One Week In…

Almost exactly 7 days ago, I was getting off of the Metro Train from the airport in Amager Strand, which kind of translates to “South Beach.” A short walk later, maybe 1 kilometer (Yes, I am having to completely relearn the metric system to manage here: Km, Km/h, celsius, military time, etc.) we arrived at my host family’s flat. They live on the second floor, in an apartment that was originally two separate, and is now one, because a growing family needs more space!

Let me take a moment to tell you about this amazing family: Karen, my host mom, from the moment I walked out of the airports has offered support towards me. Whether it is carrying my bags in a stroller on our walk back, or providing the family dinner at night, she is always on the ball. Karen also is incredible when it come to talking about my project. Always curious, she prompts great questions, for myself and all of us as we share and discuss the role of medicine in Copenhagen, Denmark, and this World. Morten, my host dad, makes me feel like I was always part of the family, that I have lived in Denmark my whole life, and he makes sure that his friends are my friends. You seriously couldn’t ask for more! Whether it is a tour through the city by bike, or a visit to their “summer home” by car, he is engaging, thoughtful and continuously offers himself up as a mentor and guider in a new and foreign world for me. Rune, my 10 year-old (almost 11!) host brother, is silly, fun, and enthusiastic. He is always up for adventure and it is clear he is practicing his English around me. Often I am quizzed back by him on how to say the hardest Danish word you can think of. Yesterday, we ran to the beach, and raced to the ice cream shop at the very end. Iben, my 7 year-old year host sister, started off very shy. Trying to figure out who this weird American was that was now occupying some of her space, she slowly warmed up to me. Now we play around, and practice our English and Danish. Yesterday, we were on a putt-putt team together and rocked it. Basically, this family is awesome. See below if you don’t believe me.

Left to Right – Front: Me and Morten, Middle: Louis, Sander (two friends), Rune, Back: Karen and Iben

What a packed car and what a great group of people!

In my first week here, there have been lots of adjustments: time change and jet-lag, a new home and bed, new faces, and new languages. All of these things have presented themselves as both incredibly challenging and incredibly rewarding to work though. I am beginning to think and realize that this will be much of how things will work here. An initial challenge, followed by victory, sometimes taking longer to reach than others (and thats okay too)!

Much of week one has been all about familiarization, and adjustment. I am happy to have so much time here because it has really allowed me to get acquainted with this place before I know I have to move onward.

So here is a recap…

  • Sunday 7/9: Arrival, unpack, a walk on the beach + ice cream, dinner outside, and a very early bedtime.
  • Monday 7/10: Late sleep, brunch, and a bike through the city with Morten & Rune
  • Tuesday 7/11: A drive to see my host family’s summer home, dinner at a friends, and my first navigating test: a train-ride home with two switches (I only messed up once!).
  • Wednesday 7/12: A day to myself in CPH, a long tour (biking and walking), sightseeing and exploring, my first run abroad, and Jazz music at night.
  • Thursday 7/13: Discovering Life Amidst Emergencies! – A tour of EMS Copenhagen, the dispatching facility responsible for all calls received within the greater capital region, followed by scheduling an interview for an internship with their service!
  • Friday 7/14: Picking up the kids at the summer home, and taking in two more kids from the CISV Summer Camp Abroad program.
  • Saturday 7/15: A morning at the beach, and an evening meeting new people through couchsurfing, celebrating a birthday, and talking about my project.
  • Sunday 7/16:  A rainy day here – journaling, blogging and planning so far.

Here are some photos of some things seen and done in the first week:

A summer home, with emphasis on staying outside!
Views from the Summer Home
Inside St. Albans: The only Episcopal Church in Denmark
Being a tourist, and meeting the Little Mermaid

It has been quite the adventure so far. The biggest challenge is figuring out how to introduce yourself to a local Dane. I am sure this skill will greatly develop over time, but to start is hard.

Some reflections on my project:

There is a LOT to learn, and that is SO exciting! Everything is a process and it is only Just beginning.

Karen, my host mom, framed it in a good way. For me, there are three major components to this project: The System, The Organization, and the People. I have just gotten a taste of this thus far, but I have already learned a lot.

People are happy here. Rain or shine, and people are healthy (thus far from observation).  Denmark has two numbers to call regarding medicine: 112, for emergencies, and 1813, for non-emergent medical calls and inquiries. Dispatchers, people who answer 112 calls are working 24/7, ready to answer anything that comes their way. Each member is either a trained medic or nurse; they triage the call, determine its emergent status and guide the person on the other line what to do next. 1813 Dispatchers are also trained Nurses. From 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM, there are relatively few on duty. They’re available to take calls, but individuals typically call their own personal Doctor during normal Business hours. After 4:00 PM, the center fills to 72 members to take and handle all of the incoming calls. Separated into groups of about 6, there are trained medics, nurses, and one doctor per group. For more serious inquiries and prescription refills, the doctor manages these calls.  In a separate area of the building, Ambulance Dispatchers monitor the calls from 112, determine the closest ambulance, and instruct the pursing medics on what to do and where to go. It is a very cool system and the organization behind it is well trained, efficient and presented themselves as more than capable of handling the one million plus calls they receive a year.

Some things I discovered this week that really stood out to me:

  1. One of the four screens of the 112 Dispatcher’s computer is a map, and within them are many many different hearts scattered around the map of the city. I learned that each heart representes a functional AED (Automated External Defibrillators). Each Dispatcher is able to see, in relation to a call received, where the nearest AED is. With the incidence of heart attacks and other cardiopulmonary complications being as high as it is, this allows for bystanders, who are often the nearest to an emergency, to act quick and in place while more trained help arrives. — This is incredible.
  2. To add to this, I leaned that individuals within Copenhagen who apply for a Driver’s License must also become trained in first aid, which includes CPR training. Though this takes more time, this also raises a population who is ready and able to act for others in the case of an emergency. It is a direct display of mutual accountability for one another.

Having yet to interview in detail opinions on these various systems of care, I can only imaging how this helps boost a sense of safety within this city. I am sure I will also find others who are frustrated with the need to do this, thinking first aid is a job for people who want to do it, but it will be good to hear all sides and opinions. I’m excited about what I will see, and intrigued by all that there is to offer here. René, who gave me the tour of EMS Copenhagen and who has helped supply all of the software necessary to accomplish these tasks, spoke about how this system is one of the most integrated forms of healthcare you can have. It creates a way for patients to fluidly be transferred from bystander to medic to hospital and creates lasting care for the individuals who need it.

Lastly, here are some pictures of an ambulance in Copenhagen (they are yellow!).


Thanks for following along; I am excited for what else there is to see and to be able to share with you. I have learned the word, Skål, which is used in toasting and raising a drink with friends.

Though no drink currently in hand, Skål to you, whenever and wherever you may be.

One thought on “One Week In…

  1. Impressive first week Mark. I’ll bet you are breaking stereotypes for your host family too. Remind them that not all Americans are as cool, smart, polite and insightful as you are. They are lucky they got you for this project. Press on my little Quester and remember that this it the purpose for which you are made according to God… or something like that. Kerry


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