My expectations of Bucharest didn’t turn out quite as planned. Everything was going fine until after Saturday lunch when the students were advised to take the metro to the next venue for the training course whilst the tutors took a taxi to arrive ahead for an Admin meeting.
Rushing down the steps to the metro with the train at the bottom didn’t help. I reached the bottom of the stairwell to turn to my friend and say ‘quick’ only to find that the Romanian’s had added one last step a few feet away. Trip!
Excruciating pain but I was ready to get up and try and move. A Good Samaritan passing on the stairway (medical student, I think) stopped. She advised my friends and companions not to move me and wait. An ambulance was called and I was soon being carried up steep steps on a stretcher. Strange faces stared from beyond as they puffed on their cigarettes. Shook up in shock I wasn’t sure what was going on but my student friend Sue stayed close to me at all times.
I looked up and I could see a blue sky and sun before being pushed into a van which was an ambulance. They speeded off to a hospital where a doctor examined my leg by touch and advised he didn’t think anything was broken but I should have an x-ray just in case. I was pushed into one lift, steered down corridors and more lifts into the imaging room and then the reverse action back to the doctor. He held up the photo and said that I had a fracture (all I caught was something to do with my hip.) Okay I thought what now?
He then advised that I needed an operation and I couldn’t travel because if it displaced then we were talking really bad. But then came even worse news – they couldn’t operate before Monday and we were all due to go home on Sunday!
I said goodbye to all my student friends in small groups until they had all gone and I was now completely alone in Romania where I couldn’t speak a word of the language. Frightening? I was terrified. My husband was flying out on the Monday but until that I was on my own in this small dismal room.
They came to get me ready for the operation – now don’t think it is like when you’re having an operation in the UK. Err no. They took a cloth and used a bottle of water to wet it. They wiped under my arms, my chest, and back and underneath me. The nurse then garbled something and I picked up that meant they had to shave me (you know where). I asked why and was advised ‘not good for Doctor.’ A tall woman with immaculate styled blonde short hair and heavily made up face walked in spearing her large blade. She could have been a wax doll as no emotion touched her face. She began to scrape me – let me tell you – it was scary. I was then lucky to experience the humiliation of being dressed in a pampers nappy, (one too tight into the bargain) and left with my t-shirt that I was already wearing, I was ready for my operation. No luxury of a gown or hat over your head to ensure everything clean and sterile.
My husband arrived five minutes before I had to go and advised me that the doctor said he wasn’t doing a general anaesthetic. Phew, sigh of relief. I have trouble with anaesthesia but at least when being operated at home I can let the surgeons know. I was concerned I would never wake up again. A quick kiss and hug from my husband and I was on my way leaving him to spend time in what I had now considered my prison.
They pushed me along corridors and into lifts and then finally parked me outside bags of rubbish and a woman smoking a cigarette. This did not hold my confidence. Eventually I was moved and wheeled into the operating theatre – take yourself back in time – it didn’t look like a UK operating theatre. Whilst on the trolley I was anaesthetised and left whilst my body from below my chest became numb. I was then hauled across to a saddle and my feet strapped into hanging sandals and suspended in space. All quite surreal. The film Gravity came to mind.
Romanian accents filled the room, all completely unintelligible to me. A radio blurred of the same language and mobile phones rang. A frame was wrapped around me so I couldn’t see what was going on, just heard the sawing of a saw, the brr of a drill and the clench of a screwdriver. It was when I felt a pin prick in my chest I happened to look down and see a pair of scissors on my chest, clearly I was the operating table. Once they had finished I was pushed into intensive care. Intensive care consisted of a small room that accommodated two. There was already a man in there sleeping on a bed but I was still on my trolley. The nurse put a clean sheet over me and it was warm inside. I was thirsty, I hadn’t been allowed any water since 10 pm the night before and now it must have been close to 7 pm. Eventually the anaesthetist came in and said we could do two things. One I could stay in there all night where there would be a nurse to care for me or I could go back to the ward but he was worried as there was no care there. I said my husband was down there waiting so he let me go back down. My husband said I’d been away for four hours. My husband stayed with me that evening.
The following day is when I started to notice more just what lack of care there was. In a UK operation a bowl of hot water would have been brought so you could wash – not here – they don’t help to wash you – they don’t make your bed. My husband could only find cold water and I tried to wash myself with a flannel without proper washing facilities. Food was sparse and what was provided was rank. Patients and staff seemed to scream at night. The little nurses although unable to speak English seemed to love me and refused to accept any money from me. One young nurse, also called Patricia, really took a shine and she told me, ‘for me it is a pleasure.’ The Doctors are very good but the care is non-existent. I think this is due to ignorance and lack of money rather than laziness.
My trip in Bucharest was a bit more of a trip than I’d expected. There were times I thought I’d never get out of there alive. My husband was my knight in shining armour that came flying in to rescue me and take me home. All I can say is Thank God we made it home. Less than 24hours on British soil and I was slotted into the NHS for all the relevant departments to receive the care. This is thanks to my doctor at my surgery. I’ll never knock the NHS again – NHS is royalty to what Romanian is like. Five nights of barely any food, enduring a fall and operation I’m just glad I’m home. There are still obstacles for me to overcome with mobility over the next few weeks but I know that I can overcome these because I’m in my own country and after Bucharest – I can get through anything!!