Falling ill in a foreign country is never fun. Heck, just having a headache in a foreign country can be enough to make me call for my Mommy. But when all you need is some TLC in a country that doesn't seem to know what "TLC" is all about.... Uff da.
So two weeks ago I came down with something. It started on a Friday and by Sunday afternoon my husband was calling the hospital to see if he should bring me in. Something hit me. Like a freight train. The nurse gave him advice on how to take care of me and things started to feel a bit better.
By Tuesday morning I was feeling decent. Not great, but decent. Then it hit me again Tuesday afternoon. And continued to back up and run me down over and over again. On Thursday I finally went to see my general practitioner. He thought that the flu that's been going around had found me and it was taking my body a lot to kick it. I left the doctor's office with Oral Rehydration Salts (Yum! NO.) and the orders to take it easy and if things continued come back on Monday, but if they got worse to go to the ER.
I headed to the ER on Saturday afternoon. I missed my only grandson's first birthday party due to this "flu!" Grr! Dehydration was on my mind, and it was on the doctor's mind too. I was ordered 2.5 liters of IV fluids! P.S. you can't get 2.5 liters of IV in a short amount of time.... I was in the hospital for 4 days. Four. Being hooked up to an IV was like a miracle though- within a few hours of being hooked up, my nausea finally abated and for the first time in 8 days I wasn't puking anymore. The diarrhea was still raging on though (yes, I said it, diarrhea. As the book tells us, Everybody Poops.).
Apparently I was in "luxury" because I had my own hospital room.... With a big sign taped to the door that explained that everyone had to gear up in hazmat outfits before entering. "Hazmat" I say, but you know what I mean: full gown, gloves, masks, and wash your hands before you even leave the room. I wasn't sure if it was to protect me or the rest of the patients. Maybe a bit of both because the doctors didn't know what was wrong with me and after 2 cultures they still hadn't figured it out.
Now, what about the toothbrush, you ask? I'm getting to that.
Most of the nurses were absolutely wonderful and sweet and obviously enjoyed taking care of people. And even though my Dutch is passable, they were all SO sweet and wanted to speak English to me so that I would feel at least a little bit of comfort (until you live in a foreign country where English is not the first language, you might not know what I mean. There's just something about hearing your mother tongue in a time of stress, that can really calm one's nerves.).
Except one. There's always gotta be one, right? The night nurse. She is the one who checked me in the first night. We had to go through a long questionnaire, which I was happy to do in Dutch. We had just one miscommunication but cleared it up quickly. Just basic questions, no big deal. However, she did make me use my phone to figure out how many centimeters tall I am (does this fall into the "not my job" category? How about the "Not my job while I'm in pain and hooked up to an IV and wondering how many steps it is to the toilet" category?). It didn't bother me that much, really.
The second day, a nurse came in and asked if I would like to shower. Yes! I asked if she had any soap and she happily brought me an entire bottle of shampoo and a little bar of soap. I asked the second nurse I saw for a toothbrush- she gave me a 1 time use only toothbrush (the toothpaste was already on it in powder form, thus eliminating the need to hand out toothpaste too). The next morning I asked for another toothbrush and was given one with a smile.
Then that evening I really wanted to get ready for bed but no one had brought me a toothbrush. I found this a little bit strange. Strange that all of these things weren't already provided, but I didn't mind asking. So I rang the bell.
Ms. Night Nurse STORMED into my room and peered down at me over her glasses. "Wat?!" she demanded. "May I have a toothbrush?" "NO."
Wait, what? "No?" I was completely taken aback.
"NO." Then she proceeded to tell me how things work in Holland. Apparently when you're admitted to the hospital, you're normally given a list of items you're expected to acquire yourself. It sounded like because I was admitted through the ER, no one passed this information along to me.
I said, "OH. Well I didn't know that, and I'm a bit surprised how different it is from my home country. May I have a toothbrush?"
"NO." She told me I couldn't have a toothbrush because I should have had someone bring me a toothbrush from home! Now, imagine my extra surprise because 2 separate nurses had already given me toothbrushes! And shampoo and soap! Of course I had no idea, everyone had been so sweet and accommodating, AND on day three it still hadn't been mentioned to me that I was even supposed to acquire items from home.
"You're seriously not going to give me a toothbrush?"
"NO." She stormed out of the room.
I sat down and cried.
She came back later and asked why I was so "mad." Well, hmmmm, let me see. I'm in a foreign country, sick, admitted to the hospital and kept in quarantine, even my husband had to follow the visiting hours rule, I was getting frustrated and scared because the doctors still didn't know what was wrong with me, and all I wanted was to get ready for bed and be able to brush my teeth. But I had met a Dutch wall in the form of lack of empathy. *sigh*
She finally brought me some toothpaste. As she left I said to myself, "I still don't have a toothbrush." Unfortunately she didn't hear. Just when I was contemplating brushing my teeth with my finger, she came back again because my IV kept beeping, and she asked, suddenly sugar sweet, "Do you need anything else?" And I informed her I still didn't have a toothbrush. Which sent her into another tirade about how I was supposed to bring one from home. I told her, "Yes, I know that NOW but I didn't know that before." Several minutes later she stormed back in with a toothbrush.
Which believe me, I guarded with my life for the remainder of my time in the hospital. The doctors never did figure out what was wrong with me. 12 days of being sick in a foreign country = zero fun. But what am I saying, that wouldn't be fun in any country.