My first (and hopefully last) Spanish hospital visit began – funnily enough – in Sweden. Doesn’t seem to make any sense, right? Well, after spending a few days in Lund at Valborg, I woke the last day of our being there with weird pains in my right side, which Food summarily dismissed as being “cramps”. I’ve had cramps and these were not those, but they went away after around a half an hour, so I didn’t think much of them.
Fast forward almost 18 hours, and I wake up in Barcelona with nauseatingly intense pains sweeping through my abdomen and lower back. I get up quietly – Food and I still share a room despite being “young adults” (or as adult as you can get while still being young) – and creep out to pace our tiny living area and the small hallway that makes up our shared flat. Thirty minutes later I’m lying fetal position on the couch, and an hour and a half later I’m nearly crying while calling my parents. Mind you, at this point it’s not even 7:30 AM in Barcelona, which means it’s 1:30 AM in Charlotte. And my poor, exhausted, absolutely amazing parents, who have to deal with 5 other children on a daily basis, wake up on the second ring. “Hello?” “Are you alright!?” My mom is talking to me, which in my case was more a series of groans while my dad searches to figure out what’s wrong with me. “Go wake up your sister.”
And thus, it was concluded, that despite us not having a doctor here in Spain, I was going to one – and fast. While the possibilities for what could be wrong were nearly endless, appendicitis was on that list and we weren’t taking our chances. Food got ready in 10 minutes – so proud of her – and helps me put on my shoes, and we’re out the door. Slowly. I had to focus all of my energy on walking down the stairs of our flat, and then we couldn’t find a taxi. When we did, the driver was so terrified of me groaning in his backseat, and likely the fact that Food told me that if I did need to vomit to just open the car door, that he drove us to the nearest possible, and probably the smallest possible, hospital in all of Barcelona.
We enter the premises – passing by two police who were arresting a drunk from the previous night – and Food summarily realizes that I am too out of my mind to speak in English, let alone Spanish. Fortunately, one nurse speaks some English, and she tries to explain exactly what we’re going to be getting into if we enter the hospital. “Parc Salut del Mar um, how do you say? Free European healthcare. You not European. So, ah, 24 Euros. No, ah, 24 hundred Euros. Maybe 274 Euros.” Food, not caring how much it costs to get me to stop pacing, moaning, and in general looking like I’m about to go into labor, just screams “I don’t care! Take her back there now!”
Three hours later I’ve had three blood vials drawn, had three packets of intravenous saline solution poured into my arm along with another three packets of painkillers, and been begged and pleaded with to pee into three different cups. What’s that saying? Bad things come in threes? The pain killers weren’t doing much of anything, so they transferred me to another hospital via ambulance for another round of tests and two anti-inflammatory shots. By this point I was feeling like it all was a bit dramatic. I could have taken a bloody taxi with a whole lot less fuss if they would have let me stand up by myself. Someone actually wheeled me into the bathroom once. Over-attentive possibly, but I could mentally comprehend their Spanish at that point, and they were talking about how Food evidently was angry and thinking that they weren’t doing the proper thing for my wellbeing.
Anyhow, ambulance, bonus round of hospital fee explanations, this with someone a bit better at English, and then we wait around for another two hours to see if anything will happen. Food leaves with all my belongings to get wifi – evidently Spanish hospitals don’t have any, even if they are commended internationally for having a great healthcare system – and I’m taken back to an exam room. More palpating and it is decided that my kidney, which had previously been inflamed, has finally gone down and I’m prescribed painkillers and anti-inflammation medications for the next week or so.
I’m discharged and leave, hoping to see Food outside or in the waiting areas, and don’t see her. After standing outside in my pajamas for fifteen minutes, I decide to walk around the beach and see if I can spot her. I’m walking up and down the stretch of beach outside Hospital del Mar, which has a lovely view of the ocean, but is inconveniently (for me) located next to one of the most populated areas along Platja de Barceloneta, when the exhaustion, stress, and cumulative pain of the last twelve hours hit me – it having been 10 hours since I first stepped foot in the hospital – and I start publicly crying.
I’m sitting here, writing this, and reminding myself that – thank heavens – I will never see any of those people again, and besides, they wouldn’t recognize me given that I don’t generally look like a bedridden wreck. I’m also close to laughing when thinking about it because hopped up on pain medication, nearly drunk on a lack of sleep, and delirious from stress – at the time I certainly gave absolutely no cares as far as who saw me crying, in my pajamas, wearing untied Converse and carrying a discarded hospital gown, in frame of one of the prettiest views in Barcelona. Well, I certainly made an impression, so, you’re welcome for making your vacation a bit more memorable.
I walked back to the hospital dejectedly and eventually found Food sitting in the patient waiting room. She’d been there for fifteen minutes and I’d left probably 20 minutes ago, so it was a near miss. A taxi ride home and a pint of ice cream later and I was fine, if a bit bruised and sore. Now Food’s yelling at me instead of the nurses and doctors, though I probably deserve it a bit more. I don’t feel like taking these horse pills they gave me, but evidently it’s mandatory.
Overall, yes, Spain’s healthcare system seems to work. Would’ve been a whole lot simpler if it was free (though everything would’ve cost twice as much within the US), and likely, if I would’ve just had appendicitis. Then we would’ve gotten it within thirty minutes with the x-ray. However, do I want to cross off “Never have I ever had surgery” from my list of possibilities? Nope. I’m already down “Never have I ever been admitted to the hospital”, and that took about 21 years, so I’m counting on no surgeries until I’m 42.
For Fernweh’s drug-fueled post on how her day related to Grey’s Anatomy go here. We’ll be bringing it back to more city/country posts soon, so get subscribed or follow for more fun. XoXx Fernweh & Food