June 14 Tuesday Sweden Stockholm
[note: I'm still in the hospital this day... not much of interest other than sharing experiences as a patient]
I awoke on my own at 6am and transitioned to intermittent napping – mostly just for something to do – for the next hour. At 7:10 it was time to head to the Operating Room. I couldn’t help but be amused at the sudden surge of people interested in my rear-end… especially afterward, with so many pretty ladies all wanting to see my butt! Under normal circumstances I would be proud of that.
On a couple occasions before & after, they gave me an ultrasound to gauge the level of my bladder. I think each time this had been had done shortly after I’d relieved it, I believe intended to ensure that it emptied fully. Despite not drinking anything, I felt like I was releasing the full contents of my IV bag each time. After the first ultrasound, despite the guy surely hearing this on many occasions, I had to ask, “Is it a boy or a girl?”
They gave me full body anesthesia for the operation, administered intravenously. It’s kind of funny… I remember them administering each part and feeling it make its way into my body. First my arm begin to sting a bit & tingle. Then I started to feel a bit dizzy. It was right about the same time they were putting the oxygen over my face. I remember they told me to take two deep breaths then breathe normally… I took one, two… didn’t feel any sudden change in pressure & it all seemed working fine… three, four… and then I was waking up.
My recovery period in the OR consisted of me mostly napping. I still felt as much pain as I did before, but at least this time I knew it would get better. Returning back to my room I was presented with WATER, GLORIOUS WATER. How I’d craved liquid for almost a full day. It was in my room when I also noticed that I was wearing new underwear, and I sure knew that it wasn’t I who had changed it. I seem to strive to be publicly nude in every country I go to now; albeit this was the first unintentional occurrence that I can recall.
It was only after a short while in my room where the pain really started to diminish. I’d say it was within an hour where I was able to sit comfortably on both butt cheeks… something I hadn’t done in days. I did, however, quickly come to remember that I’m a medical patient; hence source of all the same disgusting issues as any other. That means seepage. Since I just had surgery, I had a stew of liquids – mostly blood & partly some other goo – seeping downward… which is fine & dandy when I have disposable clothes, but I dearly pray that comes to an end by the time I’m set loose. Firstly: I only have so much underwear; I only have two pairs of pants; and there’s no way I’m putting any sort of protection down there if I’m in a hostel… so single rooms it is. But hopefully none of that will be much issue; hopefully my spherocytotic blood will quickly heal that up. It’s always served so well in that regard.
My lunch consisted of another test of Swedish meatballs… but this time I knew what I was getting into. If I couldn’t handle meatballs from a central tourist-oriented place, I knew I’d be in trouble with hospital food. The dish consisted of meatballs in sauce, mashed potatoes, carrot slivers, and peas. I ate the latter two just fine & also most of the potatoes, though the potatoes were a bit off… not sure if the texture or the taste just wasn’t working for me. But the meatballs: I ate a grand total of two. I’m actually not sure the meatballs themselves were too shabby… rather, it was the sauce that they were in. Unlike the staple IKEA sauce that one just can’t get enough of: this sauce tasted the same as industrial glue smells. Granted, I’m rather fond of the scent; but I know full well that the scent kills brain cells… and there’s a marked difference when you’re eating it both in your sensory perception of it as well as the feeling of how many brain cells you’re killing. So I didn’t make it far with that sauce.
It was nearly 1800 – that’s 8 hours after I returned from the OR – when the doctor checked in. Even the nurses seemed surprised as they checked in throughout the day that the doctor hadn’t yet appeared. Given the timeframe, I’d wager the doctor does all his surgeries first and then wraps up his day with his check-ins before heading home. Not very handy when you’re hoping to leave the hospital, especially when you’re in a transitory state like me… as this subsequently left me in need of finding a place to spend the night.
Would you know it: Stockholm was fully booked. Seriously. Every single bloody place in my entire Lonely Planet Guide was booked for tonight, taking me about an hour to find that out. Had I known at an earlier time that I’d have been able to leave today (the surgeon didn’t even look at his work; it was just a chat) then I’d have been able to potentially nab a single room at the very hostel I’d been staying at… but now, no such luck. The doctor also gave a guess that another night at the hospital could cost between 5000 and 10000 Kroner, which meant on the upper end: upwards of $1250. That’s nuts… hence why I had tried every lodging in my guidebook. Even on the lower end, I could get the best suite in the capital for less than that.
Alas, without many other options: I ended up opting for a second night. One thing the nurses suggested is that when I check out: I ask them to mail me the bill at home; that way I do not have to put so much of a charge onto my credit card. I’d mentioned I was actually starting to be afraid of hitting my credit limit, which at $15,000 is a pretty hefty worry… but I had no idea how much everything was suddenly adding up to. Sure I should (may) be able to get most back from insurance, but a maxed-out card is useless on vacation – especially when it’s your only option (I really don’t want to use Lindsey’s backup card, nor am I sure I can considering how stringent card security has been in Sweden… unsure yet about Denmark and Norway).
So now I had to re-call places to see if they were available tomorrow night. Almost everything was booked up, but I managed to find one exception… only caveat being a bit of a hike up a steep incline & about a kilometer while fully loaded with my gear while still bleeding from surgery. None of that is pleasant. Oh and I’m unsure what the weather is supposed to be like tomorrow, but it’s been raining all afternoon. So I might be getting rained on, too. But I found a place. I had a roof over my head and wifi to boot. Just that one night & then I’m outta Stockholm. Problem is, I’d actually have liked to see a few more things around here… especially the IKEA, which apparently runs a free bus to/from near the central train station. I still haven’t entirely ruled out doing that…
Next came my shower. As part of this seemingly innocent ordeal: I had to remove the padding plugged within the incision. This was a disgusting affair on so many levels… first, I had to reach my finger around to my backside; and second, I had to pull something out of it. Now: at least it was in an incision hole and not my… well option #2. Granted, I’m not entirely sure if that’s better or not.
What I grabbed felt like a squishy wad of gelatin… I couldn’t just pinch and pull. You don’t pinch and pull gelatin or it breaks apart. You had to really scoop at it… which meant putting my finger into the incision hole to scoop it out. What-more, there were two pads… and I had to explore about to make sure there weren’t any additional pads I was missing. Then a nurse had to verify I got it all. This was a pleasant experience for no one… or if it was, then that person has a dirty dirty mind.
It actually wasn’t as gut-wrenching as I thought it’d be once I started… but even then it was still pretty nasty; it was just best to focus on the logic of getting it out & not on what you’re actually doing… sort of like how you don’t think of what scrapple is while you’re eating it. Not being able to see what I was doing also helped maintain that “don’t look at the shot” or “don’t watch the bandage get taken off” element.
By and large the hospital seems to look & feel just like any American hospital, using the same instruments and gizmos and even the manner of doing and organizing things. Really the only major difference I’ve taken heed of has been the lack of specific biomedical waste receptacles, which left me confused for quite some time until I finally understood that biomedical waste just goes in the trash. I can only assume they treat all waste as biomedical waste? In either case, that’s where my blood-covered Jello-like padding ended up at: the trash can.
Seriously, thank your nurses… whenever you need them; whenever you meet one; any time one passes your way… thank them for all that they do. Not only do they do pretty much all the legwork, but their hands tend to get into the thick of far more disgusting things than you can imagine; and much more frequently than doctor’s. While I’m amused at one’s inexperience with Google Maps and another’s thinking that the internet was access via power plugs: that doesn’t change the fact that they’ve been there for me through every hideous and disgusting step. I specifically wish to thank Annette, Eva, Ingela – all nurses of Capio S:t Görans Sjukhus – and there was another nurse whose name I did not get.
So with everything arranged for the next two nights: I could settle down and relax once again… and that I did. Well that and spend the next couple days living a very Don Hertzfeldt moment. If you don’t get it: Google it… unless you’re a mature adult, in which case just accept that you don’t get it.
Something I’ve noticed over this while is that I have a tough time immediately discerning that people are speaking Swedish. It actually sounds a lot like English at first as far as pronunciation and enunciation go; it’s not until you realize that you have no idea what they just said when it occurs to you that you’d better ask for a translation. This contrasts with Iceland, where it felt like they had a bit of an accent… except the accent changed not geographically; but among every single person… sometimes it sounded like they were speaking German; sometimes Russian; sometimes even Japanese. I just mean that in the style of which the person was speaking… sound-wise Icelandic is right alongside the rest of the Scandinavian languages, themselves Germanic. English, of course, is also Germanic… and thanks to the Norsemen includes quite a lot of Scandinavian influence, too.
I’ve lost a week out of my schedule but also reoriented it to be more urban than hiking… with great reluctance. At three days per city, however, I’m hoping a couple of the smaller ones will only occupy me for two… perhaps letting me play a bit more in the mountains if I feel up to it. I also still have more than a week before I really need to decide whether I go carless or hire a car for my time in Norway, but by then I do kind of think I might be a bit more keen on hiking once again.