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Home! Relieved and somewhat rested now.

Last week was a long one – actually, it has been two long weeks because, Madam Misadventure was really on our case.

My last post ended with Jan on the bathroom floor; very dizzy, nauseated, pain in his head, sweating and with a very feeble pulse and cold, clammy skin. I asked him some questions and he took too long to answer so I dialled 911.

“What is your emergency?’ asked the calm voice on the other end. ‘Medical; I need an ambulance’. The operator asked the usual questions and stayed on the line. She said the paramedics would be with us in ten minutes.

Jan was moaning and groaning on the floor and the operator said it was OK to stay with him but do not hang up the phone.

I checked he was ok and then started to get dressed and gather some things –  passport, medical insurance papers, wallet, credit cards etc.

Not knowing how the system works in the USA, I wasn’t sure if I would need to pay hundreds of dollars up-front. I asked Jan for his credit card PIN in case I needed more money than I had. Eventually, he gave me two numbers.

No siren but I did see the flashing light through the open door. Two paras came into the room and began checking on Jan. They couldn’t get a body temperature. By now, he was actively vomiting. The medics decided to take him to Emergency and proceeded to bring in a trolley, or ‘gurney’ they called it – in my nursing days, a gurney came from the mortuary; he was reluctant to move but, eventually, he was on the gurney and wheeled out to the ambulance. The female para said I could sit in the front and go with them to the hospital so I locked up and got into the front passenger seat. The male paramedic stayed in the back with Jan.

Fortunately, it was only about three miles to the hospital. Jan was wheeled into a cubicle in the emergency room and I stayed at the reception desk to give details and show our insurance documents.

By the time that was done, Jan was set up with IV fluids, oxygen and ECG (in the USA, EKG) leads to monitor his heart. The nurse said his body temperature was extremely low – only 34 deg C (normal body temp is 36.6 – 37 deg). They piled lots extra of blankets on him.

He was moaning and moaning with pain – from the back of skull, over his right ear and down his face. He wasn’t answering the questions the doctor asked so I filled in. All Jan would say was, ‘Please, stop the pain’. The doctor said he would give him some pain relief and the nurse went to get that and then add it to the IV infusion saying, this will act very quickly. Ten minutes passed and the analgaesia had no effect at all, which surprised the nurse. She went to speak to the doctor again and returned with a dose of morphine – and added that to the IV asking, can you feel this going in? Jan didn’t answer but, again another ten minutes passed and he still groaned in pain. The nurse brought the doctor back in who prescribed even more morphine. One of my thoughts was meningitis and I think the doctor was thinking similar as he began to move Jan’s head around to check if there was stiffness and increased pain but, other than the pain Jan described, it wasn’t made worse by raising his head; good sign. Still, the doctor ordered a CAT scan.

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I took this chance to ask the nurse if it was OK for me to return to the motel to clean up the room and have a shower and get some clean clothes – I felt rank; it was 9am by now. The receptionist gave me a taxi number and said they charge only $6 for anywhere in town. I also phoned my daughter, Caroline, back in the UK to ask her to please contact the insurance company to ask for their advice on how to proceed.

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A young taxi driver arrived and I gave him the address. He was very sympathetic and gave me a card for any further rides I might need. It turned out, Vince, as he was called, would be needed a good few times over the coming week.

I cleaned the bathroom then had a shower; I went through all our pockets and wallets to gather all the cash I could find – around $70.  I received a phone call from our insurance (thank you, Caroline) to ascertain what I had to do and what paperwork they needed. Finally, I rang for the taxi to take me back to the hospital. By now, Jan had had the CAT scan and a series of blood tests. The second dose of morphine had a helped a little but not stopped the pain entirely.

At around 11am, a doctor returned and said the good news was Jan’s ‘melon’ was ok but he had a very severe case of labyrinthitis (infection of the middle ear – which controls balance) and sinusitis; not serious but extremely painful and the cause of the severe vertigo, nausea and pain . He said Jan could go ‘home’ but needed to rest for at least a week and to return immediately if his condition worsened.

It took a while to get him even to sit up but the nurse and I did then she left me to dress him.

He needed a wheelchair to leave the hospital and, like our hospitals, a member of staff must wheel the patient to the vehicle so our very kind nurse came with us. I had been given a blue binder with all the notes and test results in and four prescriptions for medications; antibiotics, antiemetics (nausea) painkillers and a sedative.

The taxi office had said the cab would be with us in 5-10 minutes. Twenty minutes passed and I felt bad for the busy nurse. I also asked where the nearest pharmacy was and she pointed to a low building in the medical centre grounds. She suggested I go over and sort out the meds, she would put Jan into the cab and instruct the driver to pick me up from the pharmacy.

I had handed the prescriptions over and stood waiting impatiently; the nurse had said it was also a ‘drive-through pharmacy’ so that seemed to imply a quickish service. Outside, I saw the taxi pull up; they were there about 5 minutes when Vince got out and peered in the window. I caught the lady in the pharmacy’s attention and told her I had a cab waiting. ‘Oh, you may as well take a seat; it will be quite while yet’. I told her, I have a taxi outside and not a lot of cash. I decided to pay for the meds and then return later. The cost – $59. Oops; after the two earlier taxis, that left me with $2 and I knew there was no bank in walking distance from that bloody motel.  I ran out and said to Vince, ‘please, just take us back to the motel’;  Jan was still groaning and hanging onto the ‘sick bag’ he had been given. I decided that getting Jan back was more important for the moment and I would either walk back into town or hitchike , first to a bank for some cash and then to the pharmacy.

Vince said, ‘ No way, ma’am; he needs those meds, we will wait’ I explained I only had $2 left. ‘Don’t you worry about that, we can sort that out later’ said Vince. In the event, I waited about another 20 minutes before jumping into the back of the cab with Jan – thankfully, he hadn’t chucked up in the cab!

Vince drove carefully as every bump or curve made Jan groan. At the motel, he helped me get Jan into the room – well as far as the nearest of the two beds where he slumped onto the corner of the bed, face-down and said,’ leave me here’. I offered Vince our card details to pay for the cab – he said, ‘Ma’am, it is only $6; don’t worry about it’. And, how are you going to get to a bank? Can I take you to one now or once you are sorted out?’. What a hero. I said I would be fine and thanked him for his wonderful kindness.

Once Jan was safely ON the bed instead of hanging off it, I went online and discovered there was a community bus that passed close to the motel every 90 minutes and the cost for any ride was only $1.50; I had £2 left.

I put some bottles of water by the bed for Jan – the doctor said he had to drink 16fl oz EVERY hour for the next three days – I left the waste bin in case he felt sick, tissues and the room phone right next to him. I told Mr Creepy (the motel manager) that Jan was ill and, if he rang the office, to please ring me on the mobile (not that I could do much in a hurry, but i wanted someone to be aware). He just stared at me through those two pairs of coke-bottle glasses; not the most reassuring character.

Then I walked to the bus stop in this isolated and rather neglected area.

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It was scorching hot at the stop but, the bus did come and off we went into town. It was a long ride because the bus served lots of housing estates – I think it took about 45 minutes to arrive downtown. But that bus – and the lady driver was to be a great find.

Once in town, I found the ATM at the Zion National Bank. I tried the card. Wrong PIN. I tried again. Wrong PIN. I knew I would only have one more try and didn’t dare use it. Nothing for it but to wait the 90 minutes for the return bus and check the number with Jan – he could well have been confused. I  didn’t have spare funds in my own bank account so no point even trying that other than to take out $20 for bus fares. I also went to buy some electrolyte drinks and 100% coconut water for Jan and a loaf of cheap bread and a pack of plastic cheese slices for something to eat for me, using my bank card at the grocery store.

It was gone 6pm when I got back. Jan still didn’t really make much sense when asked him his PIN number again. It was too late to go back anyhow, as the buses finished at 6pm, so, nothing for it but to wait until morning.

Come morning – and after another sleepless night, I asked Jan the number of his card again. He told me the same number. OK, I’ll try a different ATm. I sorted him out again and went to the lonely bus stop to wait for the bus.

This time, I tried the Farmer’s Union bank. Card in, enter PIN. Nada. Message now was ‘Please contact your bank’. Blast it.

Back at the motel, Jan was a little more lucid and told me he had given me one digit wrong on his PIN. Damn.

Long-short; I tried numerous other times with the correct number – no-go. Nothing for it but for Jan to phone his bank in Denmark – I can’t speak Danish so only he could do that. Uh-oh; they had cancelled the card altogether on the third attempt with in incorrect PIN. No way to re-instate the card either. A new card had been issued and posted to his address in Denmark!

Yikes…… and this wasn’t the end of the frustrations and things that went wrong; but, I am worn out in the telling of the tale, so more later on.

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