Tuesday, August 21, 2012

July 25 & 26 - Universal Hospital Group, Istanbul

The two days at this fabulous hospital remain a blur except for the awesome photos I took of our hospital suite. We may have been in Turkey but it was totally Greek design and apparently part of a German health care organization. Not only did our room have a lounging area plus full bath and shower, it had several attached rooms for family guests including an office, a large bedroom, and a full bath - all in marble and gold as I dreamily recall.

Wednesday morning a team of doctors and nurses began rounds in our room after we had been served breakfast at a settee. (Ripe olives, feta cheese, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, rolls, juice and fresh yogurt along with coffee.) Just as they came in to see these new American patients, Dr. Gunay, our PC doctor from Azerbaijan, walked in behind them. Elaine and I gasped with joy to welcome him. He introduced himself to the startled staff and then all conferred on what had happened to us and our current medical status.

The next few days consisted of napping and eating and blood draws. I did make a request for help with taking a shower since it had been 4 or 5 days since I had washed my hair or bathed. As at the previous hospital, we received tender care and I'm sure we were the object of discussion as we walked the halls with our black eyes, bandaged legs, and arms in black slings.

Dr. Gunay seemed to spend his time ironing out the paperwork to get us to the US for further care and recovery in Washington DC. There's always the question of who's going to pay the bill. Even tho' this was cleared by about noon on Friday, it was apparent we would miss the 1 o'clock flight that day and take the same flight on Saturday instead. So Elaine and Dr. Gunay and I decided to leave the hospital and stay Friday night at a hotel in the old city.
Elaine managed to contact the same hotel we had planned to stay in before we returned to Azerbaijan. We took a taxi from the hospital on the Asia side of Istanbul to the Broken Column Hotel on the Europe side of Istanbul - also closer to the airport. After checking in and having dinner together, we retired to our rooms knowing that we would fly via Turkish Airlines on Saturday at 1pm, and the long journey home.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

July 23 & 24 - Ozel Kapadokya Hospital, Nevsehir, Turkey

Sometime Sunday July 22, I recall someone cutting off my second-hand Eileen Fisher knit sweater, and getting a colorful hospital top that seemed right off the rack at Target. I was urged to eat before 3pm allowing 6 hours before my 9pm surgery schedule. At that time I was wheeled to the surgical suite on a gurney and greeted again by the anesthesiologist and numerous other surgery personnel. I am not sure how much anesthesia they gave me because I know they didn't weigh me and I know I didn't record my weight on the English medical questionnaire I filled out. (I couldn't decide if I should put it in pounds of kilograms so I left that question blank.) During surgery, a titanium plate plus pins and screws was put into my upper right arm. The suture looks about 5 inches long.

I remember being awakened about 11pm in the surgery suite and moved back to the hospital room I shared with Elaine. I felt confident that the staff was taking good care of me. I recall being poked too often for blood and also had a line where I was being given antibiotics. I don't recall any pain-killer by mouth. Most of the staff did not speak English, nor do they provide personal care such as in US hospitals. Someone has suggested that in some societies family members take care of bathing the patient not the nursing staff. I did not feel particularly clean and managed the bathoom on my own.

Due to her injuries, Elaine's surgery on her left shoulder was not until the afternoon of Monday July 23rd. Both of us regularly received trays of food that usually included soup, plain yogurt, and a bread roll. Breakfast meant ripe and green olives, tomato and cucumber slices, and milk. It all seems like a blur now, but I do believe I talked with both my son Anton and my friend Bea thanks to Bucket Solmaz, the social worker with a cell phone.
Elaine and I had restless sleep due to being in a room on the maternity ward. I could hear some newborn crying, but also saw bassinettes lined up in the hall way and some rooms decorated with balloons.

By Tuesday July 24, we received word that we would be sent via air ambulance to a university hospital in Istanbul. PC's Azerbaijan doctor Dr. Gunay Ibrahamov would fly there to meet us and then accompany us to Washington, DC. But 2 things happened before we could leave the hospital in Nevsehir. They needed to know the bill would be paid, and my doctor (Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Ekrem Erdogan) insisted I needed a transfusion or he would not approve my discharge. This got to be comical - to us - when they showed us the faxed guarantee letter and the bill for each of us in Turkish lira. It was pretty apparent that the hospital felt $5000 guarantee would not cover the bills for 38,000 and 47,000 tL!!! Once that was cleared up, I submitted to a 30 minute blood transfusion. Dr. Erdogan had earlier spoken to me about his son studying to become an Iman in Pennsylvania so he took the time to get for me an English book Muhammed: Messenger of God.

After the transfusion I was wheeled to a waiting ambulance that took us finally to the Nevsehir airport. For once I remembered my camera and took a couple photos as we spotted the twin-engine plane we would take to Istanbul. I can't believe I did that but I did. Elaine was on a gurney but I was able to sit up with the nurse in back plus 2 doctors and 2 pilots from SOS International. The flight was nearly 2 hours and when we landed at the airport in Istanbul we waited and waited for an ambulance. By the time we arrived at the designated hospital it was 8pm. We were wheeled into a fabulous emergency room and greeted by handsome doctors.They were dumbfoumded. Who were we? and what were we doing there? We had no medical records or xrays with us, and for a moment we thought we were at the wrong hospital. SOS did not make a mistake; we were in the right hospital. They asked for our passports, we were briefly examined,  then moved to a fabulous suite of rooms to await doctors' rounds the next morning. We were surprised and relieved to be there.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sunday July 22nd - Gerome, Turkey

The staff at the wonderful Mithra Cave Hotel Cappadocia in Gerome had arranged for an airport shuttle van to pick us up at 8 AM and take us to the airport for a return flight to Istanbul. There we would spend 2 more days before returning to Azerbaijan.
As ever, we had a full breakfast on the terrace and watched the mornings hot air balloons before carrying our backpacks down the steps to the Mercedes-Benz van. We were the first passengers so we sat directly behind the driver as he drove to other hotels and picked up about 12 more passengers. I don't remember if the van had seat belts. It did not have shoulder belts.

We were traveling toward the airport on a well-maintained, four-lane divided highway when we noticed a semi-truck in the other direction as we crested a hill. Our driver slowed as the semi seemed to slow also. Then the semi made a turn and began crossing our lane of the highway. Our driver and Elaine and I saw that the semi did not stop and that we would hit the side of the truck - as I screamed: No, no, no! All of us aware that we would crash into this long and slow moving truck in our path.

After the crash, I recall the driver jumping out and running to the back of the van and opening the doors for the passengers to get out. Elaine and I were both stuck in our seats and vaguely aware that people were running away from the van. Would it explode? Then someone opened the side door and pulled me out, put me onto a gurney and waited for the ambulance. Bloody black skirt. Elaine and I were taken to separate hospitals in Nevsehir - a large town in Cappadocia.

My emergency room stay must have included x-rays and stitches but I don't recall. There was another vacationer from Australia named Versimilitude who was treated and released. In our fog, we agreed to take photos of each other on our cameras - as if this was just another part of our vacations.

After much discussion, the hospital agreed to release me to the same "tourist" hospital where Elaine had been admitted. I was moved into the same room on the maternity ward of the hospital. I was more alert than Elaine, so I used the cell phone of the social worker Bucket Solmaz to call the AZ PC Country Director and inform her of our accident.

By early afternoon it was decided that I would have surgery at 9PM that night for my broken right shoulder. That meant enough time to have a quick meal, then nothing to eat for 6 hours. I was visited by the anesthesiologist and by the orthopedic surgeon Dr. Erdogan who would perform surgery and spoke some English. I felt as if we were very special patients. Elaine was still quite groggy and needed an additional day before surgery.