Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Experience with the Zadar Hospital

We had a guest over for lunch on Saturday. In Croatia, the main meal of the deal is lunch. So anyway, we had plans to BBQ with our guest coming at 2 o'clock. At noon, he showed up. So I baked a cake with an audience. I prepared the meat and the side dishes with an audience. I set the Awww, that's ok. It didn't bother me.

We bought our sailboat from this guy. At the time, 3 years ago, he was retired from his job as a seaman - and was selling off some things that he no longer used because he was a full-time caregiver to his wife who was the last stages of cancer. Well, we came to find out, Saturday night, that despite the healthcare being ˝free˝ here, he told us that he was coerced (not by force, but by the threat of withholding standard care) into paying, roughly, 6-figures in cash-in-envelope bribes and gifts to doctors over the course of his wife's last years.

My own experience with the hospital in Zadar doesn't involve bribery, just shocking incompetence. I was in the hospital twice in 2008, both times for miscarriages. The first time, I was actively miscarrying - meaning blood was everywhere...on my clothes, in my shoes...I left a trail of blood. The doctor, who was a complete jerk, kept saying Why is she crying...Stop crying (!). The nurse who had been harassing me in the hallway just moments before was also useless. Husband was yelling at them to give me a towel or something. Nope. So, then I was admitted to the hospital but they wouldn't give me a bed until Husband walked to the admissions office and filled out the paperwork. Their solution to me - a problem - was to stick me in a changing closet - shut the door and never check on me again (maybe 20-30 minutes). Meanwhile, I am bleeding all over the place....

So they come to put me in a room and ask me, Did you bring your pajamas? Um, no. So, they rounded up a rag for me to wear. And then, I waited....and waited....and waited. Why am I waiting? Because it was visiting hours and everyone was on their break.

Two hours later, they made Husband go home and I was left to fend for myself in a foreign hospital that looked like bombed out Beirut (of course, the doctor is asking me How do you like living in Croatia? I want to punch him).

There is actually a funny part of this story. When they chased Husband away, he took my blood stained clothes home with him and brought fresh clothes for me to wear. However, being that he -himself -was rattled, he grabbed shirt top and a sweat shirt - meaning a top and a top, no bottoms. Thankfully, I had a long coat - but man, we laughed about that. A little love tap from God, we called it. It's stupid but it brought a little levity to the situation.

My second experience with the Zadar hospital came 5 days before Christmas when we lost Baby #2. This time, I was not actively miscarrying and so it was a scheduled admission to the hospital. And yes, this time I did bring my pajamas.

They put me in a room with two other women. The women immediately next to me - like me - had lost a baby, it turned out, in the same week that I had been - 9 weeks. Now, the woman on the other side of her was there for an abortion. So the two of us were crying and the third was chirping like a Robin and complaining how expensive her abortion is.

Where there no other rooms for the third wheel? Oh yes there were but that would mean that the nursing staff would have to walk 5 paces farther down the hall (!)

So, after several hours of this women yammering on, I finally got into the exam room. First question I got was, So how do you like living in Croatia? Let's see....I've lost a second baby in the space of 8 months and I haven't slept in two days. My answer was: Today I hate this place.

I shuffled back to my room. The nurse asks me if they've given me my whatever pill....I say no and she starts telling me that yes, she thinks they have. Read: it's obvious that no one is monitoring what I've been given or not been given and it occurs to me that I've never seen them write in a medical chart or anything. Then the nurse comes to me to put in the IV - no gloves - and she's having a lot of trouble - which is obviously my fault - and then begins to criticize my Croatian.

Unlike the last time, today I will be completely knocked out. But before I am, I have to strip naked and climb up on the gurney that is the height of my waist. Then they cover you with a cloth and push you down the hall...through a public waiting room with men, women, and children all around. I'm crying the whole time because it's all horrifying and I'm wondering if I'll ever wake up from the anesthesia - which draws even more attention to me and my naked body.

Two months later, I get the results which say nothing - just like last time.

And just so you don't think that my experience is an aberation...

We have a friend in Split who was forced to lay on the floor of the waiting room while she was in labor while the nursing staff organized themselves at their usual glacial pace. Another friend, this one in Zagreb, told me that she will do anything to avoid giving birth in Croatia again after being treated ˝like cattle.˝ And still, yet another friend, who said: With each and every delivery, I was completely shocked at how badly I was treated. I don't know why it has to be that way - I would think that giving birth is a good thing.

Actually, my theory is that the average maternity ward staff thinks in this way:

Women have given birth in much worse conditions through the ages.
If the baby lives. If it dies, it wasn't meant to be. Either way, there's not much that medicine can do to change the outcome.

Husband tried in earnest to reason with one doctor by saying...

In the newspaper, there was a story about birthing the spring lambs. Not much is actually required, the article said. Simply, a nice warm place and a calm environment. Now....take that idea and cross out the word sheep and replace it with woman. If you would do just THAT, we'd have a vast improvement from the current situation for the humans here.

man, what a mess...