Try saying that five times fast. Okay friends, this is going to be a somewhat serious post, so buckle up.
That I know of, I’ve never had any sort of medical experience outside of the U.S. Not even when I lived in England for a year with my parents, or in Spain for almost two years studying abroad / slacking off. So, you can imagine my state of nerves when it comes to seeking medical care in Spain.
When we first arrived more than 18 months ago, hubbie signed me and our little girl up for private, paid insurance. We had to do this in order to secure residency for me. That way, it’s easier to process the paperwork (otherwise they don’t accept you, if you’re not an EU citizen.) You see, they don’t want you mooching off the EU social security system and they want to ensure you’re covered. It’s silly though, because as soon as I got my residency ID, I immediately became eligible to go onto hubbie’s social security. So they only saved themselves from my mooching for 18 months. Don’t worry, nothing will happen, or so I thought.
Anyhoo, I was happily covered by private insurance and went to the private hospital to see my lady doctor and to take our little one for her regular pediatric visits. And I have to say my fears had already begun to be calmed by the fabulous doctors and excellent care, not to mention still much lower costs than in the ridiculous states of America. So when I became pregnant again, I had no concerns. I knew I was in good hands. Until one day, suddenly I was never more scared than I have ever been in my entire life.
During a regular lady doctor visit, my doc. noticed something irregular on the ultrasound. Liquid around the baby’s intestines, which is apparently not a good thing. This was on Monday, Oct. 8. She ordered an urgent eco with a fetal eco specialist for the very next day. Her fears were confirmed, so she and the specialist ordered an MRI for the next day. On Thursday, the results came back. The baby had a tumor growing out of her coccyx, which was causing compression of various organs and the liquid build-up. Sacrococcygeal teratoma is what she had and surgical intervention is the only fix.
At this point, the medical team had been assembled and had had a few days to consider discuss and plan. On Friday morning, they decided to deliver the baby via c-section. She was at 35 weeks gestation and they considered the risks of leaving her inside higher than bringing her out. So in I went that Friday morning for a FREAKING OPERATION IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY!! Not only that, but you’re awake during a c-section with an epidural, so you don’t feel anything. But you still FEEL something. It’s a weird kind of pressure while they’re rooting around in your belly to get the baby. ACK. I was terrified for me and my little baby girl.
Once the surgery was complete – I have to hand it to the docs, they were fast – it was time for me and Leah to recuperate. Me from the surgery and baby Leah from the early delivery. Also, she had to stabilize and acclimate to the compression of the tumor, which was making her heart and lungs work a bit harder than they should. Once she was well and strong again, about 12 days later, they took her up for surgery to remove the tumor. Luckily, despite the projected challenges of the surgery and everything, the operation was a success and now Leah is back in the NICU recovering and building up her strength again. We hope to take her home in a few weeks.
You know when you’re in the middle of something traumatic or shocking, how your mind tries to protect you by telling you this isn’t really happening, that you’re just dreaming it? This is the state I’ve been in for the past two weeks. I’ve been taking things one day at a time – sometimes a few hours at a time, and clinging to any semblance of a routine so that my life doesn’t seem to be completely spinning out of control. Especially since all of the drama was beginning to affect our little two-year old, Fiona.
Well, now Leah is on her way to recovery and we have a routine going again. We get up and take Fiona to morning daycare, hubbie drops me at the hospital where I juggle working online and visiting Leah. Then I go home around 1:30 p.m. to be with Fiona and lunch and nap time. Then hubbie comes home and I work a bit more. Then we have dinner and family time. Then hubbie goes to the hospital for a bit to visit Leah. It may seem trivial, but a routine really helps one deal with things and my type-A personality and crumbling mental state were screaming for it.
My point is, I have never had better medical care than I’ve had so far here in Mallorca, Spain. I praise whatever reigning deity exists for the doctors, surgeons, nurses, orderlies, etc. at Palma Planas and Son Espases hospitals. They’ve been amazing and practically dote on little Leah. My fear of foreign hospitals, at least as far as Spain is concerned, is completely squashed. If I had one critique (okay, maybe two), it would be that they’re a little stingy on the meds where adults are concerned. I was definitely missing the usually prescribed vicodin or percocet one typically gets post surgery in the U.S. 😦 And where was the morphine! Hmmm. Is this why hubbie calls me a drug addict? Also, some of the nurses, again where adult care is concerned, can be pretty freaking hard core. I fainted four times in the space of two days (another new experience for me) while they tried to force me out of bed to walk and heal. HARD CORE, people. Hard core.
We have a bit of a road to recovery ahead, but we’re feeling positive. Thanks to our friends and family for all of their continued support and for the good people at Son Espases Hospital Universitari for taking care of me and Leah.