Back to the clinic for me. This time it was in full swing, rather than abandoned. I was examined pretty quickly after arriving, then had to wait in the hall on a cot waiting for some test results. While I was lying there, both of the doctors who I'd seen in my first hospital visit came by. They must just live there. They recognized me and were interested in what was happening. After the test results came back, the Oberarzt who did my operation consulted with the head of the department about my case and they decided to admit me to the hospital again for medication and observation.
I wasn't there for more surgery, but there was again no space on the wards for me, so I was admitted to a bed in the same post-op area I'd been in before. It was nice to already know the nurses, but I had a distinct feeling of not belonging there! The Oberarzt came by and sat down to tell us everything that was going on in detail. They wanted me to stay overnight for observation and have some medication.
That night I stayed in post-op due to the continued lack of space on the wards. Not much was going on with me but I appreciated their abundance of caution nonetheless. I actually suspect there was some friction between two of the doctors - the surgeon who operated and the doctor who was rounding - about whether I should remain in the hospital and how long.
The next day, I was moved to the wards. The room was really big and shared with two other patients. It was in an older building, but you couldn't tell at all from the inside. There was a table and chairs, which I really appreciated, because by then I was feeling too well to be sitting in the bed all the time. I also spent a lot of time in the hallway looking out the windows. Being in the hospital is very strange indeed. Life had come to a halt for me. I did Sudoku puzzles and wrote Christmas postcards and napped all day while everyone outside went to work, shopped for Christmas gifts, and drank Gluehwein in the Uni-Platz. I felt bad about feeling this way, though. I was clearly one of the healthiest people on the ward and had no room to complain.
My roommates were two older women, both as local as could be, with accents to match. One of them was nearly impossible to understand. I had to refer to them by last names, of course - very formal, despite getting to see their bums and pee-filled catheter bags and whatever else - it was interesting to cling onto that piece of dignity. Speaking of names, I was amazed that I never had an identifying wrist band during this entire experience. There was a label hanging on the end of my bed to identify me!! I think a system like this could actually cause a US hospital to lose accreditation.
Anyway, the women were both really nice and put up with my horrible German very gracefully. At one point one of the nurses had left our bathroom light on and as I was up walking around, one of the ladies asked me to turn off the bathroom light. These are very simple words that I know, but I could not for the life of me figure out what she was saying. She just kept at it over and over and I still had no clue. Finally the other woman, with her slightly clearer accent, told me that she wanted the bathroom light off. Then they proceeded to explain that one should not leave the lights on because electricity is very expensive. That was such a cute German moment, that they cared about the hospital's electricity bill, and they were going to make sure that I was informed on that matter. The woman with the clearer accent was a hoot, too. She loved to gab and gab, and her favorite word was gell, a sort of regional word that's somewhat like tacking "...right?" on the end of sentences. In her case, on every single sentence. When she talked I started to dream up goofy images of us all drowning in a sea of gells, being buried under an ever-growing pile of gells, gells oozing out from under our hospital room door, dodging swarms of gell bullets...you get the idea.
I was on the wards for two uneventful nights, being observed. I needed so little from the nurses, but this was a good thing, because one of my roommates needed direct attention from multiple nurses about half the hours of the day, it seemed. She had IV port troubles, bed sores, couldn't get up alone, etc. I had the sense that the hospital was very understaffed, nursing-wise - there were plenty of doctors. A couple of times when I did need something, I had to remind them again to finally get it...and that's only if I knew I needed it. At one point I was chided for not wearing anti-blood-clot socks, which I never knew I needed. Apparently this was a major breach of protocol, even though I spent most of the day wandering the halls and probably didn't have a very high risk of thrombosis. But, how would I know? It was an overworked nurse who dropped the ball there. They told me at one point my blood should be checked, but no one came to draw it. One of the other patients explained to me that competition in Heidelberg for nurses is pretty stiff because there are so many places for them to work. Overworked nurses are a big problem in the US too, where there simply aren't enough of them in the pipeline.
One of the nurses was obsessed with American presidents and really wanted to discuss them with me at every possible opportunity - in German, of course. (Not as many people on the wards were willing to speak English as in post-op.) I now thank my high school history teacher, Mr. Peterson, for forcing us to memorize all the American presidents in order, because this guy "tested" me on the presidents by asking me to name them by telling me their number in the sequence. Yay for managing not to perpetuate any stereotypes about Americans being stupid!
I think I was in the hospital too long unnecessarily, but again, when contrasted with the US problem of being kicked out of the hospital too soon, I'd rather be stuck there too long. It just amounts to less worry for me, despite knowing all too well that hospitals are probably not the least dangerous place a person could be.
In the mail I received the doctor's letters about the surgery and the second hospital stay. I received two hospital bills. Not multiple claim letters, not denied claims that had to be sorted, not long scary itemized lists. Just two pieces of paper, one for each stay. The surgery, the bed, the care, the medications, the meals, all just 10 EUR per night plus a 10 EUR fee per stay, for a total of 70 EUR. I paid it and that was the end of that. For follow up appointments, the usual protocol for doctor's visits was followed: you must pay a 10 EUR copay for your first doctor's visit each quarter - so four times a year at maximum. There's no copay for any further visits in that quarter. I was impressed! Damon and I were, at the time, covered under voluntary state insurance which matched what I got when I was employed earlier (I was not employed in December). For both of us it cost around 150 EUR per month. (When you are employed, you pay a portion of your insurance cost and your employer pays the rest.) After my experience in the US with health insurance - I had what's considered very good coverage there, but had to pay more for everything and they constantly made 'mistakes' on claims that I had to call in to argue with them about - I think the system is much easier to navigate here, and far less stressful. And everyone knows - stress is not good for your health. ;) Here's an interesting article on the positives and negatives of the German system.
Still, not everyone has experiences as positive as mine. I think there may especially be difficulties in the states of the former East. Here's a less favorable hospital story from Dresden (scroll past the first entry).
I know others who read here have also posted hospital stories. If you could give me the links, I will add them here. :) Stories from all countries welcome!