybody could see their number in line, and even in Chicago, it seemed easier to find a slot. 

I messaged mom’s doctor in Access to Care, and they replied that they do not provide the vaccination yet and that I should try to sign up mom with Cook County. I did and received a UUID with which I could theoretically sign her up, but in both vaccination centers, all slots were full. At the alternative providers, the situation was the same. 

Also, they had endless lists of Walgreens, Jewel Oscos, and Walmarts, which would have the vaccine, but once again, “all slots full.” And what I do not understand is why they can’t have some centralized place to sign up for all Oscos or all Walgreens. Instead, you have to try to sign up with each store individually, only to find out that there are no slots available.

On Sunday, mom received an email from the NW Suburban Cook County Health Department that they have more doses and people can sign up. My understanding is that they sent this message to everybody who signed up to be in line, without any priorities. Because when mom forwarded this email to me, and I tried to sign her up, there were once again no slots available. 

In the city, the situation seems better, but you need to have a city zip code. Vlad, Igor, and I discussed whether we could pretend that mom lives with one of them :).

All of a sudden, today at midday, I received a message that Access To Care started to vaccinate and that mom can sign up. Which I immediately did, signing her for next Monday afternoon – the first appointment available. 

Now, I am cautiously optimistic, but I will believe it when I see it!

Multiple Reasons To Be Upset

Over the past seven months, I was praising Metra commuters for wearing masks and keeping the distance. 

However, tonight, on my ride back home, two middle-aged guys in the car were sitting in front of each other with no masks talking and drinking beer. I didn’t realize they were mask-less until I got up to exit. When I saw it, I told them: guys, you should wear masks on the train! It’s a requirement! They ignored, and the next passenger leaving the car said something about assholes, referring to them. Again, they didn’t care, and it was really upsetting. 

Yesterday, when I talked to Mom, I found out that she forgot that I gave her Kindle for her birthday, and she even forgot what the Kindle is. Fortunately, she found it, and I took it home to copy a book she wanted to read. After work, I stopped by her place to return her Kindle and make sure she knows how to use it. We practiced several times, and she just emailed me, “thank you for your gift.” I am very tired and upset each time I talk to her, and I do not understand why. It does not take a lot to listen to her for half an hour, and I do not understand why it.

Also, it’s a lot of work at work! And I mean just urgent work, which needs to be done, I am very sorry that people need to wait for days for me to do small things, but I can’t squizz more in my days than I do now.

And a vaccine. The disorganization is above and beyond anything I saw before. With Mom being eligible, I still can’t sign her up. I know that I need to start taking her to places because otherwise, her brain will die. But now, that vaccine is so close; you do not want to expose her till she is vaccinated… 

Also, one of the very important Postgres people emailed me about our “not enough” licenses on our data sources in the postgres_air database, and I spent the rest of the evening (after mom) putting these licenses together. 

Why is it that objectively, I am on the peak of everything, but subjectively I feel really exhausted? 

Rapid Test

Although the US government does not require to quarantine after coming back from Europe, so technically speaking, I didn’t need to get tested, I still wanted to get tested before seeing my girls. I spent some before departure researching the situation with rapid testing in Illinois. It turned out that I can’t get a rapid test “just because I need it for my personal reasons.” It was either 48 hours wait or a rapid test for a fee. Forty-eight hours didn’t work for me because the samples collected on Thursday were going to go to the lab only at the end of the day, and the result would be back by the EOD Saturday. I didn’t have symptoms, so I could not get a free rapid test, and the one-hundred dollars rapid test was the only option.

I found (or rather Vlad found) one provider in the city who is doing rapid tests on-demand and with whom I could book online. They have multiple locations, and it looked like both Chicago locations are doing rapid testing. I booked an appointment at the Streeterville location because it looked easier to reach. I could even walk there from the train station, although it was a long walk, and still have time to get to the office not to disrupt my first working day upon return.

And that’s what I did: took a very early train to the city, walked to the clinic, checked in… they took my sample and said: ok, that’s it. And I: ???? they – the results will be in two to three days… I: What about the rapid test?! They: we do not do rapid tests at this location; we do not have equipment yet. You need to go to the South Loop. I: Why did your web site allow me to register for a rapid test here?!
They said they would notify the other office, and I called Uber. The other office was on the opposite side of the city, and even though there is no real rush hour these days, eight AM is not the best travel time; Uber’s rates were doubled.

When I finally arrived at the South Loop office and check-in, they told me: our internet is down! Fortunately, after a while, they connected using somebody’s hotspot and processed my information and my payment. And they even allowed me to wait for the results, although at first, they said I couldn’t wait there. I had to take Uber to the office and was only a little bit late for my first morning meeting.

So it all ended up fine after all, but it was quite an expensive and stressful test.

A Word About Socialist Healthcare

As I mentioned yesterday, a free COVID test is offered at the airport, it is voluntary, but I gladly went. They assigned me a temporal Finnish social security number to enter me into their system. 

The total time to register for the test, wait, and have the test administered was about 40 minutes. They asked travelers to avoid public transport (sigh) and take a taxi, which I obliged. 

I was ready to be quarantined for my whole stay, but they texted me a negative result in the middle of the night, only 10 hours after the sample was taken. Which, in addition to today’s research results, delivers positive news. 

… Just remember how president Trump says he does not want our country to become socialist?! Yea, no chance, but… we can’t have THAT!

And BTW, do you know why Finland it rolling out this system? Because their economy is really dependent on holiday tourism and they want/need the tourist traffic. At the same time they care about their citizen and want ot be sure they are safe.