Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hospital Visit in Turkey: From a Foreigner's Perspective

I knew I was going to have an ankle scope done but I wasn’t sure how to go about it here in Turkey. I haven’t had much experience with hospitals in the States, much less in Turkey. I got a referral from a friend to go see Dr. Yetkin, an orthopedic doctor, at Akdeniz University Hospital, which I’ve heard is a great hospital from many foreigners and Turks.

Dr. Yetkin was great, but the pre-surgery appointments with other departments in the hospital where quite time consuming and inefficient, with one hand not know what the other was doing. After a week and half, I finally got everything approved to move forward with the procedure.

The day of the procedure, we show up promptly at 7:30am. After an hour wait, an assistant comes to meet us and gives a phone number we need to call to get some kind of medicine for the surgery. We make a phone call and the guy on the phone says he will come meet us in a few minutes.

He shows up about 10 minutes later, gives us the goods and we head down to the operating rooms.
The nurse is telling me in Turkish what I need to do and where I need to change, but I don’t understand anything because he is talking so fast. So I turn to my husband and ask him what the nurse said and he says that he has no idea because he can’t understand him either. I say, “You’re Turkish! How can you not understand someone else speaking your language?!” We both laugh and do what we think I’m supposed to do, and have several reprimands from the nurse of not doing one thing or another as instructed, but I finally was ready and he wheeled me off.

Now something I thought was odd is in all of my appointments, no one ever weighed me, measured how tall I was or asked or requested my blood type. 

As they are prepping me in the operating room, the nurses started asking me these questions. “How tall are you? How much do you weigh?” And me being a westerner and still not having figured out how tall I am in meters or exactly how many kilos I weighed, just shrugged and said I don’t know. I tried to tell them in feet…then I wondered why in the world does the U.S. have to do things different from everybody else in the world…They didn’t like my answer and eventually gave up. Then they asked me my blood type, and honestly I have no idea. I’ve had an I.D. card before that has the information on it, but now I don’t. FYI - That would be a useful bit of information on driver’s licenses in the states.

They gave me an epidural so I was completely numb from the waist down. They begin the ankle scope and even let me watch on a television what they were looking at. That may not be for everyone, but I am so fascinated by the body and how it all works. I felt like I was watching something on the Discovery Channel, when it was actually my foot they were looking at.

The surgery lasted about 2 ½ hours and towards the end, the leg I wasn’t having surgery on started to wake up and I started getting a little freaked out by the whole thing because they were working on me. I started to feel the bottom of the foot they were working on tingle as it started waking up and tried to tell the nurse. But how do you tell a nurse in Turkish that your foot is tingling? I have no idea, but I tried, with hand motions too. It didn’t work out so well.

The doctors promptly finished at that point, stitched me up and had my husband rolled me back to my room.  In the hospitals here, there are nurses, but they provide basic care and usually there is one person that you bring with you that will sit in with you while you are in the hospital and make sure you have anything else you need as well as help the nurses that are taking care of you. My hubby rolled me to my room, helped clean and change my bandages, helped me get to the bathroom (which I think he was relieved I could do that on my own, otherwise making sure I could go to the bathroom would have been his responsibility too), brought me food and drink and made sure I got my pain medications when I needed them.

All in all, I had a great experience with Turkish healthcare. Some things were a little inconvenient or didn’t make since to my western mind, but everything that needed to get done was accomplished. Akdeniz University was great, the rooms were clean, the staff was friendly and helpful and now I have a brand new foot that I am looking forward to using. We’ll see how things progress over the next few weeks…

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