Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ankara Ataturk Hospital

Just like the previous posting regarding when I got traveler's diarrhea, I would like to preface this post with the warning that it is graphic in nature. The sole reason of the in depth description is that it will hopefully aid others on foreign travel in the same situation. I hope that it will be of some comfort to another NSF IREE student who unfortunately ends up in this situation.

I know I haven't posted in a while. I meant to on Thursday night, but I'll explain why that didn't happen. Thursday afternoon, my intestines started to get uneasy. I don't know if any of you know what I'm talking about, but you can tell you about to have an onset of diarrhea. Unfortunately, this is beginning to become a somewhat unpleasantly familiar feeling. Anywho, I went to dinner with this feeling, but then came back to my room. Well over the next few hours, I couldn't retain fluids or food. It all ran right through me. When it started, I started to drink lots of water and took some Imodium. I would like to mention at this point, that other than the diarrhea, I felt completely fine. After a while of not being able to retain water due to diarrhea, I called the UC Davis medical center via Skype. The advice nurse asked me a bunch of questions, then I realized that she was using a computer to determine what I had. She finally arrived at Cholera. She said that I should go to an emergency room soon, because she said that I would start vomiting and my legs would cramp up. Now, I don't know about you, but I started to freak out a little. She told me she hoped I would feel better, and I got off the phone with her.

Now, I was freaking out a little, but I knew that my physical condition was alright at the moment, but with it being 11pm, I didn't really want to wait to get checked out. I was afraid of it being 3am with my condition worsening and no one to get a hold of. Thankfully, Damla was online. I imed her and told her about what was going on. She called the METU health center, and they told her to bring me in. She came and picked me up, and we headed to the health center. When we got there, they were in the middle of a more serious situation. A guy who was apparently allergic to bee stings had in fact been stung, and he was having a reaction. Thankfully for him, his reaction wasn't too serious and they were ready to take him to the hospital. The medic said since I didn't have a fever and wasn't vomiting, there was little he could do for me but offered to allow us to go to the hospital with him. Afraid that it might cost a lot of money but knowing that I would probably be better off going, we hoped in the ambulance.

When we arrived, I was a little taken a back by the scene. Having never been to an ER before, it looked somewhat like a medical center in a war or disaster zone. People were standing around crying, with blank looks on their faces, looking confused, bloody, and/or tired. We approached the front desk, and Damla explained my situation to the head doctor. We filled out a few forms, and were shown inside. While they were looking for bed to put me in, I asked about the location of a bathroom. They pointed the way, but when I got their, it was one of those floor toilets and it was filthy. Knowing full well that there was no way I could use that in my state without getting covered... (I think I'll leave out the rest of that sentence.) I went back, and Damla asked if there was another bathroom with a pedestal toilet. The steward shook his head no and tried to convince me that going that way was better for me anyways. (Now I have read this is true, but that's only if you are perfectly fine...) I think he saw the scared look on my face, and he took me upstairs to the in-patient ward, and found me a toilet. I was so grateful. Coming back the ER, they found me a bed next to another woman who seemed to be in the same predicament as me. At American hospitals, everything is close to spotless. This hospital was a little too dirty for my taste, but I wasn't really in a position to be picky. There was blood on the floor, but I saw a man going around and cleaning the bed surfaces, so I'm not worried about infections. I laid down, and a nurse came by to hook me up to an IV of saline and sugar and take a blood sample. Considering my statement about the cleanliness, all of the syringes and what not came out of sterile packaging, and she made sure that my arm was clean before injecting me. I laid there for about two hours while the IV rehydrated my body.

By this time, Emre, Damla's boyfriend, arrived at the hospital. Because I could only have one person with me, he patiently waited in the car. Damla was kind enough to wait with me in the ER room even though she hates hospitals. I know it's the Turkish way to be hospitable, but I think that's going above and beyond the call of duty. She translated everything the doctor's said. The doctor was very kind, and I was proud of myself that I could answer him when he asked how I was doing. He prescribed two medications for me which I needed to get filled the next morning. They don't have pharmacies at hospitals, because they are so prevalent and cheaper elsewhere. I found out through reading up the medications that he prescribed a medication for diarrhea (obviously), and one for intestinal parasites, mainly Gardia. As soon as I read that, I realized that I had drank water out of a pitcher at lunch. Thinking that is was bottled water, I hadn't really thought much about it. Well it wasn't. In fact, Ankara just switched to using a different river as its water source that was more polluted than the last. Apparently the river has high levels of sulphates in addition to not being filtered for viruses and the like. (This information courtesy of Mert) The medications actually make me feel more sick than the actual original symptoms. I am trying to eat light/bland foods but these aren't as effective at shielding me against the side effects of the medications.

I got back to my dorm room at about 2:30am, and I called my mom to tell her what happened and to let her know I was alright. I ended up sleeping until around 7, at which point I stayed in bed until around 9. I went to the pharmacy to get the prescriptions. Not only did the pharmacist speak English, but the prescriptions cost a total of 10YTL. I really couldn't believe it. I am hoping that the medications takes care of whatever I have. Being under the weather away from home really sucks. It really makes you yearn for home.

Now, I didn't mention anything about paying. Well that's because I have to return in 10 days to find out what I owe. It looks like I might be able to get a transfer from the METU health center and get a significant discount. If not, I have travel health insurance from the University of California. If anyone else from any UC campus is reading this, if you are on university travel you just have to fill out a short online form and can print out an insurance card which covers up to $100,000. This isn't a whole lot when you consider the price of a significant surgery, but most people should be expatriated back to the US if this happens. And the insurance covers that. So, we'll see how payment works out! I'll keep you posted...

1 comment:

Canan Gücüyener said...

I didn't know what happened until I have heard from Damla and Mert. Sorry for being such disinterested; but blame is on my advisor! :P I hope that you are feeling better. I feel like we didn't inform you enough for the usage of water, and I hope such a terrible thing will never ever happen again. If you again feel yourself that bad, also make sure that -whatever the time is- you can call me. Get well soon.