Finland – a land of beauty, of stunning and unique animals which blow the mind and of the Midnight Sun. Forever breath-taking to visit, Finland touts itself as being at the top of the ladder when it comes to human rights, education and health. While this may be true for those they deem as “normal,” Finland once again shows its true colours in regards to their disabled, terminally ill, chronically ill and low income earning citizens.
I first noticed the change in how the Finnish government treated me when I lost my hearing. After dealing with a corrupt health system a few years back, by way of an Audiologist who was unable to determine the cause of my deafness, therefore decided that I was fine and able to hear, I was no longer treated like a valued member of society, but rather as a “We’d rather you not be seen nor heard from, as you are useless to us” Finnish citizen. As a result, I wrote a book about the corruption and the disgrace that is Finnish health and human rights system. I followed this up with a book for Late Deafened Adults (worldwide), titled How to Be Deaf, in order to prepare those who lose their hearing later in life for what’s to come. As a result, many Deaf people worldwide have expressed their thanks, nodding their heads in agreement that they have, indeed, suffered the same audism and surdophobia in their neck of the woods.
As a Diabetic, I rely on lower priced, subsidised medications just to keep me alive. Today, I am informed by KELA (the powers that be, who decide the fate of “insignificant gnats” like me) that my essential, life-saving medications are now my problem. Not only am I a profoundly Deaf, legally blind Finnish citizen who is forced to work from home (I have been physically assaulted by a bus driver (I didn’t hear him speaking to me), must pay for my own interpreter at job interviews and no employer risks the extra burden of “broken” employees), but I am also a burden to the country because of my health. Without my Diabetic medication, I end up back in hospital. Most recently, my blood sugar dropped to 2.7, I was passed out (at school and at the hospital) and hospital staff had to warm up my body just so they could get my blood flowing enough to take my blood sugar numbers. Yes, Diabetes is a life-threatening illness, which is affected by food, water, stress, illness and more.
I am also a Chronic Asthmatic, and without my essential five-different-types-of-medication-per-day, I stop breathing. The first time I developed pneumonia, I requested to have an oxygen tank at home for times when I simply cannot get enough oxygen into my body. This request was immediately denied, as the powers that be worried that the Australian-Finn, bed-ridden at the time of the request, might use it to make a weapon. Although I barely make it through each day and night due to severe breathing difficulties and I go through a lot of medication to try to keep my asthma at bay, I know it is just a matter of time before that letter arrives – where I must bear the cost of all those other medications – and when it does, this blog will tell the world the reason why I can post no more.
Finland, you may treat your strong and healthy well when it comes to health services, but those of us who are Deaf and/or disabled are dropping like flies, thanks to your labelling us as of such little worth to your ideal, perfect human being. Shame on you.
Please understand that we are not all equal. We are not all clones of your ideal human being. Those of us who are Deaf simply cannot hear. We can do anything you can do – sometimes even better than you can do it – but we do not hear sound. Those of us who are disabled and require assistance to get through life, while doing everything we can to contribute to your “perfect way of life,” are forced to hide in the shadows. We may not be athletes, we may not clean your home or cook your food or even service your cars, but we do contribute silently, working as hard as we can to ensure that your way of life is maintained. The least you could do in return is allow us to survive.
Please do not get me wrong. Do I love my country and the people who live in it? Yes, I do. Do I love and respect the laws of this country? Absolutely. Have I learned the language and culture of your country in order that I do my absolute best to fit in with Finland’s way of life? I surely have. (Not so easy when you cannot hear).
So please tell me this:
Why, when I am so ill, must I wait for an interpreter to become available in order to make a doctor’s appointment? Why do doctors refuse to use a pen and paper when dealing with Deaf people?
Why must we bear the cost of our own medications, when pharmaceutical companies make the cost so incredibly high? While you do not control that cost, surely you can absorb some or all of the cost, in order that we maintain our sub-standard way of living.
Why must Deaf and disabled tolerate the open discrimination of your bus drivers, nurses, doctors, so-called medical specialists and the powers that be?
When I was diagnosed as Deaf, I was threatened with deportation unless I agreed to be butchered with the forced surgery of a Cochlear Implant. After standing up to the Audiologist who made this threat, and telling her I have chosen to learn sign language instead, she suddenly could not determine any reason for my deafness, deeming me fit and well with nothing wrong with my ears.
When I spoke too loud at KELA’s office in Tampere, I was threatened with police arrest if I did not leave immediately. I am Deaf. I cannot control how loud I speak, unless I forcibly whisper. As I was at the office that day to BEG for the right to have a translator at doctor’s appointments, I was horrified. The police of Finland, since that day, have advised me personally that they wish that they had been contacted – so they could’ve arrested the idiot who wanted a Deaf person arrested for speaking too loud in public.
I hope that you reconsider forcing the Deaf and disabled to bear their own costs of basic needs, whether it be in the form of translation, medication or human rights. Please, Finland, become the country that you portray yourself as to the rest of the world – not just for those you pick and choose, but to the Deaf and disabled as well.
Terveisin and Regards,
PS: Regardless of your ill treatment of those of us who you see as less than perfect, I wish to take this opportunity to say Hyvää Joulua / Blessed Yule to you and your families.