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Hospitalized in Australia.

I was having a lovely time in South West Rocks, right up until I found myself gasping for breath. Next thing I knew I was in an ambulance, then in an ED, then on a transport to another hospital.

Maybe I should have led with this: don't worry, I'm ok! The cause was basically just a virus, plus me pushing myself too hard. But it sure was an interesting couple of days. My first overnight in a hospital since I was born, as far as I can remember, and in a country where everyone calls you "love" and "darling" and "sweetheart." So I couldn't resist scribbling down a few little snapshots:

The inclusion of morning and afternoon tea as part of the meal program.

The sweet old paramedic who kept calling me darling.

The amazingly good vegan hospital meal (no, I'm not vegan now, I think that particular nurse just didn't know what vegetarian meant -- but with falafel and veggie cous cous, I wasn't complaining!)

The four-packs of sandwich quarters, of which I could only eat one: the tomato and cheese.... So since I missed two mealtimes before getting to my eventual bed in the ICU, the ED nurses just kept generously giving me new four-packs, not minding that I wasted the others.

The weird $6-exact-change fee to watch the TV at your bed, and the sweet nurse who found an extra $2 for me when I was short.

The complete lack of internet access. It would have passed the time, obviously, especially without free TV. But more importantly, it would have allowed me to contact my insurance company, and maybe even family and friends, especially since I couldn't make international calls.

The super generous nurse who let me use her computer login to eventually find my insurance information, even though she was totally breaking the rules.

The sweet ED staff who were cheerfully willing to burn me a copy of my CT scan, but who were foiled at 91% when I had to be transported away.

The mention of my lack of medical history on file, but total disinterest in contacting Kaiser to share information.

The use of "obs" (observations) when taking my vitals.

The nurse updating her replacement on my case, and saying I was very independent. Then the discharge papers saying I was cheery. And the resident calling me young and healthy. These hospitals are weirdly good for my self esteem.

The complete bending over backwards of the staff where I was staying - one came with me to the hospital, another brought my stuff and then picked me up the next day, an hour away. I said I'd call them, but they even called me at the hospital in the meantime to check up on me. Who does that?? So so sweet.

The shockingly thoughtful call I got from a workaway host I had yet to even meet! I left her a message that I wouldn't make my train and would probably be a few days late to work with her. She somehow figured out which hospital I was in and called to see if I needed anything, and to offer to connect me with her relatives if I needed a place to stay before I was well enough to get to her house. I hadn't even met this woman in person yet!! How sweet is she!

The vendors who came around selling candy and newspapers.

The radiology tech who warned me that the dye they injected would make me feel like I was peeing my pants - but not to worry, I wouldn't really pee my pants.

The consistent overstatement of how much each needle would hurt, managing my expectations to the point that they barely hurt at all.

My super sweet 82-year-old roommate who never stopped thanking everyone who walked into our room, from the custodian to the nurses to the newspaper salespeople. When her son-in-law (about whom she raved, of course) brought her "housecoat," she was thrilled. When a nurse complimented her crocheting, she simply said "everyone has their talent."

The perplexing difficulty in getting any of my medical records afterward -- the only option appeared to be fax, but as I had no internet access and knew nobody's fax number by heart, I had to try to call home to figure that out. But after an hour or two of trying, making an international call turned out to be impossible from the hospital phones. So I'm left with a short discharge note and nothing more.

Well, that's that. I'm pretty sure a hospital stay never constitutes a good experience, but if it had to happen, it was pretty darn good in many ways. It will be even better if my insurance comes through!! Note to self: always always always buy travel insurance!


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