Pain in Spain: Why I still have more money than stents…

14 Sep

I WAS asleep when a chink of light  in the doorway alerted me. A man had entered Room 114.

A 6am intruder! The last thing I wanted on top of the angina attack that had put me in Torrevieja Hospital for four days and counting. Particularly with only a flimsy regulation-blue hospital gown for protection.
As I lay on the bed, squinting blearily into the darkness, the glint of metal told me the shadowy silhouette was on a business call.
He sat down on the bed – and  I realised he was brandishing two razors in his right hand.
My worst fears were confirmed. I was about to be shaved of my last vestige of dignity…by, of all people, the camp male nurse I had silently dubbed Dapper Diego.
I hadn’t the heart to protest as DD lifted my gown and, humming quietly, went to work. Donna’s pube train was at the sharp end of a potential disaster – and my only thought was that Diego might not mind the gap.
Five minutes later, the plucked chicken with the dicky ticker was ready for her heart-to-heart with the stentist later in the day.
More than 12 hours later as it happens. But of course, Torrevieja Hospital, like just about everyone in Spain, does everything manana.
Anyway, I eventually ended up at the mercy of  the guy whose job is to ping balloons into clogged up coronary channels. It sounds like a children’s party – and it might as well have been from the way the medical team laughed and joked their way through the entire procedure.
There was I, lying there with a catheter invading half my body via a gaping hole in  my femoral artery, and they were all cackling away in Spanish like kids playing doctors with a doll.
I certainly didn’t find it funny…though their trivialisation of it all did admittedly ease my own fears that my life was in danger.
Stentist? It was more like a dentist working upside down after administering laughing gas to himself and his staff.
And you’ve only heard a fraction of the story.
The previous weekend, an undertaker came to the rescue after I suffered a major angina attack at home. My good friend Mike, a funeral director by profession, was staying with me at the time and averted a potentially grave situation by calling the Spanish emergency services. Minutes later, I was in the back of an ambulance roaring down the N332 at 140kph with Vettel Mickey screeching behind in his rented Ford Ka.
I was about to receive proof – if any was needed – that the Spanish health service leaves the NHS standing. Even if it does seem to work at half the speed.
Torrevieja Hospital is a magnificent building with magnificent facilities …a credit to Spanish medicine in the 21st century.
That was evident from the moment I set foot – or rather wheels – on the premises.
I was whisked through the emergency admission process in a matter of minutes…with a slight hiccup when doctors discovered the handful of different medications Mike had grabbed from my bedroom drawer weren’t mine!
Assessed and then herded into a 32-bed observation ward, I shared the following eight hours with an array of characters of various nationalities in various states of discomfort.
Only an obligatory bland, salt-free apology for lunch eased the boredom. Plus the hope that I would be discharged later that day.
I suspect that is what the doctors intended because I was the only patient in the ward not to receive an evening meal.
Mind you, that changed big-time when the nurses got word of the poor starving waif in bed C-21.
They hunted around and unwittingly brought me a magnificent fully-flavoured meal that had clearly been intended for a non-coronary patient. Salt of the earth, those nurses.

For the next five days, home was a comfortable, modern en suite room of my own. And for me, Torrevieja is right up there with any British private hospital – with the exception, of course, that you don’t pay five-star hotel prices.
You get a much better view, too. Tourists would pay good money for the glorious panorama from Room 114 across the salt lake. Picture postcard stuff, particularly at night when the glow of lights on the far shore flickered on the water.
And in Dr Piotr Chochowski, I had the most caring of cardiologists. I’ve lots more to say  – but the main thing is that I’m not yet ready for my date with Mike and his Bury Boys..
And since I did not have to resort to private funding for the surgery, I still have more money than stents.

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