Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday, Nov. 30th

We sent the first Sunday of Advent attending St. Peter's Cathedral in Bremen. What a treat for me.
The church steeple bells were pealing as we arrived. We'd been told that service started at 10:30am, but it really started at 10am. Good thing we were early. We arrived and found Rolanda's family had already beaten us there. But they were sitting "under" the choir loft. I decided I wanted to see the choir, so we greeted them good morning, and we moved to the center of the sanctuary where we could see everything. As we were going up the step into the cathedral, a little German Lady told me they had a new organ! She was so delighted. I mentioned this to Alan, Rolanda's dad, and he told me that they had a new choir director, not a new organ (they already have 5!) ....ah, such the difference in the language. Anyway, the new choir director was brought in with much pomp and circumstance; he was ordained into ministry, and most of the service was liturgical singing. The programs had the music, including the kantoring, printed in the program. The pipe organ played; the choir sang, the building rocked with the deep vibrations of the pipes, and the congregation sang their hearts out. If only 'd been able to sing the words. But as I'm nowhere near fluent in German phonetics, I just "ah'd the notes", -those of which I could quite capably read. They had served communion, and the people all lined up to take of the Lord's ordinance. The choir sang in the meantime, and the organ continued to play. The service was 90 minutes long and beautiful. My heart was so full. It ended with an orgelnachspiel by JohannSebastian Bach. I thought I was being translated into heaven right then and there; I do love the "ritualistic style and formality" of the European church. As we said auf weidersehen to the vicar, he discovered were were from Alaska, and he invited us to a reception they were having afterwards. We appreciated the kindness, but couldn't imagine being conversant with these lovely folks, when we don't speak a bit of German. So we wandered back to the hotel.

A bit later, we wandered (did I mention that I walked both ways???) back to the Ratskeller for lunch. We had a variety of cheeses, grapes, and walnuts, a variety of breads, and a fruggenbacher(? - pizza). We wandered thru the Christmas Market, had some more mulled wine (it's cold here - and THAT from an Alaskan!) and thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon. We've only this minute come back. It's fully dark outside now. The weather has been a bit rainy and drizzling, but nothing a seasoned Alaskan can't handle.

Our Nikon D50 has given us a bit of trouble. It's not taking pictures reliably. I'd been using it rather exclusively up until yesterday, when it completely gave up the ghost. We've found a photo hose, to see if it needs a new battery, but it wasn't open today. We'll see about that tomorrow before we go to Oldenberg by train.

Sorrry there are no pictures today. Perhaps tomorrow.
Love you, all.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saturday, Nov. 29th

We've had a quiet day today. We had a late breakfast, and didn't see anybody we knew during it, which was a tad strange. We're missing Joyce and Jennifer. We made a couple of "attempts" at deciding what to do, but it was raining, and nothing seemed quite right. We've spent quite a bit of time in the City Center, and Roz had spent quite a bit of time "up" the night before, so there wasn't a lot of push to "get a move on!"

We started by photographing the tree the Park Hotel put up in their lobby. We'd spent quite a bit of time in the City Center recently. So a lot of shopping didn't hold much appeal. We finally decided to go the other direction. We walked the lower portion of the Burgerpark. It was a day for Valdezians, cool and rainy. We saw storks, ducks of all varieties, and a couple we couldn't identify. We crossed ornate bridges, saw several monuments, and debated on the meaning of all we encountered, but were too lazy to look up. The perpetual grooming of the park is quite evident. The paths are either rolled or brushed free of debris, and no evidence of pets other than those on their leashes and sporting their doggie coats, towing their masters at a rate intended to increase their circulation.

Roz was interested in the children's playgrounds strewn about the park. There was a large wooden train at this one, along with a child's version of a road roller. The sign for playground is a yellow safety rectangle with a red silhouette of lady with a small child in tow. At first we were stumped, but then it became quite evident. We stopped for a cup of coffee at the coffeehouse in the park. It's a quite nice restaurant, but we only stopped for coffee. Appropriately warmed and caffeinated, we continued our walk through the rain. Arriving back at the hotel, we watched "Popeye" on the English channel and sent out John for a salad and sandwich. All in all, a nice quiet day.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday, Nov. 28th

We got up early this morning to bid "auf weidersehen" to my hospital roommate, Jennifer, and her mom, Joyce. Our "cohort" was operated on Nov. 14th. I use the word "cohort" not because Stenum does, but rather because we come and go by weeks. Not all of us leave at the same time, however. Loghan left Monday; Charlie's wife, Diane, left on Wednesday; Jennifer left on Friday, and I believe that Rolanda will leave next week, when we do. We're sporadically meeting the next English-speaking cohort to arrive during breakfast. This morning, we met a man who fishes Alaska in the summer, who lives in Florida, and had his L4-5 disc replaced. (Note how we always know the disc replaced? Funny, huh?) The hotel houses us all in the same wing, which is convenient for all of us, and we're free to explore Bremen, exercise in the spa, walk the grounds, contact the hospital (if need dictates), and sightsee or shop whenever we want. Once you're "released" from staying at Stenum, you're pretty much in charge of your own recuperation. You do whatever you can do. Yesterday, for the most part, I slept.

Today, John and I went to see the Christmas Market in full bloom. It's truly phenomenal. We stopped at noon for mulled wine, and the church bells, followed by the city hall bells chimed and chimed. It sounded rich, commanding and ancient. It reminded me of the church bells that used to ring on Sunday afternoons in Deddington, England. The "concert" only lasted 5 minutes. But there was no doubt about WAS noon.We got a couple of shopping requests located this morning.

And then we walked down to the train station to see if we could locate the schedule for Oldenburg. We got it. That's a treat I think we'll do on Monday of next week. Ater a couple hours of walking downtown on cobblestone, I was ready to return back to the hotel and blog a bit. I've been watching the tv accounts of the English-speaking hostages in Mumbai hotels, and privately thanking God that I didn't go to India for this operation, because Stenum has an "extension" there. One can get rather tunnel-visioned in one's own small world. Traveling over here makes me want to learn another language.

When we arrived back at the hotel, it felt as if we hadn't left the Christmas Market. The lobby has a large chocolate display, featuring a chocolate Santa in the middle of all sorts of delicacies. We watched two days ago as they set up a 20 foot tree in their tearoom. It took 4 people about 5 hours to get it set up and decorated. Around the hotel, small, but effective changes in decoration, are occurring. A huge bouquet of poppies in the tearoom has been replaced with a large centerpiece comprised of Christmas balls and driftwood...(or are those reindeer antlers?) And the normally lime green candles have changed color to red. It's all very festive.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving, All!

I have so much to be thankful for today; it's just amazing. God has been merciful, generous, and awesome in his blessing of this trip. Last night was one of "those" nights where overdoing was demanding payment. I think I've pushed myself beyond the limits, and while I've normally either been in a position to just keep pushing on, or throw a tantrum, today, my body just "quit." I've not been sleeping well. I think the drug induced sleep hasn't been restful. We met Joyce and Jennifer in the dining room and right off the bat, they commented on how peculiar it was to celebrate a Thanksgiving without all the preparation. We did, however, join hands and said "thanks to God" for all we'd shared here in Bremen, the healings, the health, and the experiences we've had here. We discussed our plans for the day, and agreed to meet once again later tonight to discuss dinner arrangements.

John and I thought we'd hop down to the Schnoor one more time...there's so much to see. But John took bathroombreak and found me back on the bed, with my coat, hat and purse all ready, but me down for the count. We laughed, and decided that perhaps my Thanksgiving would better spent in a less active fashion. He took off for Schnoor, I left the room to be cleaned, and sat in the lounge knitting a bit. I returned to the room, laid down, and slept until John returned.
I must have needed it, for all I remember is him bringing me a Geman sweet roll, which I was awake enough to consume, and the next thing I remember was the phone call from Joyce setting a time for dinner, for which we're just about to leave. I doubt I'll find the turkey, or the stuffing, or the pumpkin pie. But I know I'll be with people who are equally grateful as I am that the back pain is lessening, that the sleep is increasing, and that the operation is over and now on the healing side. God is good. Happy thanksgiving, all. We love you. Hey, HHES...who won the game???

The last meal in Bremen for Joyce and Jennifer was shared with John and Roz at the Hofbrauhaus Bremen. A great evening of German sausages, beer and weinerschnitzel.

There was live music and live Germans.

The highlight was the dancing, in assorted forms, and the introduction to a couple celebrating their 51st anniversary. All in all, an unforgetable Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wednesday, Nov. 27th:

Today was a day of "culture." John and I went to the Bremen Art Museum, locally know as The "Kunsthalle" at Ostertor. We took a taxi to just beyond the Schnoor, drove along the Am Wall and went see to see the various exhibitions of artists of Bremen and works of art from the 15th century to present day. The Kunsthalle has one of the most comprehensive collections of copper-plate engravings in Europe. We saw works by Talousse-Latrec, Van Goph, Broegle, Manet, Van Dyke, Monet, Munich, and Picasso. There were some phenomenal pieces of work in there which I had not seen ( or even seen in books previously) , and plenty of padded viewing seats, which I appreciated and needed.

This fellow captured our imagination. At first he looks like a bunch of pick up or sparkler sticks gone awry, but after closer inspection, you see that the artist has composed a human figure by proper placement of the metal sticks.

I've not had the energy today, that I've had for the past couple of days. Of course, I'm trying to wean myself off the morphine, sleeping pills and codeine tablets, too. I'm on Tylenol now, most of the time. We spent about 3 hours and covered 5 floors of viewing incredible art work. Then we paddled on down the Am Wall which is a street built on the old city wall. The existing roads were formerly gates of the old walled city, where the Schnoor and City Center currently exist.

We did a bit more's really hard not to! And watched as City Center has now transformed itself into Christmas City. Every available space is held by a gypsy cart with crafts in abundance. It is, indeed, magical. We came back to the hotel for a bit of a rest, and Jennifer and Joyce then dropped by. Talk about turbo-shopping. These girls know how to do it right! "Retail Therapy" is their middle name. But they certainly have found the bargains. (Take it easy, Tommy! They're only getting things on sale and they're using the VAT!)

We joined together again and went back to city center and John led us to a place called the Gewerbehaus (Trade building) ...also known as the Alte Guilde (the Old Guilde), a traditional German Restaurant which had great food and plenty of ambiance. Of course, this quartet has had fun at EVERY place we've eaten, including Stenum Hospital, where the food was a bit less exotic. But even then, we've had fun! After a very filling dinner, we all hopped into a taxi, who we were very surprised to find ( I was probably THE most grateful!) located directly in the city center.

This taxi evidently works for another company, mid city center, while the others work the outskirts. News to us. It didn't stop us from using him to get us quickly back to the hotel. Both Jennifer and I are realizing that all the walking is taking its toll; but both of us are doing well, considering it's been 12 days since our surgeries. We both celebrated not having to take heparin injections tonight. Yay! Those babies sting. We'll have to take them once again for the plane trip home, but for now, we relax in the interim. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and we feel funny not being "home" for the day. I've only seen mention of it in Stenum, actually, at the Breckenholder Restaurant, and I was surprised to see it even then. Their dinner option was for it's American patrons, I think. But not here; the Park Hotel is in full swing Christmas. They put up their tree this morning, and have a chocolate Santa in the lobby that's huge. Christmas in Bremen is unbelievable....just like every little kid imagines!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

November 25th

We started the day with an early breakfast at 9:30am. Hah! Logan and Barbara had already left for the airport. God bless them. They were a great help and encouraging couple. Then Joyce, Jennifer, John and I were met by Silke, our cab driver, and we were taken to Stenum for our final check-up. It was like old-home week. As we turned the corner from Ganderkesee into Stenum, we all cheered and said how pretty everything was covered in snow. Silke dropped us off at the hospital, and we promised to meet her for dinner next Friday night. She's going to take us into Delmenhorst and we're going to visit a Greek restaurant owned by a friend of hers. In the meantime, Ilke and Malte came out to the taxi to greet us. Although it's only been a week, the nurses were all coming out and giving us hugs, as were the folks who'd just had their disc replaced. There's a comfortable comradere among those who are coming and going. Those of us who've returned give hope to those who have just been "done" and are waiting to feel better. Ilke had me take another x-ray, did some blood work, and I met with Dr. Boch and Dr. Zechler again. Dr. Zechler asked me how I was, and I said "dandy." I asked him if he wanted to see his work. He said, no, he'd already seen it. I said, "It's impressive. The incision is BIG!" His reply was "the bigger the doctor, the bigger the incision." So I guess I'm pretty proud!!!! He showed me the x rays, and everything looks to be in order. I wore my 3 inch heels to dinner last night. Joyce, who's a nurse, had forbidden Jennifer from wearing heels. So I got permission from the doctor, but Joyce had hit up the nurses previously to Jennifer's check up. We had fun with stuff like this throughout the stay at Stenum and Bremen. Jennifer, my younger roommate, and I have had a good-natured competition going on throughout our ordeal. Who was the first to get up? Who was the first to stay up? Who had grown the most? (We both grew about a cm, but then again, neither of us could remember if we'd measured with or without our shoes initially!!) Who'd shopped the most?, yada, yada, yada. But all information was generously shared on both sides, and we really made the most of our trip to Bremen. After we returned to the hotel, with Rolanda and her family, we decided to tour the Schnoor one more time. There's so much there, and we had only scratched the surface.

I discovered another church that fascinated me. Evidently, it's the oldest one in Bremen, going back 800 years.

Tonight, along with Diane, we made our way to the Ratskeller. Sounds pretty much like Rat Celler, doesn't it? But no, it's a pub at the bottom of Town Hall. It's a great place, with great food, and we had a great time.

Monday, November 24, 2008

November 24th:
(Happy Birthday, Davie)
I woke up this morning and knew today was the day "to do" Bremen. Perhaps it was the pictures John brought back; but no. My back only vaguely protested; my incision was humming but not yodeling, and my thighs and legs didn't hurt. To me that was the "green light" to go. This is one weird recuperation. I'm either "all go," or completely "down for the count." Peculiar.

Today the sun was shining as we took a taxi to Schnoor. Schnoor is the oldest part of Bremen,the part that didn't get bombed during WWII. That's why Bremen isn't considered one of the "older" cities in Germany. What's here really isn't that old compared to other parts, for more than 3/4 of it has been rebuilt since the last war. The Germans are very polite and discreet in how they refer to it when speaking with us.

This morning, the cabbie wanted to know if we wanted to go shopping, or go sight-seeing. We said sight see-ing, and he said, "Oh, you want Schnoor. It has pretty litle cobblestone streets, and tiny, picturesque houses that are very old. Very nice. You like Schnoor!" Well, we'd heard that Schnoor was the place to shop! Both were right. I don't think we've hit all of Schnoor, but what we did see was indeed just what one would imagine old "tourist" Germany to look like. We found yarn shops...but no local yarn. Noro, Italia, Guatamalan, and English yarns...but no German yarn. I opted for a Peruvian Scarf and a couple of Grandma Books and a baby t-shirt on the Musicians of Bremen.

Then we made our way to St. Peters Cathedral. Now, THAT's where my heart lies. I love old Cathedrals. I love the architecture; I love the reverence one finds there; I love the history; I love the smell of the stone; I love the cloisters. I love the graveyards, too. But I didn't find one in Town Square. BUT, I did find a glorious Cathedral. We entered the cathedral, and took a few minutes to examine all monuments in the front, and we wound our way around to the back of the cathedral.

We sat down to get oriented, take a few moments to express to God our profound appreciation for all He's done, and Lo! Behold! The organist of the Lord played upon us!!! I kid you not. He played one, and only one, song. But it was for me; I just knew it. So I sat there and blubbered for a few moments at the glory of it all. Then we moved on. We wandered the Town Center, which is now looking like a circus of gypsie wagons and boughs of evergreens.

They're getting ready for the Christmasfest, and evidently, it's quite the show. We will be here fo the beginning of it, and if the signs of what we see are any indication, it's going to be grand!

Hans with the Golden Hands is coming to my hotel room tonight. What a blessing He has been. He's so jovial, so skilled, and very informative, as well. Tomorrow Stenum is sending a taxi so I can go back for a check up. What a place to "recover." It's really very wise.

One gets so caught up in the sight-seeing, or the fancy hotel, that you are distracted from the aches, pains, and other issues of recovery. John has been doing his best to deplete Brenum of its Jevers stock. Hans said it was even better than Becks. I don't know. But I can attest to their High Tea.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday began with a bit of a downer. Roz had felt better at the end of the day, enough to give John a tour of the sauna and exercise area at the hotel. The Germans have a different view of modesty than Americans do, and wandering to the sauna in a bathrobe probably isn't going to entice John. They do have a heated pool that he might just take a dip in before he leaves though! This morning Roz was trying to get John's malaise. She didn't go to breakfast, though he did bring back a large cup of coffee. She was in a good enough humor that he knew he had better do something outside of the room. There was a huge wedding that had run until 4:00 AM. The Strang's delightful room normally is quiet but the large celebration, which filled the ballroom with formal wear, was loud enough to make them both a little groggy today. John took off to explore the park on which the Park Hotel sits. He walked the perimeter of the entire park, including several diversions on side trails. Yes, he wandered aimlessly, not lost, but not necessarily knowing which trail to take. He found a coffeehouse overlooking the lake we could both see from the hotel. It's way cooler close up. The trail followed a canal that went around the park.

It had houses along it that were accessed by small bridges across the canal. There were also small piers that were available for boats to use, probably in warmer months.

The canal was crossed by many different bridges, this one dated to 1905. John walked for 2-3 hours, and found several interesting sites along the way. The southern end of the park is a large exercise park. There are measured running trails, gymnastic stops, and many Germans stretching and doing things athletic.

John had enough problems walking without stumbling, and was glad to get back into the more sedate portion. There were still many walkers, bikers, and joggers. John was impressed by the trails, especially the bowers formed by hedges to shade benches along the canal. John eventually was able to work his way back to the hotel to find Roz in a much better state. She took a spin around the cement pond and despite the 30 degree weather was in a good humor. The Strang clan in Germany ended their day with "Men in Black" on the English language channel and Roz, Skyping her dad. All in all, a pretty good day. Tomorrow we are finding the wool shops she tells me.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

This morning looked way too much like Valdez. We had about four inches of fresh snow down, and from the feel of the air temp, some of it will be here tomorrow. It makes the walking outdoors for Roz too risky, so she hasn't ventured out much today. She also is suffering a little from perhaps too much yesterday, trying to stay out and away from her husband.

John feels pretty good today, so he went out for a walk, first around the cement pond where the neighborhood children came to use the gentle hills for sledding, then around the middlstat (middle of town, town center) to take photos for Roz. Although compared to Valdez, there wasn't snow to speak of, it was slippery enough Roz wasn't invited to come along.

John went to the train station where he picked up a city map (he had left the one Hans had marked in the room), then across to an apotheke, pharmacy, foe some hydrocortizone cream to help Roz's reaction to the bandage adhesive. It seemed to work.
Then it was on to the city center. Waiting at a light, something the Germans do most patiently, he heard "John!". It was the American cohort, Joyce, Jennifer and Diane who had joined together for some retail therapy. It must have worked, they were there for several hours. John stopped to photograph some bronze statues and they were gone into the small shops that surrounded them. He has that effect on women.

John ventured forth, bravely, with no desire to ask anyone for directions, into the maelstrom of Bremen. He began taking photos randomly as is his nature, when he realized he was where he wanted to be. What a surprise, dumb luck had once again prevailed to show him the way. He was at the old city hall, a beautiful building that is not only covered with gargoyles and statuary, but houses Ratskellers, a fine restaurant according to Good hands Hans.

He got a photo showing the entrance to the downstairs restaurant. This entire area was surrounded with beautiful architecture.

In every direction there were more beautiful things to photo. Thank goodness he had the camera Ian and Erin bequeathed Roz earlier. Big lenses make better photos and lots of photos allow dumb luck to rise to the surface. Electrons are free, so he took mucho photos all around the square, which isn't square at all.

John was looking for one particular statue, the original "Musicians of Bremen". It's not too old, but one that Roz wanted to see. He wandered, which is his fashion, until he decided to check his map. Then he wandered some more. Every direction had more way cool stuff. He bought small items to bring home. He found wasabi crackers that Roz loves. He wandered some more.

Then, there it was! About 50 feet from where he started looking, 45 minutes prior. John has an incredible locating ability. The statue really isn't that big, maybe 10 ft tall on top of a 4 ft base, he had to have passed it 5 times in his wandering and looked right past it.

John spent another hour looking for stuff around the market and generally trying to need help finding his way home. He was able to get back the old fashioned way, walk a loooong way and say you're just getting exercise.

He even found this windmill twice. He knows it really is wind powered, he watched it long enough to watch it stop and start back up. Doesn't he have anything better to do?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday, Nov. 21th

Today has been a quiet day. Perhaps that's because it started rather late in the morning for us, as John had been up all night "worshipping the porcelain goddess." He thinks it was something he ate. He narrowed it to the meat from the sandwich he had, because that's the only thing different he had than me for dinner. I'm praying that it WAS food poisoning and not flu, because I'm not sure I could perform the aerobatics he did, leaping from bed in a single bound. It now takes me several rolls and attempts before my feet hit the floor, and then a good deal of grunting and puffing. John didn't leave the room all day, nor eat anything, although he tells me he's better. I went to breakfast alone around 10am, and met Barbara and Logan, another couple from Stenum. They joined me for breakfast, and invited me to tea in the lounge later in the afternoon. Jennifer and I walked the grounds earlier in the afternoon, after failing to make the treadmills in the "wellness room" run properly. The trainer was the masseure and wasn't available to help us. We couldn't figure it out. So we optd to take our walk outside. The weather changes more quickly here than anywhere I've been. When I awoke, it was snowing. By breakfast, it was raining. By afternoon, when Jennifer and I began our walk, it was sunny, but by the time we got back to the hotel, it had rained and hailed! Good thing I brought the umbrella. Now, if only I'd remember to take it along with me. Little good it does in the suitcase! Hans brought me some sleeping pills from Stenum. I'm wondering if I'll even need them tonight. Got good news that Rolanda, the little gal with scoliosis who'd stayed back in Stenum after fusion of 7 discs, was up and walking around today. I had a very nice "high cream tea" in the hotel rotunda tonight with Barbara and Logan. Cucumber, chicken, salmon and bacon sandwiches, scones, cakes, pastries, tea and clotted cream. There were more fancy utensils than I have ever seen. Their menu had tea leaf samples built into wooden boxes for perusal. I was in pig heaven. Unfortuantely, John was only up to working on gingerale when I left, but didn't seem particularly interested in anything more. I motioned to the hotel service maid that our room did not need attention, as my husband had been sick. She indicated she understood, and came back 5 minutes later , surprising me with a plastic rubber bucket. I laughed; so did she, but I took it nonetheless!! John said, "Too late now!!" But, who knows; maybe I'll be needing it next, but I pray not!! Better safe than sorry! He does seem to be on the mend. Right now, he's got Tom Clancy in the hotel room, and they seem to be getting along.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I've been asked to be a bit more specific about what they do to replace a disc at Stenum. So, I'm giving this in Roz's layman's terms: after an initial sedative, they give you a spinal epidural to numb the lower extremities. If you've any blood loss, they put it through a cell saver device, which actually cleans your own blood, and then they transfuse it right back into you. Then, they put head sets on you, and roll you into a state-of-the-art surgery theatre, along with several other patients. A team of doctors work on you, each performing their own specialty. Stenum hospital avoids general anesthesia if at all possible. They utilize the spinal epidural and some "twilight drugs." It's as good as being out, but if they need to speak with you, they can bring you "to" and you can respond immediately. Once you're in the theatre, they make an incision just to the left of your naval, and move the bowels, veins, etc. over left to the right to reveal the spinal cord. The anterior approach is less risky to the spinal cord than a posterior approach. Then they scrap the existing disc out (if there's anything left), open the two vertebrae further to insert a lower Maverick, and then do the same to the upper disc. The Maverick is a two piece device, lined with titanium. Bone will eventually grow to the titanium. One side of the Maverick rotates on the other, giving movement equal in distance as a regular spinal disc. It was told to me that they hammer the disc into place with a 4 pound hammer. During the operation, I remember hearing two distinct poundings (but didn't feel a thing), and I asked "Is that me?."
I don't remember anything after that, except hearing Vivaldi on the headset as I was being rolled into the ICU. My roommate, Jennifer, remembers hearing Michael Jackson, and ONLY that. They sized us up for more than just the Mavericks, obviously. The clock showed my operation had lasted approximately 2 hours. They had an IV of my own blood (surprisingly orange!) being pumped right back into my wrist. John was allowed in immediately after I'd been rolled from the surgery theatre, and he stayed until they decided it was time to put us all asleep for the night. We were moved into our rooms for breakfast the next morning. I spent 4 days in the hospital.Whenever we felt like leaving, we could walk outside or go sit in the woods, providing we told them where we were headed. (I even went over to the hotel to get...well, yes,... some more make-up... One can't be frightening the newcomers, can one? ) Stenum takes 5 to 6 English speaking patients per week in their Ward 1. I was so blessed that the one position became vacant when it did. Now, it's a matter time for physical therapy and bone growth to seat the implants.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thursday, November 20th.

My dear friend Sheri has noted that if that this blog is all there is to the story, "we'd all sign up for back surgery and a trip to Germany." She asked about the "tough stuff" that I haven't mentioned. Ah, Sheri, there's truth in what you are saying. A bit of the tough stuff: It is nearly 2am, I can't sleep because I can't find a comfortable position, the oral medication doesn't truly "kill" the pain, and I am weak beyond measure. I fight this, hoping that with activity things will get better - and they do, but not to an acceptable degree yet. I cannot yet walk the halls of this hotel (let alone tour the nearby streets) without assistance. I can go down stairs, but not up. Riding in a taxi hurts. Heck, everything hurts. So I'm up, and then I am down. Then I am up and then I am back down again. True, the process is not as easy as it appears from the blog. John's seen a tad of Germany. I have seen much less. However, I do see this whole trip as a blessing, and I do see wonders from my hotel room, and the recuperation is going well...I think. You should see my scar. But THAT will not be on the blog unless I figure out how to do some "tasteful cropping!" So, yes, please do keep praying. But I am "coming along." And I'm glad I made this trip...although, right at this moment, I'd prefer being back in the hospital bed with Rolf and a needle, than on this flat bed with no morphine. Heh!! But tomorrow, that may change!!

This morning we woke up after a rough night, John went to get coffee for the grumpy princess about 7:30. John came back with a thermos cup of high octane coffee and a promise, "If you come down for breakfast, you will be happy.". She was, the buffet was served in the most glorious room. All sorts of goodies, and the setting was wonderful. This is also where we found our California roomie Jennifer and mom Joyce when we came back from our walk, hence their photo in the shot of the dining room.

Having been rejuvinated by coffee and marmalade, we began a walk towards the train station and supermarkets. (after a call to the clinic for a sleeping pill for tonight) We were very careful on our walk. Roz had to supervise photos, then commandeer the camera since John has no artistic abilities. We rounded the lake and all its statuary, crossed the street, then went to the train station.
We saw all the bikes of commuters in front, and all the bustle of commuters inside. John showed Roz where he got the gyros type sandwich she had for dinner last night, she showed him how to use the German public toilets (WC). Don't get caught without your .50 euro coin!

The intrepid pair continued back to the hotel, with more statues, ducks, and cormorants on the cement pond.
Inside the hotel Roz took many photos of the accommodations. We ran into Jennifer and discussed exercises, sleeping pills, and how to get comfortable in a down comforter.
Wednesday, Nov. 19
My goodness! Today epitomizes what all the Stenum Staff loves. Today we packed up, took “goodbye pictures” and said goodbye to Jennifer, my roommate who also had disc surgery, and her mother, Joyce. These gals were from California.

Pictured here is Malte Petersen, International Director of Stenum, and Dr. Georg Zechel, Head of Surgery at Stenum, and the doctor who was one of 4 who worked on me. I was given a doggie bag of drugs that would be unheard of in the US, hugged the doctors, nurses and physical therapists goodbye, and set out for the big world of Bremen.

Silke, my favorite taxi driver, greeted us at the door and gave us the scenic route. Of course, every time we’d see something more exciting we’d start getting excited and laugh, and then we’d hug our sides so the stitches wouldn’t burst. It’s been a very exciting day. A very European day! A very blessed day!! We drove thru Bremen, and over the Weser (sounds like Visa) River, and into the “posh” part of Bremen which sounds like Schnorr. I’ve no idea whether I’m close to spelling it correctly, but it’s a gorgeous part of town.

We were escorted into an immense hotel, with grounds that made the White House look small by comparison.

We were escorted to our rooms, which were lavishly appointed. There was a large kingsized bed, a sitting area, a bathroom with a separate shower and soaking tub. And a large closet, wardrobe area with fullength mirrors and woodwork in mahogany. Very pretty.

The American “wing” has us close to our roommates, so that’s nice. John unpacked while I explored the expanse of the bed for a few minutes….or maybe I should say hours.

The hotel is beyond description. Yes, Duane, comparable to our London Royal Horseguards in lavishness, only ten times bigger. Hans visited my hotel room at 4:30pm, and gave John a map to some of the local places to see. We are given a taxi voucher each day, good for one trip to and
from anywhere we want to go. We haven’t used it yet. Perhaps for dinner tonight. We’ve been told the breakfasts here are extraordinary. (They were in Stenum, too!) But to avoid the $$ of lunches and dinners. While I examined the effectiveness of Tylenol with codeine, John made a quick jaunt through the 100 acres of park that surround the hotel and took a few pictures. I believe that tomorrow we’re going to see about taking the train to Oldenberg. Hans says it’s much more
manageable than Hamburg (a couple thousand people versus 2 million) . He said, “You’d get out at the train station at Hamburg and go, “where on earth do we go or start?” He said in Oldenberg, you say “Stattmitten?” (City Center?) people point, smile, and you spend the day taking pictures of old Germany, get back on the train at 5pm and go back to the hotel. Sounds doable to me. Now whether or not we do it tomorrow may be another matter. I understand that Bremen has a museum of art of the old masters that I’d like to see, as well. We’ll see. I’m just allowing myself some time to heal. Having that extra week here makes tourism less demanding, fortunately.

I just gave myself my first solo heparin injection. It wasn’t nearly the worst (or best) shot I’ve ever had. So I’m not afraid to do it again, tomorrow. John just went down for a couple of sandwiches from a Greek kiosk down by the train station. He was asked whether or not he wanted chicken or beef; John replied, "one of each," and the fellow gave him 2 beef. So much for nuances of communication. Right now, I’m back on a very nice comfy soft bed, tummy full, muscles relaxed, and on a few more pain killers. We took a brief jaunt around the hotel, but that was “it” for me. So I’ve returned to see how long it takes me to hook up to the internet here, upload the blog and a few more pics to Flickr.