Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Why I've been mostly out of commission for the last two weeks

As some of you may have noticed, I've been unusually silent the last two and half weeks.  This is the result of a nasty accident I had while in Barcelona, on a short vacation with my husband. On the evening of Tuesday Jan. 21, after three days of visiting amazing Gaudi architectural sites,  I tripped on stairs in a rain storm coming out of a restaurant and badly injured my left leg.  I hobbled to a taxi and back to my hotel, lay down on the bed and my ankle swelled up to large proportions and turned black and blue.  I lay in bed on Wed., and on Thursday, we asked the hotel to send in a doctor who took one look at my leg, squeezed it and said I had to go immediately to the hospital.

He called an ambulance, whose attendants showed up with a wheelchair, and wheeled me into the van onto a stretcher where I lay until they took me to an amazing hospital called HM Delfos.

I was immediately met in the emergency room by attendants who took me into another room where an orthopedist examined my leg, sent me for x-rays, and called the surgeon,.  A half hour later, a handsome young man in a beard and jeans introduced himself to me as the orthopedic surgeon and told me I needed to be operated on immediately.

Both bones in my left leg were broken, he said, and he needed to operate as soon as possible to insert a plate and screws.  When I asked if I couldn't return to NYC for the surgery, he said absolutely not, as he could not guarantee my safety on a flight.  A couple of hours later that same afternoon, he did the surgery after administering an epidural block.  I was awake for about the last half hour of the operation, lying behind a screen, feeling nothing in my left leg, and listening with curiousity to assorted voices exclaiming, speaking rapidly to one another, and laughing heartily in Spanish.  I only wished I could understand what they were saying.

Then I was wheeled into a very spacious hospital room, with a bathroom that had a full shower, where I recuperated in bed and watched Netflix, read books and did crossword puzzles for an entire week.

The doctors, nurses, attendants and administrators were all amazingly kind and responsive.  I never had to wait more than five minutes for help after pulling the bell, and usually more than one staff member came, either to change my IV, take my temperature,  or attend to my pain.  I had three meals a day, with snacks; my husband brought me cappucinos and croissants from the cafeteria in the building, and I felt truly pampered.  I slept in damask sheets.  Meanwhile my foot looked like this:

The only downside to having undergone the recuperation in Spain is that they are a lot more conservative about prescribing pain medication.  I had to wait for two hours while an Ibuprofen drip and an anti-inflammatory medication did  little to assuage the pain before they would administer Tramadol which is a stronger medication.   By that point the sensations were pretty intense.  But I suppose this is one reason they have lower opiate addiction rates in Europe.

Finally, on Wed. Jan. 29, I flew back the city, aided by my husband who skipped a scientific conference that he was supposed to attend in Portugal after our vacation so he could accompany me back home; aided by wheelchair attendants who pushed me through expedited security lines in the airports in Barcelona and then in NYC.  Luckily, I had a business class seat and was allowed to keep my leg up the whole flight back; and the whole trip was surprisingly smooth.

I know the question you are all thinking - what did it cost?  The ambulance, the surgery, titanium implants, a week in the hospital in a comfortable spacious room plus numerous x-rays and a CAT scan cost 21,000 Euros.  It seems like a lot except that when I returned to the US, I learned from the orthopedist here that the surgery alone plus only one night in a hospital (which is what I would have gotten here) would probably have cost more than $90,000.

We are hoping to recoup most of that cost from our insurance company, who told us that they would cover the costs as if it had occurred in the US, since it was an emergency and the doctors had forbade me from returning home for the surgery.  After all, it was a bargain to the insurance company compared to what they would likely had to pay if I had undergone the operation in the United States.

This is what my leg looks like now:

I will be unable to walk for at least a month and maybe more.  But meanwhile, I am getting around on a knee scooter in my third floor walk up and dragging myself upstairs and downstairs on my tush.

The only other major drawback to the accident was the postponement of the class size hearings and rally on January 29.  I am hopeful that the hearings will be rescheduled later this month.  I will let you know as soon as I hear more.


Anonymous said...

Its seems bizarre that an injured ankle broken or not had to be done immediately...what was the urgent need for surgury? We are not talking major organs here....YOu mean to tell me a broken ankle cannot wait a few hours of a flight to the USA for examination and surgury? Puzzling to me

David C. Bloomfield said...

Get well soon, Leonie!

Ed in the Apple said...

You’ll be better than new ��