This article may well be of interest to expats in Spain and I hope of interest to others too!
Being in hospital can be a problem, but being in a foreign hospital with the added language problem can be even more worrying. Well it does not need to be too stressful if you know what to expect and what to do.
I have just been in Elda General Hospital, Alicante for five days for a knee replacement operation so I would like to share my experiences so that you can make arrangements that best suit your circumstances
I saw a specialist in June who agreed surgery was the only choice. After X-ray, ultra sound and blood tests I was told it would be three to four months before I could have the operation. In fact it was nearly five months. You can be given notice of the date of your operation maybe a week ahead or as little as 48 hours. I had three days. This means you have to be ready at short notice to get your pets looked after, arrange transport and any other things do be dealt with while you are away.
I was called to the hospital for 7 pm. You go to a small room on the ground floor for admission. I was allocated a single en-suite room (with TV you have to pay to watch) on the top floor Trauma department. I have a friend who was called for 7 am and operated on that day. He was in a room with one other patient.
Post op and resting
After the operation, and before you go back to your room, the Surgeon will come out to explain to the family/or friends how the operation went. And he will expect someone to be there.
You will need to have a family or friend as a ‘carer’ because in Spanish hospitals it is expected, and taken for granted, that someone will be with you a lot of the time and maybe in the early days, stay overnight with you too. My wife stayed overnight after the operation sleeping on a fairly comfortable reclining chair bed in the room.
There will always be people wandering about as visiting hours seem very flexible except from 09:30 to 12:00 when it is Doctors Rounds and no one is allowed onto the ward
Don’t worry about the medical treatment you will get - it is excellent. All the nurses I met were very kind, friendly, efficient and caring. What they don’t expect to do is pop their head around the door every five minutes to see how you are - that is the responsibility of your carer. So if you drop your glasses or a book or need something from the other side of the room ask your carer.
If you do need something medical then just call them. For the first few days you are likely to be on a drip so you cannot leave your bed to go to the bathroom.
This is where the earthy Spanish language comes in - you will get used to the words ‘PeePee and KaKa’ which I am sure you can figure out when you ask for assistance!
You get three meals a day plus coffee and a snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon. The food is obviously Spanish so no cornflakes, egg and bacon and toast! The Hospital says the food is part of your treatment. I am sure it is nutritious but I found it very bland - but was not there for Fine Dining. The cafeteria does take-away food and drinks.
Walking with my frame
Two days after my operation a Physiotherapist came to demonstrate exercises I have to do every day. He arranged for the Novelda clinic to contact me in a few weeks for more physio. He also showed me how to use the walking frame. You have to pay for walking frames or crutches, in cash, to a firm that supplies the hospital.
We were given a form to reclaim part of that cost from the clinic in Elda. We paid 65 euros for the frame and will get a refund of about 30 euros - but I get to keep the frame!
How often, and when, you need an interpreter is really your choice. We had our brilliant interpreter with us for admission, for the Surgeon’s report after the operation and the first Doctors Rounds. It all depends on how much Spanish you understand and speak. It is a good idea to write out a list of words in Spanish that could be useful, such as “ pain, ache, headache, hot, comfortable “ and so on. Many of the nurses do speak a little English but are reluctant to do so. Most Doctors can speak English to varying degrees.
I was discharged on the Sunday after Doctors Rounds but had to wait for the operation and treatment report and prescription which took until 2pm to arrive.
Do try to make sure you actually have medication to take with you, especially pain killers
I didn’t, so had to wait for my wife to go to the Farmacia on Monday morning. The medication was not available until 6pm that day and Paracetamol is really not much use for pain after surgery.
When you get home be prepared to have to adjust to the fact that for weeks you cannot carry anything with your walking frame, can’t use stepladders, change light bulbs, vacuum the house, climb steps very well and you can’t drive either! So make some plans now.