Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Octopus, Sputnik and Me

            I’m sure that all of you have heard by now that I was very ill during the months of April and May. So ill that I ended up with a hospital stay of two weeks. Now those two weeks were some of the most traumatic I’ve spent anywhere in the world. It was made especially so here as I couldn’t speak the language and the whole experience made me very, very nervous.
            Austrian medicine isn’t like US medicine. In the US, we’re taught to get in, get a diagnosis, learn to take care of ourselves and get out as quick as we can. There are medical costs that we as US citizens can’t avoid. Austria is different and like the DH says, they seem to have the luxury of time. They want to keep you there as long as they can, cure you or make you the best they can, then release you with lots and lots of instructions. It seemed like it was more than normal.
            I was admitted on a Friday evening and that was very unfortunate. All they did was observe me and I got sicker. During the whole time, they only gave me one med that made me feel marginally better. When one of the young doctors was going to give it to me again, an older colleague waved her off and there I sat, miserable and wondering just what the heck I was doing there.
            The following Monday, they started dialysis and that whole experience was very, very different as their idea of anesthetic doesn’t seem to be the same as in the US. I told the DH that the cut-down procedure hurt a lot and I’d never have it done again. Between that and the kidney biopsy they did, I knew I had experienced pain greater than when I had children...I kid you not! LOL! Here’s a picture that Monday. We fondly called my apparatus ‘The Octopus’ as that’s what it looked like to me.

            A couple of days later, they decided to do a kidney biopsy and that again was done without any real anesthetic. Basically, over here, they want you to buck up and take the pain. Really? Are these people kidding? They ended up poking me three times and the last time, I wasn’t nice about it. Then they ended up NOT getting all the cells they wanted. Told them too bad, they were done. If they wanted to do it again, they had to make it painless. I had some very grumpy doctors that day.
            By this time, I’m starting to feel better because they have started to give me meds to get rid of my ailment. Oh – yeah – my ailment...I ended up poisoning myself with ibuprofen because I was trying to get rid of a fever I’d had in late March, early April. I took only ten pills a day for about 3 days, then less for the next few. What I ended up doing is giving my kidneys an issue where they shut down and decided not to work. This is very take a word of caution...over the counter meds can be harmful to your health. Please make sure you know what you’re doing. And I did. Sigh.
            So here I am, in a teaching hospital, where at least five doctors come in to talk to me every day and check on my condition. And nothing is happening. They have a wait and see attitude. During that wait and period, I did make a wonderful friend. My roommate, and I had two, really clicked and enjoyed being with each other. She taught me some German, helped me with procedures and the like. She was a kidney transplant patient who’s new kidney had failed after fifteen years. She was hoping to get a new one and was in for all the pre-op as well as seeing if she’d accept the new donor kidney. But alas, it wasn’t to be and she went home the day before I did.
            I had dialysis twice and the second time just proved to me just how different the medical systems are. I didn’t realize I was the only patient in the dialysis unit and was listening to my music. I was bopping around in my bed, moving my feet, kinda dancing...then I looked up...and realized everyone was watching me. Apparently, there aren’t happy people in dialysis. People here in Austria are way too stoic for my taste.
            A couple of days before I left, they realized that I was allergic to the tape holding my octopus in place. I was red and they didn’t want to take it out even though they knew I’d not need another dialysis session. They wanted to leave it in just in case. When the nurses understood what was happening they were a little frantic as the area was very, very bad. They had to leave it in the open air for about an hour and then totally reposition it. When the main doctor came in, he started laughing and asked me if I liked my Sputnik. Yeah, it now looked like a satellite circling around my head. Check it out.

            I was released two weeks to the day and was very happy to get home. It hasn’t been easy and the meds they have me on make me crazy. But I’m home and I’ve survived an experience I’d hoped never to have.
            I have a new release on June 14 and hope to drop by my other blog to see the write up. And I promise to post here more often. Vienna is a lovely place and many of you might see something you can use in your own writing.
            See you all next time!



  1. Lynn

    Sorry to hear you went through such hell. I did myself back when I was 36, though not same issue. In hospital a total of 5 weeks and no one expected me to live. So I understand completely.

    Hope you continue to heal and DO NOT have to go back into the hospital. Keeping my fingers crossed for you.

    Myra Nour

  2. Glad you're home & feeling better--& glad it was a one-time problem rather than something chronic! You're right about mistakes that can be made with over the counter meds--when writing my first book I checked Physicians Desk Reference for a good poison to use and found a paragraph about Tylenol; to wit, not enough studies had been done to determine how safe it was. Since then we've learned that even a few pills can destroy your liver. And calcium carbonate--when they say "your body doesn't absorb it, what they mean is it gives you indigestion! Anyway, I know from my short trip to Vienna that there are wonderful things to distract you from their health system! Meredith

  3. Good Lord...what a terrible time you had! Everyone complains about medical care in the US...but I can't say anything bad about it. You would have had better treatment in the states. Wait and see doesn't sound like a great diagnosis.
    Stay well!

  4. Thanks, Myra, for dropping by. So far, so good. I had a short vacation where we went around Austria and found it very relaxing. But the heat is finally getting to me.


  5. Meredith,

    You are so right about there being better distractions here than a hospital...LOL! It's amazing what we can do to ourselves when we're not paying attention. I wasn't looking at the big picture, just the fever...have to remember the whole thing is a complete system.

    Thanks for dropping by...appreciate it!


  6. Marianne,

    Like my husband says, they think they have the luxury of time but the costs will catch up to them. The look on their faces when they realized just what I had to pay was priceless. The system over here is something that has always taken care of them even though not in an effecient manner. Still, it's an experience I don't want to relive. Ever.

    Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate it!


  7. Being sick is terrible. Being sick away from home, abroad is very scary. So glad you had your American perspective with you.

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