Hospital 2.0

Ok so see these pics. I looked quite chirpy right?

About an hour after they were taken I was vomiting. Violently. It pretty much continued for the next five hours until I was hospitalised.

Let me tell you a bit about my day:

2.30am – Left the bar after my leaving drinks feeling completely fine

2.35am – Suddenly felt ill and vomited on the sidewalk.

2.35-4.30am – Vomited on and off as Sam held my hair back (thanks Sam!)

4.30am – Sam helped me downstairs to meet Sabri who was driving me to a bus stop to catch a shuttle to Belgrade, Serbia.

4.35am – I yelled at Sabri to pull the car over – vomit.

4.40am – Vomit again

4.45am – Get inside the shuttle and wonder how I could be so unlucky to be sitting next to a woman drenched in Chanel. (Under normal circumstances someone drenched in Chanel is clearly a wonderful thing when compared to someone with body odour but when you are sick, not the best thing. Why is it that the sense of smell is heightened when you are sick?)

5am-6am – Got the driver to pull over four times so I could be sick.

6am – Arrived at the Kosovo-Serbia border. Hung out the car door trying to discretely be sick. Fellow passenger: “You can’t be sick here. They will quarantine you.” Um, I don’t know if you have vomited lately but not something one has much control over buddy. I was past the point of caring and threw my passport at him as I leapt from the van and vomited on the road.

6.05am – A guard came to the car. Fellow passenger to me: “There’s a problem. You need to go back.” “Why?” I asked. “I have a Serbian stamp.” “But you also have a stamp entering Kosovo from Macedonia.”  Because Serbia doesn’t recognise Kosovo as an independent state they deemed me coming back into Kosovo from Macedonia at Easter as entering Serbia illegally so they were denying me entry. Happens all the time apparently. I knew I couldn’t enter Serbia from that border unless I had a Serbian stamp but since I did I thought it would trump everything else. I was wrong.

Between vomits, I asked my fellow passenger what I should do. He and the guard discussed it and I was escorted to a bus going back to Pristina.

6.15am – 7am – I vomited on the bus the entire way back. Every time I took a sip of water it would come back up again to the point where I was then vomiting blood. That can’t be good.  The only place I could find some relief is lying horizontal in the aisle of the bus. The mass of men on the bus – all chain smoking – looked at me puzzled. Some tried to offer assistance but I pushed them away until the plastic bag the passenger in the other shuttle had given me was full and I found myself desperately grappling for something else to hurl into.

The bus then stopped for a pit stop and I flung my bag of vomit into one guy’s hand who raced it off the bus and poured it out on the road. I ran around like a chicken with its head cut off looking for the toilet. I just made it. When I came out the man was there waiting asking me to come inside for coffee. I looked in the direction of the cafe and decide the cigarette smoke inside was too much for me to bear and retreated back to the floor of the bus where the vomiting continued.

Things went further south when I become incontinent. How could this possibly be happening???!! I had flashbacks to Israel and my hospitalisation there. I’ve gone 30 years without ever crapping my dacks (besides as a newborn) and now I do it twice in 12 months. What are the chances?!!!

I crawled back into my seat and tried to put the one ply of tissue I had on me down my pants. It didn’t help. My vomit count was well into double figures and every time something came out of my stomach, it came out of my backside too. Eeeewwww!! Soooo not cool.

7am – The bus arrived back in Pristina. I had been told that I needed to get to Skopje in Macedonia (another 2 1/2 hours in the wrong direction) in order to get a bus back to Serbia through a different border crossing. The bus dropped us on the highway outside the bus terminal gates. I ran off the bus to, you guessed it, vomit. I looked over at the terminal which was only about 200m away and tried to psych myself up for the walk. I needed to get to Macedonia to get that bus because if I missed my flight out of Serbia, I was not getting home.

The walk was beyond me. I collapsed on the side of the road, rolling around in pain. My fellow passengers had since dispersed and it was two random men who approached to ask if I needed help. They only spoke Albanian. I greeted them with a river of stomach bile and shit. Classy. I was getting desperate.

The men waved down a passing police car who got out and started asking me all manner of questions – What’s your name? What are you doing here? Do you work here? Who are you staying with? What do they do? I answered their questions until they pulled out the latter. I exploded. “What kind of bullshit question is that? Who cares what David and Sam do for a living in Kosovo, I’m kind of in trouble here.” I got my phone out and asked them to call Sabri. My phone didn’t really ever work in Kosovo so I was pleased when the officer recognised Sabri’s name and punched in his number. No answer. So they called an ambulance. Now we’re talking.

The two paramedics didn’t really speak english but took one look at me and put their gloves on. The policeman tried his best to translate but eventually they asked me to get into the back of the ambulance myself because neither seemed particularly interested in carrying me. I was still shitting my pants when I got in and had this awkward moment of not quite knowing how to lay down without spilling anything onto the bed. The best I could come up with was to lay on my stomach with my butt raised in the air.

Anyone who has driven in the back of an ambulance (It was my first time) will know it can be a little disorientating. They seemed to be taking me to a part of Pristina I had never been before. They also seems to have little regard for my comfort. Because of their unwillingness to get close to me (I think it was the stench!) they hadn’t put the guard rail up to hold me in so it was like being on a carnival ride as we weaved through the streets. Pot holes and speed bumps seemed to be their speciality. I remember wondering how they treat someone with a spinal injury.

Pulling me out the back of the van was just as uncomfortable and I was white knuckled as we turned corners. The white turned to red when we entered the door of the building though as my hands were scrapped along the edge of the door. Owwww! I guess it took my mind off vomiting for a second.

They had taken me to a building which didn’t appear to be a hospital but rather the ambulance service headquarters. I don’t know what they were thinking by taking me there but when I vomited over the side of the bed and all over the floor (I had yelled ‘help, help’ in the hope someone would bring a bedpan but no one answered me from further down the hallway when I was left unattended.) they were quick to whisk me back into the ambulance.

This time the destination was the emergency room but I use the term loosely. In fact now that I think about it, I find it strange that the facilities are so primitive given the amount of western influence in Kosovo.

Anyhow, what ensued over the next hour can only be deemed a nightmare in my mind, but comedy gold in anyone elses.

As I was wheeled into the examination room there were about 20 police officers waiting for me. What on earth? Apparently they worry if a westerner gets injured in these parts. An English-speaking policewoman (I think she was from Eulex) pounced on me asking the same 20 questions as the cop back on the highway.  I was delirious by this stage and could barely talk. She asked for my passport. I just pointed to my handbag.

She took it out and went away while the nurses made hand gestures for me to get off the stretcher and onto the other bed. As I did a flood of shit and god knows what came gushing down my leg and onto the floor. I didn’t realise until that point how much my jeans (a 5 Euro Kosovo special!) had been holding everything in. Things were really bad back there!!! Simultaneously the two nurses and a young girl on a drip in the next bed let out a grown. The stench must have been unimaginable because I swear one of the doctors came in and his eyes began to water. If I hadn’t have been so sick I would have been in stitches laughing.

As each doctor came in and caught a whiff they turned on their heels quicker than a political turncoat. It almost became a dance move they were leaving so quickly. They ended up having to give the young girl and her mother a mask! How freaking embarrassing!

After a lot of talking about me and no talking to me, it was decided that I must be stripped of my shitty jeans. Hallelujah!  “Should I take a shower?” I asked the english-speaking police officer. The message came back that there were now showers. An emergency room without a shower?  Huh?

It didn’t matter because I was about to be sick again. “Where do you want me to vomit?” I asked searching for a bedpan. “They don’t have any buckets. Just vomit on the floor.” Please God, get me out of this place. As I came back up from the side of the bed I caught the eye of the other patient. If looks could kill I would have been fatally shot then and there. Utter distain, I’m telling you.

The de-robing was as undignified as it could possibly get. A female nurse yanked at my jean legs as I slipped and squelched along the vinyl-covered bed. Then two über handsome male nurses (in masks) were called in to help clean me up. Instead of using a wet cloth they used giant wads of cotton wool which really didn’t do anything. So they spent about 10 minutes scrubbing me up and down my legs, back, front. It was hideously embarrassing and made worse by the fact that after about three minutes of conversation in Albanian between each other – clearly about the state of me – they got a case of the giggle and proceeded to laugh in my face for the next seven minutes. So not cool but I could hardly blame them. I was a sight that’s for sure.

After the drip went in, the next hurdle was taking blood. It seemed to take the female nurse about 20 minutes of prodding my hand with a needle before getting any form a flow. I felt that sick I didn’t even care.

At the same time the police officer is making calls on my behalf. She had tried Sabri and Tess, both of whom had their phones off, and was nows trying to reach the Australian embassy. “What is the embassy going to be able to do?” I asked. “They might be able to assist you in some way,” she replied. “Besides, it’s protocol. They need to be notified.” Australia doesn’t have an embassy in Kosovo so all consular work is done out of Austria. So the Kosovar embassy in Austria was contacted, who then had to contact their Aussie contemporaries. It was a Saturday though, so they were having trouble reaching anyone. “Bewdy,” I thought. The last thing I wanted them to do was call my parents in Australia and freak them out unnecessarily.

With two drips having already been pumped into me all I wanted was a blanket (none of those in emergency either!) because I was shivering like crazy, and a glass of water. For whatever reason they had refused to give me one once the drip was in and the best I could get out of them was a syringe worth of water which they squirted into my mouth.

Each time a new doctor came in (there was about 10 of them) I made the policewoman ask them for water. She told me each time “I’ve already asked…” to which I said “Ask again. Ice cubes, anything, please?” Eventually I found one male nurse who would sneak me a syringe-full when I requested it. 🙂

Then it happened. I needed to go to the toilet. Up until this point I’d been lying bare-bummed on the bed with just a thin hospital gown over my lower half. “Um, um, what do I do? What do I do?” I yelled. The quick moving female nurse  whipped out an adult nappy and put it on me like a child. My dignity level was at an all time low. I shit my pants for the umpteenth time.

After drip number four and a bit of a nap (thankfully the vomiting had stopped) talk turned to me being admitted into a ward for people with infections. ‘Like hell I’m going in there,’ I thought to myself. I might not come out alive.

Thankfully they had managed to get a hold of Sabri who came straight to my aid. There was no way I was leaving where I was until I had been given a diagnosis. At one point on of the doctors who spoke english asked whether I had been tested for diabetes. “No” I replied. “Why not?” he asked me somewhat alarmed. “Um, because generally I’m fit and healthy…” I said. Suddenly I was worried it was something more than food poisoning.

With Sabri there I was able to discuss my options. Besides the obvious that I was incredibly sick, I still needed to get to Belgrade. If I missed that flight to London I was in trouble as far as getting home goes. We rang Tess to look up some flights direct from Pristina to London the following day. In my state, I couldn’t travel anymore today. Even tomorrow was looking a stretch.

After a few minutes, the hospital staff started demanding that I move into the ward. I told Sabri I wanted the test results first but he was told that I would be given the results once I was in the ward. In the meantime, Tess had text back and said there were no flights out of Pristina to London the next day and that the best she could find was 130 Euros from Montenegro but even that was still a six hour bus ride. Well at least that was one option.  I had asked Sabri if he would drive me to Belgrade if I paid him and things got really tight time wise but he said it wouldn’t be safe to do so with Kosovar number plates.

So that was it. Illness or no illness I had to get a bus to Belgrade, today. I sat up to go to the ward. Sabri tied my shoelaces and carried my bags while I got off the bed. I stood there for a few seconds and then realised I couldn’t take a step. Perhaps I wasn’t going to Belgrade after all. I laid back down. “Have they got a wheelchair?” I asked Sabri. No wheelchairs. I told you I used the term emergency department loosely. I’m going to have to do a fundraiser for them one day to get them some basic supplies.

Without a wheelchair, they had to bring me another stretcher and once again I was thrust into the back of an ambulance to travel the 50m to the ward. Luckily Sabri had fixed it so I paid Kosovar rates for both the ambulance transportation and my hospital visit so it cost me just 20 Euros instead of some ungodly figure.

The ward didn’t have any ramps to enter on a stretcher so I was once again embarrassed when four men, including Sabri had to carry me up the front steps. “Tell them I’m sorry for being so heavily,” I whispered to Sabri. He complied. The men smiled.

Inside the building I was placed in a holding bay of sorts. The security guard sitting outside the door was puffing away on a cigarette and when I got whiff of the smoke I glared at Sabri once more and said “make it stop”. Poor Sabri. Talk about my guardian angel. He went above and beyond, running off to fill my prescriptions etc.

When the doctor finally came I’d made the decision that I had to leave. The doctor (and Sabri) basically said “you’re nuts, you need to stay in hospital on a drip” but my mind was made up. Sabri helped me discharge myself and soon we were back at the bus station. “Are you sure you don’t want to go to Tessa’s, take a shower, rest a while and then leave?” “No, because then I might not be able to leave. The quicker I get to Belgrade the better.”

I stayed in the car while he ran off to check the bus times to Skopje and he then practically carried me onto the bus after buying my ticket and a couple of bananas for the road. God bless that man, seriously. 🙂

I figured if I got any worst on the bus I would go and see Pete the owner of the Shanti Hostel where we stayed when we were in Macedonia for Easter. He was a brilliant guy with great connections and I knew he would help me with whatever I needed if I got into trouble.

Two and half hours of broken sleep later and I was in Macedonia where I had an hour to wait for my next bus. I could barely keep my eyes open and was fearful of missing my ride. I was also desperate to go to the toilet but a. couldn’t get up from my seat, and b. was too weak to carry all my things into the bathroom. I considered just leaving them but I didn’t want to go 363 days without having anything stolen only to leave them for a second and my laptop to disappear.

About 15 minutes before my bus was scheduled to depart I was awoken from my dose by a familiar sound – a voice like Kelly Osborne. It was my friend Cristina from Romania. I had no idea she was in Skopje for the day and I was ever so grateful to see her. She hadn’t been able to make it to my leaving do last night so had no idea I’d been in hospital.

Cristina agreed to watch my bags while I went off to the toilet but I was horrified when I got to the door only to find there was an admission charge of 10 denars (approx 20 cents AUD). I didn’t have any Macedonian money so walked back out glumly. Cristina just happened to be travelling with an American couple and as I was explaining the problem the boyfriend of the couple whipped out a 10 denar note. “I don’t even know your name,” I said, almost in tears, “but right now you are the most wonderful person on this earth.” He smiled and said “not at all, don’t sweat it” and I rushed off to the bathroom.

At the bus bay about to board my ride to Serbia there was a man putting luggage under the bus. I wanted to keep my bags with me but needed to put my bag of shitty clothing under the bus so I didn’t make my fellow passengers dry reach. As it was I was a little pongy with an adult nappy on!

He was speaking to me in Macedonian and I took it to mean I had to pay for the privilege but without any money I just shrugged. He seemingly let me get on without paying until he came back up to me inside the bus demanding payment. The guy sitting in front of me spoke english so through him I explained I had Euros and Serbian dinars and that if he wanted either of those I would happily hand them over but otherwise he would have to wait until we got to Serbia for me to change currency for him. The guy wanted denars though so we were at a bit of a stalemate until the guy translating said ‘don’t worry about it. I’ll pay for it,” and handed the man 30 denars (60 cents AUD). That has to be random act of kindness number 1,237,484 I reckon. God bless him too.

Seven and a half hours later  – 12 hours later than expected – I arrived in Belgrade, exhausted but alive. I am staying the night with Todd, one of the Australian consular staff in Serbia, and his family. Todd is a good friend of one of my sister’s friends.

We had a jam packed day of sightseeing planned but unfortunately my day didn’t go according to plan so I only really had 15 minutes with him and Trish before retiring to bed.

On the upside, and there is always an upside (although, all I’m really thinking about at this moment, is the downside of only three hours sleep before getting up for my flight tomorrow), I can now boast the unusual distinction of being the only person I know over the age of about three who has worn a nappy in three countries in one day! Ba hahahahaaha!! Sniff, sniff, I’m crying now. 🙁

  1. Roza says:

    ohh my god…what a story…can’t believe that its all happened to you my dear!!! 🙁 but, you are amazing and very strong person! Thanks God all those things are over and now you are at Home! Love, hugs, xxx

  2. Margie says:

    What an incredible experience of being ill away from home! Did you ever find out the cause? Yours was an amazing year. I’m so glad you can look back at it now.

    Stay well!

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