Things happen and fortunately we have a pretty good support system over here with our own clinic and a wide network of Tricare accepting doctors both on the German and Dutch sides of the border. Medicine IS different though and it’s good to have some idea of what you might be getting yourself into. Here are just a few questions to ask and general information based on my stay in the Heinsberg Krankenhaus (hospital).
- I assumed that the process would be long, but the time between meeting the doctor and having the surgery was 6 days. Things can happen quickly here (wish my internet was that fast).
- ASK ABOUT RECOVERY. Seriously. Sounds like a no brainer, but you don’t want to get out of the hospital and have 6 weeks of restrictions placed on you unprepared. Will you be able to drive, lift, do housework? For how long?
- Schedule a pre-op appointment at the American clinic. The doctor there will answer your questions and will give you any medications that you might need including “real” pain medication and anti-nausea meds. Get these and bring them to the hospital with you. Tell your German doctor and make sure that the nurses know that they are ok.
The Hospital Stay:
- German hospitals do not provide everything and you will not live in a hospital gown. Hospital gowns are used for surgery and you will only keep it until your bath/shower the next morning. After that, have clothes ready. If you’re having a baby, you will most likely deliver in your favorite t-shirt. Pack: clothing for the length of your stay, toiletries, your own towel(s) and wash cloths. Pack as if you were going to stay at a hotel. I recommend an extra pillow or two and may be even a small throw blanket especially in the winter. Bring a fan if you’re there when the weather is even slightly warm. There is no air conditioning.
- The rooms have a cabinet with a lock and key, so you can keep valuables safe, but in my private room, there was no problem. There is lots of space though to “unpack.”
- Ask how long you will stay in the hospital. Some doctors are flexible, but you need to be prepared. I was told 10 days, but escaped in 5. Do realize when planning your escape that you don’t have an automatic bed at home that can get into the exact perfect position and that you most likely don’t have remote-controlled light switches and nurse call buttons either.
- Heinsburg does not provide phone service for free. You must go to the front desk and purchase a phone card. Your phone will only operate with the card. You are charged for outgoing calls. Incoming calls are free.
- There is television with CNN in English and British channel.
- Tricare covers the cost of a double room. Single rooms will cost you 24Euros/night extra. (Totally worth it)
- You will see the inside of the surgery room. The pre-op nurses and staff speak some English and are very kind and helpful, but you will see more than you do in an American hospital. They do not start the anesthetic as quickly here, so you will see a lot and will most likely be awake when they strap you down.
- The nurses are kind, but not overly chatty. Do not expect them to come into the room every hour or two to check on you. They come when they have to come or when you call them. You are expected to use the call button. They will respond to that.
- Again, ASK for stuff. I went 37 hours without food because of the surgery, then nausea, then missing the dinner hour and waiting for breakfast… but I didn’t ask and didn’t send my family to the cafeteria either. Stupid me. ASK.
- Pain meds… same thing. Ask, bug them, ring that bell or you might be waiting a while.
- Thrombosis stockings are only good for 3 days. I learned that on day 4 when I read the packaging. The nurses never brought me new ones. I mentioned it to the nurse. She said I had to ask. Ok. But she didn’t bring them until I actually walked out to find her and asked. Then, quickly, new stockings.
- They don’t seem to monitor the amount of food or fluids that you take in and they don’t measure or seem to care what comes out either. They will not bring you tons of water like they do in the states. They do not have ice. You will have to ask for water or get your own.
- You’ll be able to sleep. The nurses won’t bug you in the night. My first night I have 5 hours without a nurse. After that I went 8 hours without seeing a nurse. They leave you alone.
- Suppositories and enemas are common here. They will deliver pain medicine via enema or shot. If you want a tablet, you will have to ask for it, but be prepared, when I asked for pain medicine after my surgery they brought me one 600mg tablet of Ibuprofen (Advil). Most of us take more than that for a headache. This is where that medicine you got at the American clinic comes in.
- You will get a shot most mornings in the leg for thrombosis (blood clots). It is normal to have bruising and even a lump in that area. It goes away.
- It is common to X-ray your kidneys to make sure that they are ok. You will be taken from your room to another. The X-ray takes about 2 minutes from sitting down to walking out.
- Breakfast: 1 broetchen, 1 slice of white bread, 1 slice of cheese, some butter and jam, yogurt, and tea.
- Lunch: The hot meal – soup, meat and potatoes, veggies, fruit. Sometimes tea, sometimes no beverage at all.
- Dinner: Repeat of breakfast, but with a slice of deli meat and no yogurt.
- Water: There are bottles of mineral water provided. The nurses will not replace them unless you ask. You are welcome to toddle into the hallway yourself and fetch one from the crate sitting in the hallway.
- BUT… the cafeteria is downstairs and has REAL FOOD! And it’s good!!! So you have to pay a little, but it’s totally worth it! Beautiful German cakes hand made there in the kitchen. Ice cream. Good french fries. Lots of hot food options at the lunch and dinner hours. And I saw other patients there… and I left without the nurses even noticing… so, go for it.
Post Op (Just a friendly reminder):
- If you do use local medical services, DO get copies of your records and have them translated. It is worth the hassle and it is important that you know exactly what procedures have been done. Ask questions. There are not necessarily set standards across these borders of medicine, so an American doctor might do things differently.
- Ladies, if you are having a hysterectomy of any kind, do know exactly what is being removed and the ramifications of that procedure. Kinda good to know what’s in there. ;)