Eric and Annie Fromm are among the many people who now call Charlotte home even though neither one was raised here.
Unlike many transplants, however, their move involved packing up a house across the ocean, learning a new language, and adjusting to an entirely different culture.
When the Swiss chemical company Eric, 49, works for as a business comptroller offered him the opportunity to be expatriated to the U.S in 2006, Fromm jumped at the chance because, “we knew it was now or never. Our son was 10. It was the chance of a lifetime.”
William, their son who is now 16, spoke little English and hated leaving his friends and French way of life.
“But now,” says Annie, 46, “he is an All-American teenager.”
William is a sophomore at Providence Day School, where he plays on the football team and speaks English fluently. All of the Fromms have assimilated to their new adopted homeland, enjoying travel around the United States, making new friends, and trying new foods.
Another slice of American life they have experienced, and now know all too well, is the American health care system.
They first experienced it in 2002, while vacationing in Los Angeles, when Eric, then 39, had a massive heart attack.
Cognizant of his weak heart and knowing he was overweight (Eric is a French gourmand, who enjoys both cooking and consuming decadent French food), Eric was on the treadmill when he suffered the first of two seizures. The first was thought to be due to a lack of potassium, but when he suffered his second, a brain scan revealed a tumor on his brain.
A biopsy followed, which included immediate surgery once the biopsy revealed that the tumor was cancerous.
“That was hard on Annie,” Eric recalls, “because it happened all at once, she was all alone, and she was scared.”
“This time,” Annie says, “I brought someone with me.”
Annie is referring to the fact that she has had to sit through another surgery because Eric’s tumor has returned. After a year of radiation and oral chemotherapy and careful monitoring, the Fromms had reached a point where they believed this medical scare was behind them.
But just before Thanksgiving 2011, they learned the tumor was back. They turned to more aggressive chemotherapy, in the hope it would shrink the tumor or eradicate it.
In July, Eric accompanied Annie and William on a family trip to France. When he returned, he learned that the tumor’s growth had accelerated and that he would again have to undergo brain surgery.
The second surgery was scheduled for Sept. 11 and the Fromms steeled themselves for yet another foray into hospitals, diagnoses, consultations and medical care in a foreign land.
The Fromms, who are far from family and life-long friends, feel lucky to be in Charlotte.
“The U.S. may not have the best health care in the world,” says Eric, “but for cancer, it does. Our being here is a blessing because Charlotte has nationally-ranked hospitals.”
And while they know they would also have received good care in Europe, they note that it would have involved a lot more traveling.
“Here,” Annie says, “everything is close and convenient.”
But it is not just the quality of their medical care that has the Fromms feeling thankful to be in Charlotte, their adopted home. They were overwhelmed by the level of support, with neighbors, school friends, work colleagues bringing meals, running errands, offering to drive (something Eric can no longer do) and accompanying Annie to doctor’s visits.
“It is more private in France,” says Annie. “Here, they really support you. The kindness and goodness of Americans is incredible.”
“We are enthralled with the positive, can-do attitude in America,” Eric says. “The support we’ve received has strengthened my resolve and my determination to get better.”