Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Visit To The Emergency Room In Spain.....

This Is For Our Blog Followers Who DO NOT Follow Us On Other Social Networking Sites

It was a Thursday morning like many others. Clyde was sitting in front of his laptop at the dining room table of our current house sit near Elche and Alicante, Spain. I was in the bedroom doing something when I heard him groan loudly. "What's wrong," I asked? "Uh I'm feeling dizzy and sick to my stomach," he answered. Quickly I went into the dining room to find him slumped over sideways in the chair nearly on the floor. He looked out of it, almost incoherent but said he was ok.  He sat up still looking a bit strange but within minutes he was back to normal.

This all began back in February or March while we were house sitting in Wales. One day we were out exploring castles and other tourist sites as usual. As Clyde climbed back into the drivers seat of the car he said, "oh I'm going to be sick," pausing for a minute and then he was fine. Since that was the first time any such thing happened we were concerned but thought it was just one of those things.
That same day he had another three or four similar episodes where he felt like he was going to pass out, a bit dizzy or vomit.

I became very concerned especially since HE was doing all the driving, on the LEFT side of the road in a car with a standard transmission. There would have been NO way that I could have transported him to a hospital in the event of an emergency which was rather scary!

So I suggested to him that we find a doctor to see as soon as possible. Since we were in between house sits we were staying at a small B&B in St. Fagans, a town close to the larger city of Cardiff. We asked the woman that owned the place what she suggested we do, or if she knew a doctor who could see him. Immediately she picked up the phone and called her doctor's office who agreed to see him the next morning.

The next day we met with a general practitioner who looked him over, checked his vital signs and saw nothing out of the ordinary. He went onto explain that "near fainting" could be caused by many things such as dehydration, low iron etc....but did not think it was cardiac in nature. Basically he dismissed Clyde by saying, "you are fine....for now."

For the past ten years since Clyde lost 100 pounds with weight loss surgery, the lap band in particular, he has had a low pulse rate. Through the years he mentioned it to doctors and even had a full cardiac workup with a cardiologist back in Texas. Even then the specialist said something like, "you're fit, active and have no symptoms so a low pulse is not as issue."

But since that day of near fainting episodes in Wales Clyde has been perfectly fine, until last week. After the first episode I insisted that WE WERE going to walk into a hospital here in Spain and ask to be seen. Since the large city of Alicante was less than an hour away I figured we'd have to head there. But instead I found a private hospital in the smaller city of Elche, that was about thirty minutes from where we were staying for our house sit.

About 45-minutes after the first episode in the dining room Clyde had another one and this time made it to the living room couch. Again he appeared to be not all there, incoherent again and I was scared. I grabbed my purse since I would be driving along with my contact lens solution, JUST IN CASE HE WAS ADMITTED AND I SPENT THE NIGHT WITH HIM and off we went. Since we were responsible for three dogs and one cat we filled up some large bowls with food for the dogs that stayed outside and put the cats food bowl outside too. All animals had adequate supplies of water also again, just in case we didn't get back that night.

Now throughout our worldwide travels we have been renting cars and Clyde has been doing ALL the driving. The reason for this is that typically rental companies charge more money to add a second driver. So to keep cost down he is ok being the only driver. The second reason is that I have NOT driven a standard in twenty years and most ALL cars outside of the US are standard. Another way to keep cost down on rental cars is to allow our credit card to cover some of the insurance. But in order to do this the rental period must not exceed 30 days, so we swap out cars every 30 days.

So last week we went to Alicante Airport to change out cars. The clerk explained that the car we were getting was brand spanking new, always a nice feature of rental cars. Off we went to find our car in the parking lot. When Clyde clicked the key fob to open the door nothing happened. He checked that he had the right car, the license plate but still....nothing. He went back to the office to tell them and the clerk said that the battery must be dead in the key fob so they would have to switch out cars. Well turns out that without even asking the second car that they gave us was an AUTOMATIC. So when he had his fainting episode it made it SO much easier for me to drive him to the hospital.

We made our way to the Emergency Room of IMED Hospital Elche and approached the front desk. Clyde walked in looking fine, alert and explained his problem to the desk clerk who spoke English. Within minutes we were taken into a room to see a female doctor. While the doctor did speak some English she had the desk clerk come in to standby just in case a translator was needed. Of course they did not know that we speak some Spanish and could have filled in the blanks if necessary but a translator was also helpful.

After checking him out and asking a bunch of questions the doctor had him put into a bed in ER and suggested that he spend the night. She explained that this way he could be monitored in the event that he had another episode to find out what was going on. I asked IF I could stay with him and she said, "sure."

A while later he had another episode before he was hooked up to a heart monitor. The nurse came in, lowered the head of the bed, they did another EKG and hooked him up to a heart monitor. The next time an episode occurred they were able to see that his heart dropped to a scary 15 BEATS PER MINUTE. A normal heart beats 60-100 beats per minute and when it drops below 60 it's called, "bradycardia."

Immediately another female doctor came to talk with us suggesting that he be moved into Intensive Care for the night. There he could be closely monitored and IF his heart dropped lower they would be right there to help. Of course with him going into ICU I could NOT stay with him overnight. Since the house we were at was a good 30 minute drive and I was not willing to be that far away from him we asked for other options. Was there a hotel nearby? Could I sleep in the lobby? Finally the original doctor we saw approached me and said, "I have a room for you and handed me a small piece of paper with the number 2201 written on it." I thanked her profusely nearly giving her a hug, so relieved that I would now have a place to stay nearby.

The hours for ICU were limited to a few hours two times per day. Since we ran out of the house quickly we forgot to take our phone chargers and when the batteries ran out we had no communication with each other. When I did get to visit him he had already been told by a doctor that he would be needing a pacemaker (marcapasos in Spanish). We were both scared at the thought of this. Would he be able to live a normal, healthy life? Could we continue to travel? Would we have to cancel our next house sit or all of them? What, how, when.......

There was just ONE nurse named Rosa in the ICU that spoke fluent English. She was so helpful in answering our questions and concerns about everything. She explained the procedure, what his recovery would be like and calmed some of our fears.

Thankfully we do have worldwide health insurance and by the next day they approved the surgery. We had to pay our deductible of $3200 and the rest was covered, at least so far. The hospital had to find the specialist in Alicante that performed this surgery. Although a cardiologist specializes in treating diseases of the heart, it's a cardiologist electrophysiologist that implants pacemakers. Even more specialized that a regular cardiologist this type of doctor specializes in abnormal heart rhythms.

So Clyde went into the hospital on a Thursday, the pacemaker was implanted on Saturday and he was released on the following Tuesday. The care that he received in ICU was wonderful with plenty of nurses nearby monitoring his heart and taking care of his every need. Spain has some of the worlds best healthcare and top notch doctors so we knew he was in good hands. Overall he spent FOUR nights in ICU and TWO in a regular room with me.

The only problem I saw was that he liked having sponge baths by not one but TWO nurses while in ICU and thought that trend would be performed by nurse Terry also. While he is recovering he is NOT allowed to lift his LEFT arm overhead. The pacemaker was put on his left side and needs time to allow the leads to attach themselves to the heart ventricles. Moving that arm too much could cause the leads to move and further surgery would be needed. But the way I see it he has one good arm with one attached hand that is perfectly capable of washing himself. Perhaps nurse Terry can hand him the soap and shampoo?

During the hospital stay we kept in touch with the homeowners of the sit we were currently doing to let them know our situation. They had introduced us to their good friends who were able to go over and feed the animals in our absence. And one of their friends even came to get me at the hospital to take me back to the house for some clothes. It was nice to have someone to talk to and get away from the hospital for a few hours.

Because we did have to cancel one of our house sits while he was hospitalized we are currently free for a few weeks. When our last sit ended the homeowners were sweet enough to offer us a place to stay nearby, in a small house they have in a village. While the place is charming it does lack internet and tv and after a few days we were missing our online world.

So Clyde found us an apartment in a luxury resort at a reasonable price. Here we can relax on holiday for a few weeks with no responsibilities of house and pet sitting. And perhaps with so much free time I might even give the old boy a scrub down?

Condado Alhama Resort, Murcia, Spain

ONE Of TWENTY Pools Here

So when we leave Spain in August Clyde takes with him a permanent souvenir, a scar on his chest of his perils here. I thought it might look prettier concealed with a decorative refrigerator magnet, since after all he DOES have a piece of metal inside. But then there IS that one little problem that magnets disrupt the function of pacemakers and cause them to malfunction. Probably not a good idea eh? Of course I'm joking about the magnet so instead we'll just return to our travels to give you all something to enjoy.....along the gringo trail.


  1. Glad to hear Clyde is recovering well from his recent stint in the hospital. I've been following your blog for years, but don't comment very often. Y'all take it easy.

  2. Hi Troy, Thanks for the note. Yes, I am doing great. As long as I am with Terry, it is ALL good!


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