When I had my right hip done in ‘04 in Budapest my brother came into my room seeing me and said, “Good thing you don’t have a third leg!”
Because I had no insurance, I had to go back to Hungary to get both hips done, new prosthesis put in where there was only worn down femur.
The hospital was very poor. After the left hip was done, there was a four days long holyday in Budapest. All the nurses and docs were minimum presence. I was left with a cauterization, some food, the blood thinners, and pain pills until they returned. I enjoyed it, because I was meeting the old country right here in the aging room. Peasants and city gals groaning under the wear and tear of life, and me the “American” mixed in. I could feel the wooden boards underneath my thin foam mattress. I found a position that worked for me, and felt relatively comfortable.
The right hip was different.
The doctors would not touch that for six months, until the left one could carry me. Finally that happened. What a difference six months could make. New beds arrived from Holland. They had real mattresses which were comfortable. Once more, I was I operated on, this time on the right side.
In Budapest, at the Semmelweis Hospital, the doctors have a routine. Each morning the morning nurse comes and inquires how you slept. This is recorded on your chart. Then the floor doctor comes with the morning pills, looking at the wounds to see how they are healing.
On Thursdays, the entire doctor’s cadre come, from all floors with the professor at the had of them and nurses in tow. They looked like fresh scrubbed white angels. They look vigorous and confident. They pause at each patient’s bed and discuss the recovery. The professor orders new bandages, or new pills, the doctor who operated on you speaks up and touches your wound, moves things around.
In the afternoon every day, the operating doctors drop by to check on their patients. There is great joy in this, because it furthers recovery. There was especially one doc who was jovial, and called out to his patients often. “Good Luck!” Because its not only skill, but it takes a lot of luck that to get up from under and start walking on bionic parts.
The “American”, me, was operated on by the Professor Ur himself. This sounded real good, and the operation was real good, but he didn’t come by for five days post-op. His docs did look in on me, but they treated me with distance, not like they treated their own patients.
These post-op five days were very difficult this time. I fell into depression. I felt neglected. I felt jealous of the other docs and their patients, how much attention was showered on them and none on me.
Once again I was a foreigner in my own country. It ripped up my old wounds from my childhood, the war, the revolution, the hardships and lack of protection. I cried openly, demanded that the professor Ur come by and see me. Nothing.
In the meantime, three days post-op I received a fabulous dream. This dream was about 17th century Japan. Marketplace, silks, samurai, fish and ladies shopping. I was so happy, I wanted to walk amongst them, and I walked myself off my bed and fell out of the hospital bed in the middle of the night.
I didn’t feel anything got hurt. They put me back into the bed, and early next morning took me to x-ray to see if I damaged anything. They concluded that all was fine. I paid no attention to it. I moved on.
Sunday the Professor Ur showed up. I felt already better, and I visited an other lady next door, who was my forerunner. She had her left hip done when I had mine, and she was a couple of days ahead of me in recovery with her right hip. Always good to see how it developed for others to raise hope.
Professor Ur felt that he had so many things to do, he didn’t have time to baby me. Teaching at the university, having operations, he had the job once my beloved step-father had in this same hospital. This is why he operated on me; I was special.
Now it’s ‘09, five years after my operation. The left hip is great, the right one however fell apart. That dream and consequent falling out of bed had damaged the fresh operation, and slowly the cement that holds the hip in place has unraveled. I was limping, hurting and finally totally collapsed.
This time, I am old enough to get insurance. I don’t have to go to hungry. I will get it done at Alta Bates, in Berkeley, where the beds are comfy and the drugs are great. Hungarians didn’t give us any morphine. I was taking my own American Ibuprofen.
Tomorrow I enter the hospital for the right hip. A legendary well loved Chinese doctor, Dr. Chen, is my surgeon. He will have to take out the entire prosthesis the Hungarians put in, and give me the American parts. I will be half and half, better technology, better everything.
Still I am feeling scared. Not of the pain, nor the dangers, but the aftermath that no drugs can take away … the rehab part and the searing pain of the first standing up.
I am packing my little grotto of the Lady of the Guadalupe, small and cheerful, hand painted, from Mexico. Also, my nightie, my slippers and my toiletries. One more time!
It appears I didn’t have to have a third leg to get an operation once more.
Granny Rehab is hopeful, but the years now starting to show. The years on crutches hurt my neck, and I wish there was warm water pool nearby to walk in. There is one in Berkeley, but it’s so full of chlorine I get lung burns in it. Plus they have a miserable shower and cold rooms to dress. I wish I knew somebody with a swimming pool and hot tub, who would allow me to use it.
In Hungary they had Hot Springs all over the city. No need to chlorinate, they just have the hot water come in one end and go out the other. Fresh virgin waters from the earth for the first time, such a grace to sit in those.
Today I pack and eat little, and in the morning go under the merciful knife. Good luck!