Monday, November 10th
We arrived in Bremen, Germany after a long trip from Alaska. However, first class Alaska Airlines and Business Class on KLM made the travel very endurable. We were spoiled with reclining seats, fabulous food, and KLM lounges. They all made the trip go quickly and smoothly.
We were met at the airport by an English-speaking cab driver who identified us and quickly took us on a 20 minute journey to Stenum and our home for the next week or so.
We toured the small town briefly, went into the hospital and identified ourselves, and then headed back to the hotel.
Instead of dinner, we just opted to upload some pictures to our Flickr page, and then sleep overtook us around 6:30pm. We were up for about an hour or so at 9:30pm, but slept through until 5:30am Tuesday morning. If you'd like to see more pictures of Germany and our trip,
go to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/strang
Tuesday, November 11th
We had breakfast in the little restaurant across the street from us. Stenum is so quiet. There were lots of cars all over, but nobody in sight, and no cars on the street at 7am. We made our way into the gorgeous restaurant, and was met by one fantastic layout for breakfast: shrimp, lox, assorted breakfast meats, cheeses of every variety; nuts, breads, eggs in all shapes and sizes, fruit galore, and it was all laid out in an artistic manner with a huge candelabra in the middle. Quite lavish and we had it all to ourselves for about 10 minutes. We're finding that Stenum does not rise early.
We discovered an important thing today: We had come into this beautiful dining room, selected a table, left our coats, went to fill our plates, and when we returned, we found that someone had laid a newspaper at our table. We were the only people in the restaurant. We figured it was the waitress because she had just brought a much coveted carafe of coffee. We mused that that was nice, but we couldn't read it! Then about 5 minutes later a gentleman arrived and said something to me quickly in German. I indicated that I didn't understand him, and he sort of giggled and left, but returned quickly. I offered the newspaper, and he took it. Then he said, "kay, kay." I wasn't sure if it was "okay" or not, but John said perhaps he was looking for a key. John had taken the one on the table, thinking it was his own and put it in his own pocket. He produced it, and the gentleman took the newspaper and the key, smiling, and went to another table. Oh, the cultural differences. When you want to identify your table, you leave your room key at your place setting. It helps the waitresses know where to bill. After a bit, we were joined by more people in the dining room. Again, it was so quiet. People hardly spoke; but we didn't hear any of them use English.
We took the short walk from the restaurant over to the hospital. We met a very pleasant young woman named Ilke. She spoke immaculate English, and she questioned me intensively. She took the payment and locked it up in a safe, and then said, "This morning will be spent doing medical tests to determine your eligibility for disc replacement." I was escorted to the heart room, where they did an ECG. Karen, who said she didn't speak English, did very well in letting me know that my heart was good, steady and strong. Karen escorted me to the X-ray lab where they took all sorts of films. And finally I met Sue, who took blood with only "one take." Ilke and I collected the x-rays and went to meet Malte Petersen, the International Director of Stenum Hospital.
Malte said that out of 3-4000 disc surgeries Stenum does per year, less than 5 are scheduled like mine was - he was referring to the speed of less than 2 weeks. He said they usually spend at least a month or so developing a relationship with their foreign patients because of the hurdles. He wanted to get a feel for us, whether or not we'd researched the facility, and whether or not we knew much about disc replacement. He gave us a tour of the hospital, introduced us to some other folks from Michigan, and showed us the Maverick disc. He introduced me to Rolf, the head nurse, who spoke good English and appeared very friendly. Then Malte took us back to his office. He said from the looks of the x-rays, I was more than likely going to be a candidate. But I needed a recent MRI to completely determine. So we were put in a taxi and sent 20 kilometers away to Brenem Red Cross Hospital. The language barrier was far more apparent here. We had to figure out height and weight in meters and kgms. (Aargh...JOHN!!!) John did a few calculations, and we were sent to the waiting room. I later discovered my Blackberry has the conversion capability. So I checked John's figures. He was bang on!
We waited for approximately 90 minutes. John read a Clive Cussler book. I perused my German phrase book, looking for the words which could ask the question: "Underwear on or off?" and "I need to take the film with me." I managed pretty well. Of course, this is due to their expertise; not my own acumen.
We returned to the hospital about 2pm, took a walk through the woods. It's so tranquil and quiet. We are now home for the rest of the day. John's zonked out on the bed. Guess my snoring kept him awake. I'd been told by Stenum Hospital that I could come on my own, but I'm so glad that he's here with me. He's so easy going and funny. Folks just love him. I'd always suspected that my husband was "international" in his appeal.
This day has done much to calm my fears. I spoke with three people today who are leaving tomorrow for their "second week" in the big city. They are finishing their first week and are ready to leave the hospital, walking gingerly, but without back pain. One lady I spoke with said that the residual pain is akin to a pulled muscle which is healing. She said she'd gained an inch in height, as well. The staff is perfectly capable of communicating with me, and they're all very caring and accommodating. I understand why they usually take time to build relationships with their patients. It almost has a "family feel" to it. Ward 1 is the English-speaking wing. The anesthesiologist discussed things with me, as well. I've a cold which has bloomed in the past couple of days. Sometimes they'll delay a surgery because of a cold. He said, so far, I was ok.
Keep your prayers going in that direction, please.