By Elizabeth Weinstein, Emory University
During orientation, the Czech buddies took us on a 45 minute-long adventure to Motol Hospital to show us where the foreigner’s department was in case of a medical emergency. That day, after spending way too long for my liking on public transportation to arrive at the hospital to spend less than 5 minutes learning where the foreigner’s department was located just to turn around and spend another 45 minutes on trams, buses, and metros, I swore I would never ever return to that building. Besides, if I actually needed emergent medical care, I am not sure I would actually get to the hospital in time to be seen by a doctor. So, I had one goal – stay healthy, and do not break any bones.
A few weeks in and I was without an illness or an injury. Until I began to suffer some severe toe pain from the cold. I did what I always do when something seems wrong, I called my dad and asked him for help. As the pain got worse and my toes got redder and more swollen, my dad finally said I needed to go to see a doctor and have them look at my feet. Of course, I refused because going to a doctor meant that I would have to return to Motol Hospital, and I explained to him that this was just not an option. So, thank goodness for the internet and WebMD. I was able to diagnose myself, and after a few weeks my toes were back to normal, I was feeling great both because I was pain-free, and I never had to set foot in the Hospital.
Unfortunately, when I hoped for no injuries or sicknesses, I forgot to consider bloody noses. Being used to the humid, warmer weather in Atlanta and Dallas, my nose certainly did not enjoy being in the frigid, dry environment of Prague. Just a few weeks in, I had one, and from then on it became more and more frequent. I knew there was really only one way to fix the problem – nose cauterization. I kept thinking it will warm up soon, my nose will be fixed, and maybe just maybe vaseline will do the trick. But, each time I had to stop and fix my nose, I could see the words “Motol Hospital” flashing in my mind like a big, lit up open sign.
I guess a trip to Motol was inevitable. I finally caved and decided it was time to put this nose thing behind me and go get this over with. While most people dread getting their nose cauterized because of the pain factor, I was too hung up on the fact that I had to go all the way back to Motol and deal with this situation that the pain part of it was not even on my mind.
Tuesday morning, I woke up, with no classes or any sort of obligations for that day, I packed a bag (like someone would pack an overnight bag) with everything I could possibly need while I sat at the hospital. I figured I was going to be there awhile since I had no appointment, didn’t even know how to make an appointment, and therefore I packed my readings for all my classes, my laptop, Sex and the City season 3 DVDs, my blackberry fully charged so I could play solitaire, an extra jacket, a whole box of tissues, and my programs handbook (I’ve been meaning to look it over so I thought the waiting room would be a perfect time).
The day started off pretty well as I easily found my way to the metro and then to the bus that would take me to Motol. Seeing that I had made it to the hospital with no problems or setbacks and with my sense of direction, I just knew that all would go smoothly.
When I arrived at Motol, I immediately remembered where the Czech buddies took us, and at this moment I admit that I was extremely thankful for the Orientation excursion to Motol’s Foreigner’s Department. I walked up to the entrance and pushed open the door ready to make the left down the hallway that led to the Foreigner’s Department, but when I walked inside there was no hallway and nothing looked familiar. I should have known that I was bound to get lost at some point. After trying three other entrances, I backtracked back to the bus stop and went the other way and sure enough there was the entrance. I walked inside, delighted to see a familiar area, made a left down the hallway and there it was the Foreigner’s Department and English-speaking people!
After speaking with the receptionist, I filled out a few forms with my personal information, and then I was handed a piece of paper (that had Czech all over it) and was told to go upstairs and hand this to the receptionist up there. The whole experience was still going quite well as I now had what I imagined to be an appointment, and I was delighted to discover that they do perform nasal cauterizations here.
Now, as I mentioned before, I get lost fairly easily in an English environment with English signs, so I was not surprised at all when I found myself possibly lost and absolutely confused when I reached the first floor. I walked out of the elevator to discover that there were two doors (one on the left and one on the right), both of which had the word “ambulance” written on it. I wasn’t sure which way to go or if I was even on the right floor. What I did know was that “ambulance” was spelled similarly to “ambulance” and that I did not need. So, I decided the right would be the way to go, and thank goodness it was!
On the other side of the right-side’s door, it looked like a normal waiting room area (patients sitting impatiently, nurses walking past, some sort of plant/tree, magazines, and a TV at the front). I looked and found the receptionist/check-in counter inside of a small room. I walked inside and an impatient nurse looked up at me and began speaking in Czech. Confused, I looked at her and said “mliuvim anglicky” or “I speak English.” Well, she only speaks a little English (and by that I mean none at all) so I handed her my sheet of paper, she nodded her head and pointed to the waiting room. How long was the wait? When is my appointment? Will I be able to get my nose cauterized today or just examined? I had no idea, and really no one that I could even ask. So my waiting room experience began…and if you dislike waiting rooms in America, it is only 5 million times worse when no one speaks your language, and you don’t have the slightest idea of what is going on.
So, I waited. And I waited. And I waited. And after several games of solitaire, I was still waiting. When I got too bored to even play anther solitaire game, I turned to my next source of entertainment, The Ciee Handbook. And after I pretty much read the bulk of the book under life and culture, I was still waiting. One by one, I saw people get called into the rooms on either side of the waiting area, but never was my name called. I began to get frustrated when people who had come 30 minutes after me were being seen and I was still waiting.
After a two hour wait, the room filled with anxious patients was now just me, a girlfriend waiting for her boyfriend (who was called a few minutes prior) and an old man, who had gotten up and was speaking angrily in Czech. I finally began to consider whether I had been forgotten and wanted to walk up to the nurses’ desk and ask when I would be seen or if I even had an appointment time. Unfortunately, they spoke no English so all I could do is look up at the nurses who walked past me and give them a sad, longing, “help me!” stare. But as you can imagine, that brought me no closer to an answer or a doctor. Soon, the couple had left and the older man was called, and 2 hours later, there I was alone and yet still sitting in the waiting room. At this point, all I could do was be optimistic and hopeful because there was no one left, and I had to be soon.
I did get one compassionate look, not from a nurse but from the older man. When, he walked out from his appointment to find me still sitting there in my spot below the TV, he looked over and began speaking to me in Czech. I said “English,” he said, “no” but he gave me a look showing that he understood my pain and frustration and hopefully I would be seen soon. I will never know his name, or what he was there for, or anything about him really – but we definitely shared a moment, and it felt great to have at least someone understand just how miserable and frustrated I was.
And just as he walked out, a sweet looking nurse came out from one of the rooms and read my name aloud! Honestly, nothing (whether you are in America, Czech Republic, Canada, anywhere!) is more exciting than hearing it is your turn after you have waited in uncomfortable plastic chairs for what seems like eons on end. Finally, I was going to get to see a doctor and be out of here in no time!
I walked into a small room with a patient chair in the center and a smaller chair on the side, and a young-looking doctor walked up to me introduced himself and shook my hand (all in English – I cannot even begin to explain how excited I was to not only be in the presence of a doctor but an English-speaking one). I explained to him my problem and boy was I glad to hear that he could cauterize my nose right now and I could be out of here shortly.
I got comfortable in the small chair on the side of the room, as the doctor took out a bunch of funny looking tools (all of which I prayed were not going to put up my nose), and for the first time. my first wave of fear of pain hit me. This entire time I had been so focused on the nightmare of going to the hospital I had very little time to even consider the fact that I was going to be getting a procedure done. After I had the oh-so-wonderful experience of having a metal scope stuck up my nose, the doctor said he could see the exposed blood vessel and there were no other serious problems. (I could have told him that and I really thought the metal tube up my nose was completely unnecessary). Now, all he had to do was the actual procedure.
First, he dabbed some cotton balls in this blue liquid. I was not sure how the doctor in Prague go about their business, but in Dallas, they most definitely tell you when something is about to hurt or at least explain what they are doing. So, when he put the blue-soaked cotton balls on the end of this large stick and began moving it towards my nose, I had a minor freak out and asked him what he was doing, would it hurt, and if this was the burning part. He explained that this was just like cocaine. I stared back at him in utter disbelief. He said it will numb the area and I may feel some tingling in my face and nose. He also mentioned that this was the most not painful, but uncomfortable part. Still unsure of whether this was the painful part or not, I prepared myself for the worst as cotton balls were pushed up my nose (fun times as you can imagine). After a few seconds, he finally took one out and he had me sit there while the medicine kicked in. Sure enough, I began to lose feeling in my face, nose, and even some of the medicine had gone down my throat and caused that to numb up to.
Despite being numb, I still felt pretty awake and aware of what was going on. That was, until he came back over stuck a tool up my nose and pulled out a blue-soaked cotton ball. I guess the numbing medicine works really well, because I had no idea there was a cotton ball still up there and could not even feel him take it out, so I was absolutely floored when I saw a cotton ball come out of my nose. It was like the trick people do to younger kids, when they pretend to pull a penny out of someone’s ear as if by magic, leaving the kids all surprised, giggly and asking for them to do it again. I was certainly surprised, but most definitely not giggly or asking for him to do it again. Instead of giggles, I began to feel all woozy.
From this point forward, I have a very little idea of what actually happened. I know at one point I saw metal tweezers that I think were used to actually burn the blood vessel and some yellow goop on guaze was put up my nose. Next thing I remember, was that I began sweating profusively (like soaking through my shirt), I was getting really dizzy, and my face felt all cold and clammy. All I wanted to do was lay down, close my eyes, and be back in my bed. But when, I opened them there was the doctor sitting before me asking if I was OK. Still pretty out of it, I saw him go back to his desk, type up a few notes on the computer and tell me about the recovery and care for my nose. He gave me a piece of paper and two prescriptions and told me I was done and to go to the pharmacy. So, I managed to get the dizziness somewhat under control to leave the room, get the meds, and get out of there as fast as I could.
After I got my meds from the pharmacy, I began to feel a knot in my throat. I could not figure out why I was about to start crying. My nose really didn’t hurt, I actually still had no feeling in my face, I was not upset about anything, and overall it was not a terrible terrible experience (minus the 2.5 hours in the waiting room but that wouldn’t make me cry). As I stood by the doors, holding in my sobs, in my woozy state I began to wonder what was wrong with me and made a call to the doctor, my father. I ended up speaking with my mom and luckily, I was just having a normal reaction to the anesthesia, unluckily, however, was that when it wears off it makes a person burst into tears for no apparent reason. So, here I was standing at the entrance of the hospital with cotton up my nose, a long public transportation ride away from my bed, and on the verge of a full-fledged crying attack. I needed to get out of there quick and that is when my knight in shining armor appeared on the road before me, a Yellow AAA Taxi cab. That was exactly what I needed. I did not hesitate before I ditched the 35 minute bus/metro/tram ride home for the $20 cab ride where I could cry in private.
In the cab, I tried to think of anything at all that would save me from the embarrassment of having a sob fest in the back of some guy’s cab. I finally found something that would help. As I looked down at the sheets of paper that the guy gave me I read my instructions for recovery, “Stay calm, no cleaning of the nose, no hot showers. nasal drops 4/day.”
I vaguely remembered discussing this with the doctor after the procedure, but of course I was under anesthesia and was not sure exactly what these instructions meant or for how long I was supposed to do these things. Did hot showers mean no showers at all or just washing myself with hot water? If I needed to blow my nose, could i just dab it? How many drops do I use? I was also given a cream, when do I use that? How do I put it up there? I am not sure who’s genius idea it was to tell the patient about recovery when he/she is under anesthesia, but I guess that is how they do it here, and if you want my opinion it is uneffective and a really bad idea.
I soon had a thousand questions on what to do with my nose for the next few days and really had no way for getting any of them answered. There was one option…go back to Motol and wait to see the doctor again and then ask him exactly what to do. While I had forgotten a significant portion of my lovely date with Motol, I think one trip was unforgettable enough and made such as lasting impression on my study abroad experience that I will just have to find another way to get my questions answered.