Well, it’s been two weeks since my surgery and I am finally feeling a bit more like myself. I have had a few surgeries in my life, but this one has taken me a bit longer to feel fully recovered . I am guessing it’s because my haemoglobin was so low to start with, and it is of course, taking a hot minute to rise back up to a normal level. It may also be my age, although I feel mentally 25, my body isn’t always in agreement.
All in all, my recent experience with the medical system here in German has been very positive. My only complaint, was that I had to have the experience at all. That has nothing to do with the German medical system and everything to do with getting older, and the horrors of perimenopausal symptoms gone overboard.
So, without giving too many horrible health details, I started having uncontrolled, heavy bleeding. So much so, that I was pale, dizzy, and extremely short of breath. We tried to get an appointment with an OB-GYN, but the wait list was quite long. We made the appointment, but they recommended a woman’s heath clinic if my symptoms worsened. The symptoms worsened, big time! So, we went to the clinic.
The clinic was fantastic! We were worked in to be seen that day, and had blood work, ultrasound, and full exams done shortly after arriving. It was determined that I needed surgery at that time, and I was scheduled for the following week. Meds were prescribed to slow/stop the bleeding and I was started on Iron to help build my counts after the bleeding stopped. They made it clear that if the bleeding did not stop, or my symptoms worsened at all that I should return for admission. Both of the surgeons spoke fluent English with me, which really put me at ease. Dirk was with me, and I let them know if they were in any way uncomfortable speaking English, that he would be happy to translate.
I responded very quickly to the medications and started feeling a bit better during the wait for surgery.
The day of surgery went smoothly. I checked into my room that I shared with two other women. One was from the area, but spoke English with me, and the other was originally from Congo. She spoke both French and German, so we spoke in German together. When staying in a German hospital, you bring your own towels, slippers, and toiletries. This is unlike American hospitals, where those things are generally provided for you. Also, I have public insurance, so you generally share a room with one or two other patients. I am sure most Americans would find sharing a room horrible, but it really wasn’t too bad. The room and restroom were both spacious, and my roommates were both very nice.
My nurse that came to take me to surgery, spoke a little English, so we spoke together in broken English-German and it worked just fine. The O.R staff were fantastic! The lead nurse was an older “sister” and had been working OR for many years, she preferred speaking German since she last learned English in school 35 years ago. But she spoke slowly for me so that I understood everything. Everyone else spoke perfect English, and had me at ease right away.
Thankfully, I have no memory of my procedure! (I have woken during a surgery many years ago, so that is always a worry for me when I am put under!) The anaesthesiologist came to see me in recovery and let me know all went well, and that he did indeed need to give more medication that he expected. So, he was thankful for my heads up about my waking up during a past procedure.
I ended up staying two nights in the hospital, a much difference experience than if I the surgery had been done in the States. (In the States this surgery would have been done as an outpatient procedure, surgery in the morning, and then discharged after recovery). My pain was controlled with non-narcotic medications, another big difference from abdominal surgeries done in the US.
The biggest differences between having surgery in the US vs. Germany are the following:
I did not have to obtain a pre-surgical clearance from my PCP/Haus Artz. In the US, before most surgeries, you need to obtain blood work, ECG, and meet with your PCP to medically clear you for surgery. This is especially true if you are over 50, and if you have any major medical history such as Type II Diabetes. This was not needed in my case, and I was a little concerned as my HGB was quite low. The surgeon did have me sign consent to receive blood in case it was needed during surgery. She felt it was a strong possibility, but I ended up not needing it, thankfully.
Another difference was staying inpatient vs. outpatient. I was more that ready to go home after the first day, but that was based on my American expectations versus care in Germany. They actually wanted me to stay a third night, but I was persistent in wanting to be home in my own bed.(once a nurse, always a nurse).
I mentioned before that patients bring their own towels and toiletries here in Germany, and in the States those things are provided.
I was not sent home with a script for narcotics as I would have been in the US. I was advised to take either Paracetemol or Ibuprofen if needed. Turns out I did not need any pain medications as long as I was resting appropriately.
The biggest difference of all was the cost. I received my bill last week. It was 30Euro. That is about $34.63. This surgery and hospital stay would have been close to $10,000 in the States. Here, I was seen emergently, treated, had surgery and stayed in the hospital for three days, all for 30 Euro. I am considering this a win.
I am feeling much better at this point, and I am more than thankful that I was here in Germany to have this surgery. Every day that I am here in this country, I find more reasons to love my life here!
How about you? Have you ever needed to have a major procedure, or medical event outside of your birth country? What was your experience like? I would love to here about it in the comments section!