Thursday, April 21, 2011

Getting to know the Dutch medical system: a visit to the ER

There are certain things in life that are never fun, either when you are either living in your own country or living as an expat. As I discovered a couple of weeks ago, a trip to the ER is one of those less glamourous moments. It was a lovely Thursday evening and Mitch was out at a work function while I was at home sewing and watching tv. A quick dash to my machine to sew up a seam resulted in my poor foot having a mishap with the coffee table leg. As soon as I felt the pain and looked at my foot, I knew what I had done - another broken toe... Yes, I had already broken this exact toe almost 2 years ago to the day (but in a more embarrassing manner as I tripped over a strange mans foot in the supermarket) so I was feeling rather silly. From past experience, I knew that all a doctor would do was x-ray my foot, tape it up and send me home with some painkillers but as I couldn't manage to straighten my toe out myself (it was on a 45deg angle apparently), I had to call for some help and Mitch rushed home on his bike to take me down to the ER - which happens to be not too far from where we live luckily. The first problem was of course, finding a park (afterwards I came to the conclusion that he probably should've just loaded me up on the back of his bike to get there, so much more simple sometimes) but finally we made our way into the hospital where I hobbled on in and happily discovered that the person on the admissions desk spoke excellent English as I was drawing mental blanks for what to say - Mitch's translation idea as neither of us could recall the word for 'toe' was (in Dutch): I broke the finger on my foot!


It was late by the time we got there and despite the fact that the waiting room was empty, we of course still had a bit of a wait. After much waiting and Stroopy happily giving me some hearty little boots in the tummy, I was finally seen by a nurse (?) who took one look at my toe and advised I'd need to have x-rays to check I had only broken the toe and nothing in my foot and would then need to see a doctor. I then hobbled on in to another waiting room to then be taken into yet another room for x-rays (which I reallyyyyyyyyy didn't want) in which I wasn't given a protective jacket and had to ask the technician for one - ummmmm.... I'm pregnant lady?!?!?! I then hobbled back into the waiting room and patiently waited for the doctor who finally appeared with a med student in tow and it appeared that it had already gotten around the hospital that some Aussies were in - the doctor spent about as much time talking to us about Australia as he did my toe...

Considering what I've heard about the Dutch not giving out pain relief unless absolutely necessary, I was surprised when the doctor offered me something for my toe - I was prepared to just suck it up and deal with it. Obviously, being pregnant I can't have anything strong or even Panadol (seems it is loaded it up with caffeine & codeine here!) but as he explained, the process of putting my toe back into place would be extremely painful and I might like a local anesthetic. I gladly agreed, despite his warning that the 2 needles it required in the small space of my toe would be just as painful as if I had it moved with pain relief - and as it turned out, his warning was an understatement. It's a university hospital and tonight was the meds student lucky night to practice putting 2 gigantic needles into my foot - lets just say I got to practice my deep breathing exercises from the birth course we had attended the previous weekend and the pain resembled 2 knives being slowly pushed through my foot (I half expected the needle to come out of the bottom of my foot, especially after seeing all the blood). Many tales about Aussieland later and once the anesthetic had kicked in, the straightening of my toe began... Basically, they stick a biro between your 2 toes and clap them back together (soooo glad for the numbness at this point). Unfortunately, my toe was not being cooperative and many forceful claps later, it just kept popping back out. They were a bit stumped as to what to do and I was starting to feel the pain at this point but finally - success. The doctor took over and held my foot tightly, pulled my toe forwards with substantial force and with a loud crack, it went back into place. After some strapping and care instructions (which I must admit I tuned out on - thinking blah blah blah its late, I'm hungry and I've done this before), I was sent on my way!!!!!!!

So there you go - my first trip to a Dutch ER. Thankfully it wasn't Stroopy related but it still wasn't the most fun night of my life. Since then, I've been told by a Dutch friend the usual way to approach this type of thing - apparently you don't necessarily have to go the ER, but you instead call your huisarts who then gives you a referral to the onsite emergency doctor, located in the hospital grounds - apparently it doesn't take as long to get seen??? Between Mitch and I, we are really getting to know the Dutch medical system and this was one of things that we were yet to experience - and I hope we never have to again, although I must admit I was impressed with the doctors and the friendly manner in which I was treated.I was surprised to be offered pain relief to move my toe (as I was never offered anything like this in Australia last time, they just moved it, strapped it and sent me on my merry way) and I'm so glad they did... Ouchies!!!!!

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