Waiting is the Worse Part
No Need to Worry
I can honestly tell you that waiting was the worst part. I am not complaining about the delay in receiving surgery. Remember, I waited five days after falling off my bike to even seek medical care. Rather I always worry when I don't know what to expect.
11:45 Meet with Anesthesia Department
On Wednesday at 11:45, Denise and I walked to the hospital so I could meet with the department of anesthesia. Having had surgery before I knew what to expect. An anesthesiologist printed and reviewed with me all of the preoperative testing and my medical/surgical history. He reviewed the anesthesia options (a block or general anesthesia) and told me it would likely be general. He took my blood pressure and asked about allergies. All the usual stuff…the only thing different than the States was that he did everything himself. No assistant…like my visit to the orthopedist, just him.
Unfortunately, his computer wasn't cooperating and while he waited for the IT support department to work things out (yes, he called them too) he asked what we thought were the differences between American and Portuguese medicine. I explained this was my first exposure to Portuguese medicine so I really couldn't say. I found his response interesting. He said,
In America, medicine is driven by protocols. But you were not a protocol … you are a person.
1800 Back to the Hospital
Denise and I returned to the hospital at 18:00. I checked in at the surgery reception area and paid the deposit. (More about the money in Friday's post.) Because of Covid, Denise was not permitted to stay with me prior to surgery, so at about 18:15 when I was called back for my surgery I was alone. I must admit, I was a bit apprehensive. I didn't worry that Portuguese medicine was in any way inferior to that in the States. Instead, I had two concerns:
My inferior language skills, and
My lack of understanding of their process.
I was taken directly to the hospital room I would sleep in that night. (Earlier that day the hospital had called and apologized that a private room would not be available. They asked if I would accept a semi-private room. As I was only staying one night it was not a concern.) Anyway, I get to the room and I'm told to disrobe put on disposable underwear and a surgical gown, and relax in the bed. A short time later a nurse who spoke perfect English started an IV and gave me a pill to put under my tongue to help me relax. At 19:00 a medical assistant who did not speak English came equipped with a language translator to wheel me and my bed to the OR area.
I was wheeled to an area that looked very much like the pre-surgery/recovery areas in any US hospital. My surgeon came to visit me and of course marked which arm would have the surgery even though the cast made it fairly obvious. He apologized for the delay saying he was waiting for an x-ray machine to be moved into the OR. At about 19:30 I was wheeled into the OR which appeared like the other ORs I had seen in the past. I'm not a physician so I'm not familiar with all the medications but clearly one is an amnesiac because the next thing I remember it was 05:00 on Thursday and I was waking up in my hospital room. I pushed the button and the nurse was there promptly to assist me. I explained I was hungry and asked if I could have something to eat. She said at this point she was only allowed to give me liquids but offered me juice and yogurt which I happily took.
She handed me my iPad and earphones. I accessed the hospital’s complimentary Wi-Fi and caught up on the news and my emails one-handed. At 07:00 my roomie woke up. She was clearly uncomfortable. I asked if she wanted me to call the nurse and she said that would be very nice. I pushed the button and a nurse arrived within minutes. After the nurse tended to her we had a lovely conversation mostly in English, occasionally a word or two in Portuguese. She asked for my contact information and shared hers with me. In retrospect, I'm glad I had a semi-private room.
At 08:30 the surgeon came in. He had remembered that Denise and I wanted to leave on vacation that day, so rather than wait till after his office hours to discharge me he came in early so we could leave promptly. Shortly after he left an aid brought me breakfast (coffee, a wonderful Portuguese roll, butter, and cheese.) Then a nurse changed my dressings, removed the IV needle, and said I should call Denise to come to fetch me. I was provided prescriptions to be filled, additional dressings, and post-surgery care instructions. As Denise is an RN, they agreed that she would change the dressing twice a week. I was instructed to return on 21 July to have the staples removed. We walked out of the hospital…no silly wheelchair. By 10:30 we were back at the apartment. As Denise loaded the rental car I updated Jeanne and Victor. At 11:00 we left for the Algarve.
We arrived in Loulé in the mid-afternoon. We walked to one of the pharmacies and had the prescriptions filled for €7,90. I was unclear as to one of the prescriptions so I texted my surgeon. He had entered his personal cell phone number into my phone for just such an occasion. A short time later he replied. I shouldn’t have been amazed that he responded so promptly…but somehow I was.
I must admit for the first 48 hours the surgical area was a bit sensitive. Yes, it is covered by a cast but still, there was an occasional twinge. As I write this Sunday morning I have far less discomfort and I'm confident that I will continue to improve over the next two weeks.
Most importantly this experience has provided some perspective. You see, as Denise and I drove south I said:
In retrospect breaking my elbow was not such a bad thing. I have now experienced Portuguese medicine up close and personal. I now know that we can live here … for the rest of our lives. We really don’t need to return to the States. This can be our home.
If you were unable to access the video on Monday, try the link below. As Eric sings, “The Blog Must Go On”.
What this all this cost? Find our here.