Life in Culebrón

Tuesday 7 November 2017 - A weekend in Elda Hospital

It must have been the cat food in the Día supermarket that triggered it. I was there picking up a few essentials before going out for lunch. My eyes went funny, as though each one was switching on and off at random, and the next thing I know is that I didn't know much.  I don't know where I was. I was confused. It took the ambulanceman to explain that I had passed out and they were about to take me to Elda hospital and only later did I remember the detail of the strange visual effects. I wonder how much disruption I caused in Día and whether I'll ever be able to shop there again?

Maggie turned up at the ambulance not long after. She wasn't with me in the supermarket so my guess is that the emergency number strip on the lock screen of my mobile phone did its job. The police found it and were able to contact her. My second guess is that the description given of my sack of potatoes impersonation in the supermarket to the 112 emergency dispatcher meant that he or she sent a specialist ambulance with a doctor on board but, when the crew found me basically recovered, they transferred me to a less specialist ambulance for transfer to hospital. Apart from thinking on my own mortality on the journey to the hospital, I've often suspected that I will not reach a ripe old age, the journey was uneventful.

It was pretty routine in the hospital too. They dressed me in one of those funny back opening gowns, checked my heart, did a CT scan and a couple of x-rays as well as taking blood samples and then wheeled me off to an observation ward with lots of beds where they hooked me up to a drip. Maggie sat with me. Her poor friends, denied their promised posh meal, camped out in the waiting area of the hospital. Not long after they moved me to the Neurology ward to a room I was to share with Pepé. He was having a lot of trouble breathing and they had some machine pumping oxygen to his lungs. I would have found out more but my Spanish collapsed completely. I could not utter a single coherent sound and I was soon much more concerned about my Spanish than I was about whatever was supposed to be wrong with me.

I lay in my bed and every now and then someone would come and take my temperature, my blood pressure and check my blood sugar levels - there was even a 6am raid for some serious blood samples. The results and readings were always normal and, apart from a quite nasty headache, which still hasn't completely gone, and a a general weakness when I started to try to move around I felt absolutely fine. In fact I began to feel a bit of a fraud. As I settled in, and as they let me exchange the gown for pyjamas, the food started to arrive - dinner, breakfast, no elevenses though, lunch, afternoon snack and back to dinner. The food wasn't great and they had a particularly tasteless line in soups cum gruels but I thought it was good that they fed me at all. The food and the constant stream of nurses, cleaners and auxiliaries were a break in the routine of lying there, trying to listen to a podcast - I couldn't even understand that and I've listened to scores of those podcasts in Spanish. I finished my book, La uruguaya by Pedro Mairal but I was hard pressed to follow even the gist of the last few pages and as to understanding what the string of visitors were saying to Pepé's wife I had absolutely no idea. When I did utter a few words to try to be pleasant people would just stare at me blankly. I soon limited myself to weak smiles and multilingual grunting.

Visitors can stay with people in Spanish hospitals all the time and there is probably an expectation that someone will be there to do a bit of the caring for a patient. Pepé's wife, Ana, stayed with him overnight and through the morning though someone, usually a daughter, came and took the midday shift so that Ana could go home and get changed and get something to eat. She was back by the early evening to take over again though. Maggie came to see me and she would have stayed too but I shooed her away. I was able to feed myself, straighten the bed etc. and, when I was given the say so, go and get a shower. I saw absolutely no point in both of us being confined to barracks. The permission to get a shower came from a doctor who came to see me on Monday morning. You don't have a tumour, you didn't have a stroke, you don't have diabetes and it wasn't a heart attack so now we're going to do a resonancia (an MRI scan in English). I supposed, though I never asked, that they were looking for signs of a fit or epilepsy. In the meantime, said the doctor, feel free to get out of bed, sit in the armchair and have a shower.

And that's what happened. No breakfast for me on Tuesday, en ayunas, fasting, and then off for an MRI scan. Into one of those tunnel things with quite a loud noise. I thought it would be horrid but, in the end, it was just boring. I asked how long it had taken when I came out and the answer was 25 minutes. About an hour later the doctor came to see me again. The resonancia found nothing, we can't find anything, all we can think is that it's your lifestyle - too much alcohol, to much smoking - so cut it out and be good. Now you can go home. I did flick to the last page of the medical report they gave me and it said not to drive for six months. I asked someone on the desk what this meant. It's all a recommendation she said and that's where we left it. Not being able to drive would be a serious blow for someone living in Culebrón.

They looked after me well. They came and got me in the first place. They treated me quickly. They found me a bed. They spent presumably large amounts of money on trying to find out what was wrong with me and they gave me food to eat, clean sheets and pyjamas to wear. I am so glad that I demanded legal contracts so many times from so many employers so I had a right to that healthcare.

Just as I was writing this I've been trying to decipher the medical report. Even if my Spanish were brilliant I don't think that I could understand it but it seems to cover all the things they said I didn't have. The big thing is that I had convulsions - Wikipedia equates those with epilepsy. Alcohol and tobacco use are also highlighted and the last line says chronic small vessel ischaemia (in Spanish) which Wikipedia tells me is basically a mini stroke. Maybe it's a bit belt and braces - we didn't find anything but it could have been any of these.

Well, at least this time. I got to blog about it.

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Day to day life in the Spanish village of Culebrón in inland Alicante

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