A 7cm cyst was found on my right ovary, and I needed to have it removed before it burst, grew, or twisted my ovary. I’m pretty good at calmly dealing with things, and true to my nature I took this in stride and didn’t stress out. Sometimes I think circumstances deserve more of a reaction than I give them. Anyway, this post is about our experience with health care here in Saudi Arabia. Lots of firsts…
We were at the hospital seven times in about two weeks. And we went to McDonalds almost every trip. Haha! Not sure that’s really a good idea. In the past, I’ve only been in a hospital to have my babies, so that would have been a fine eating-out habit. Good thing we don’t have any more trips to the hospital planned.
Seven trips to the Saad hospital have given us some experience in getting around the place. Oh. My. Gosh. It is huge. And completely unintuitive. You don’t know where to park, where to go in, where you’re supposed to go once you’re inside…wow. The hospital is a full city block of buildings, most of them six to eight floors tall. Good thing everyone there was very, very helpful! The first time we went we must have looked extra lost (which we absolutely were..) and a guy walking in at the same time lead us to the area we needed. After that first time, we had a little bit more of an idea of where we needed to go, but we still ended up in the wrong building one time and had to ask lots of people for help.
I think the hardest thing was making an appointment. I talked to three people, never knew if they understood what I needed, had the Hardest time understanding them…I was exhausted by the time it was over. The first person just transferred me without saying anything. I explained a little bit more about what I needed to the second person; they mentioned a certain doctors name, but I didn’t understand anything else they said. And then they suddenly transferred me to someone else. The third person is who I actually made the appointment with. I must have said, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand,” a dozen times during our short conversation.
At one point she said “anything?”
and I was at a loss….what? Gah…I don’t understand……AGAIN.
She repeated it again. “Anything?”
Still not sure….
Ah! Yes! I mean No! Nothing else, thank you.
What a difference one word can make. It seems clear now. Now that I know that was the end of the conversation. Now that my mind isn’t overwhelmed with trying to figure out what someone else is saying and what I’m going to say and remembering what time my appointment is…. At the end of my phone call I was pretty sure I had an appointment. But not 100% sure… However, the hospital sends me text messages confirming appointments! Pretty handy. And they are usually in English, so that helps too.
Another time I was trying to get blood drawn after my appointment with the OBGYN, but appearently the insurance needed to approve something before I could have the blood drawn. We went to the lab, reception, pre admission, and back to the lab before deciding to go back to the OBGYN office to talk to the nurse and find out what to do. She said it was ok to have the blood drawn later at my pre op appointment. The insurance would approve it before that, and there would be enough time for the results to be available for the anesthesiologist. A lot of running around for a simple solution.
Speaking of insurance, all our costs were covered. All of them. That was pretty nice. There were things we had to pay up front for: some blood work, my OBGYN appointment, etc., but they later paid us back for these costs. You have to go back and forth, from place to place to pay for things sometimes. For example, the first time I was there they wanted to do a blood test. So the Doctor orders a blood test and gives me a paper. I take the paper to reception, pay for the blood test, and they give me a receipt. I take the receipt back to the lab/treatment area, and they do the blood test. So efficient. But this has been our experience lots of times here.
While the hospital layout is very confusing, the nurses are Wonderful! They make up of all the frustration I had while trying to find them. I was also really happy with my OBGYN. No women likes having to find a new OBGYN, and I was all the more worried about finding a doctor here in Saudi Arabia. But this lady is pretty awesome. Very nice, put me at ease, but also direct and didn’t waste time. She didn’t make me feel rushed, but her answers were direct and clear. I didn’t have trouble understanding her. She is from India but studied in the UK. So I felt confident in the people who were taking care of me.
The hospital was also clean. From the ER area to the doctors office to my hospital room, everything was clean, sanitary, and smelled nice. This was a concern after Stephen’s experience when having his blood drawn right after he got here. (Read about his fun adventure here: http://whereveryougoblog.com/2012/10/08/rubber-gloves/) That was at a different hospital. The Saad hospital in Dharan is about an hour away from home. It’s a lot of driving, but it’s worth it. I was not worried at all.
We had to be at the hospital at 6:00 am for my surgery at 10:00 am. We waited in what would be my recovery room: me on the hospital bed in my hospital gown (which are apparently the same lovely things no matter what country you are in), and Stephen on the couch. They had those extendable chairs that are supposed to be a sort of bed, and he tried to sleep there for a little while. When it was time to head to surgery, I got to lay in the bed and get wheeled around. That was a first. I went into the operating room right on time. I scooted from my hospital bed to the operating table. They put a mask over my nose and mouth and said cheerfully, “Deep breaths. Good night! See you later!” I took a breath. Nothing was happening. Hmm… Took another breath. Still nothing…no darkness closing in. No heavy eyelids, And then I don’t remember anything else until I started regaining consciousness! I was out.
I remember hearing conversations as I was slowing waking up. Most of it I don’t remember now, though at the time I understood most of what I heard. The one thing I remember hearing was someone telling Stephen that I wouldn’t be able to eat or drink for eight hours. EIGHT HOURS!?! I hadn’t eaten since the evening before. I didn’t know I would be without food for a whole 24 hours. I remember thinking, “What?! really?! no!” I was not happy about that, but I was surprised that I didn’t feel too hungry. I did get to drink water which is good because I would have been really uncomfortable and parched without it. The all liquid food wasn’t great, but the jello was edible, and the juice was refreshing.
Another thing that surprised me was the crazy, intense shoulder pain. My friend who had laproscopic surgery told me there was shoulder pain afterwards, but I had no idea. No. Idea. I hurt so much at times. I made Stephen massage it a lot. It isn’t actually the shoulder that is the problem. It’s gas from the operation stuck under the diaphragm. (They pump gas into the abdomen to create a more open area to work in.) The diaphragm and shoulder share a nerve center. Stupid nerves. Walking and moving around are supposed to help.
My nurses were all lovely, but one was extra special. First of all, she told me looked young for my age. I liked her right away! Then, during one of the times I was up during the night, she told me (and you have to imagine a bit of an accent), “I want to make you happy, so I arrange that you can have real food for breakfast. Real food, like a real person. No more jello.” Haha! I love this lady! She did make me happy.
Stephen stayed home on Tuesday. He makes me happy too. He was so helpful and flexible and caring though this whole thing. So very wonderful. I couldn’t have done it without him. I slept a lot that day and felt up to taking care of the kids on my own on Wednesday. We didn’t do anything, and I basically spent the day on the couch, but it went well. I took it easy for several days, and each day I felt a little better, stronger, and more like normal. I still don’t want Emery jumping on my stomach, but that was never all that fun anyway.
Our friends here were incredible; they stepped up and helped us through all the appointments and hospital visits. They came over and stayed with the kids while Stephen and I took our long drives to Dharan. They watched Myka and Emery for two nights so that Stephen could spend time with me in the hospital. They sent messages asking how things were going. Stephen posted on facebook that I would be having surgery, and the comments from people saying they would pray and that they were thinking about us meant a lot. I felt loved and cared for which is exactly what I needed.
Moral of the story: medical care is just fine here in the KSA as long as you’re in the right hospital, and having willing and helpful friends can get you through any situation.