I was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. In the car, the medical staff was young, both in their twenties, and I liked to have them with me, not only because they already experienced similar injuries, but also because with their sense of humor, it was easier to make it to the hospital 30 kilometers away. The medic, who took my data was a former American football player, so he broke several pieces of his body before. He told me to expect around 6 weeks out and a lengthy rehabilitation. The driver tried to make the trip as easy as possible – I never knew it could hurt so much to go through a roundabout or uneven roads when you broke something…
Once at the hospital, I found the place packed. Apparently the very same day there was a Spartan race organized in Veszprém, so there were plenty of desperate expressions and faces of apathy around the emergency waiting room area. Still, fairly soon I was taken into the emergency room, where they made a quick diagnoses and told I would be taken to the X-ray. The first of many images to be made of my leg. By the time I was out of X-ray, my wife and father in law arrived to bring along some basic items to prepare for a hospital stay, that turned out much longer than expected. I was rolled up to my room, which was nearly full at the time and that was the first time I met one room-mate, “the Biker” who stayed along for nearly the entire duration of my stay.
The condition of the hospital was worrying in some aspects. As an example, there was a nurse signal introduced above every bed, but none of them operated. All dysfunctional, as it was claimed that due to the lack of nursing staff, they would not be able to make it to the patients lying in bed.
Sad, and at times, this was a serious issue, because the only way you would be able to call the nurse was through shouting. During the daytime you had maximum 2, in the night shift maximum 1 nurse was available for an entire department in the Traumatology. One room would fit around 6 patients, but there were multiple rooms, my guess is around six, and I heard of busy days, when there were so many patients they could not fit them in the rooms, but had to place people even on the corridors. There were no entertainment or equipment installed to pass by the time easier either: no radio, no TV, only lamps above the beds, a bathroom with toilet, a shower, a washbasin and a bible of the New Testament. That was it.
When the picture I posted from the hospital was seen by my cousin living in Canada, he claimed the the bed looked like it was from “a 1970’s horror movie”. And I think he was about right. The bed matresses were made of some durable rubber I think, the linens and duvets very worn, torn, with different stained marks from unknown sources…
The schedule was reminiscent of a military. 5 AM sharp wake up – some did it nice and kind, others loud and ignorant. We received our little plastic basins filled with lukewarm water and were asked to wash ourselves. It was pretty difficult looking back, with one leg in plaster, which was not supposed to be moved at all. I experienced new ways of cleaning myself. I had to stretch myself beyond what I thought was possible. And shyness is quickly discarded for the sake of cleanliness as well. Around 6:30 AM, following the shift change, there was a little walk around by the day nurses, collecting and emptying our “ducks” (“kacsa” in Hungarian as we called these plastic items to urinate in). Around 8 AM we received a very modest breakfast – normally one or two slices of bread with one cup of natural yogurt, or a slice of cheese, rarely a slice of coldcuts that you would not normally eat unless you’re desperate. But the tea was reminding me of my childhood kindergarten and school the way it tasted. I admit, I loved it. Since no one else asked for it in the room, I could take the whole jug and would happily drink it during the day. It tasted good and was hot – the warmest I would feel during the day.
Around 8:30-9 AM the first visit would be completed by a doctor, checking on our status and whether people could go home. After this, the band-aids were replaced, or stitches removed. There was one nurse in particular who was skilful at this exercise and was talkative enough to relieve some of the stress such an event caused. If the stitch removal was left to some of the doctors however, we knew we would be biting our teeth. From 10 AM, visitors could come until noon. The lunch arriving then was sometimes quite OK, other times disappointing. We could feel how much “cost effectiveness” mattered here on our tongue. Early afternoon was the time for the major visit, when all doctors would come in and report to the department head. Followed by a nap, until late afternoon, visitors could arrive between 3-5 PM. At 6 PM the time of a very modest dinner would arrive, where often the same 1-2 slices of bread were offered that we did not eat in the morning. The nurse shift was changed and around 7 PM you would be offered a last chance of “redemption” with some medication on offer, from painkillers to sleeping pills. Quite a big variety of pills were available, luckily with mobile internet available I could investigate the pills components and their side effects. Some of them promising “addiction” others “hallucination”… and you would be expected to be silent and sleep. Of course, if your “room-mates” allowed you. Since they were changing almost every day, it was nearly impossible to get a good sleep, unless you are full of medication – at least during my 13 days, I have not met anyone who would have claimed to have slept well.
The worst however, was communication. Nurses were generally weary and tired. Probably very underpaid and lacking recognition, as well. Doctors not talking to patients apart from what was minimal. And only, when they were asked. Probably because of some painful lessons learned in the past – perhaps some trials in court due to miscommunication, I don’t know, but if felt like people were trained not to talk at all, to avoid any trouble.
As one example: I was operated on Saturday, the following morning the doctor came up early, for a visit. It was visible that either he hardly had any sleep, or no sleep at all due to the busy night. All he said – upon me asking how the operation went – was: “yours is a bad, sneaky break. We’ll have to get that under x-ray again either Monday or Tuesday.” That was it. On Monday morning the visiting doctor – a different one to the one who operated me – told me “if the scar is OK we let you go home today”. I insisted that the operating doctor told different, that “I need to get a new, post-operation x-ray”. He contemplated for a second and said “OK we’ll see.” An hour later a nurse came to inform me I should pack and prepare going home. I told her the same, “I cannot leave, I need to get a new x-ray”. She seemed to have acknowledged and left. In the early afternoon, however, another nurse came and brought the closing report from the hospital saying “you can leave and you should sign this report”. This time I made it very clear, that I will not sign and I must stay. I asked her, if they could get confirmation from the operating doctor, to which she replied “no, he cannot be reached”.
Eventually, I remained in hospital for another ten days. But still, the conclusion was: you will not be told anything, unless you strongly insist, unless you are adamant to ask, and messages need to be repeated, sometimes to different people for something to happen.
You have to stand up for yourself, insist and ask. Never ass-u-me, right?
Picture source: http://www.veszpremkukac.hu/heliport-kerdesek-es-valaszok/