It was one hell of a week! Friday evening Angelina came home with a fever. I gave her 200 mg. of ibuprofen and sat her in front of the TV to relax. She went to bed. The next morning her fever persisted. I gave her 400 mg of ibuprofen and water. She sat in front of the TV for the entire day with me by her side trying to get her fever down. Every three hours before the medicine wore off she was already burning up and hot to the touch. She was physically uncomfortable, aches and pains all over, so finally I put her into a lukewarm tub, and slowly brought her temperature down. After the last round of meds just before bed, we had immersed her again as her fever just did not want to break. At 10:00 pm, she finally fell asleep and I felt like we had managed the bad fever from her sore throat. I made note, that it might be bacterial and not viral, and that she may need a doctor on Monday. Overall, as a mother, I felt things were going in the right direction. I went to bed at 11:00 pm and checked her again. She was hot but not extremely hot, so I went to sleep happy.
A couple hours later, early Sunday morning at 12:30 am, she woke up screaming. It was something out of a horror movie. Shrill, high pitched, full energy screams. Everyone was up, and panicking as to what to do. She was holding the sides of her head, and the behaviour was nothing I had ever seen any child do in all my nearly 45 years of life. She was terrified, stuck in a completely different world. Was it a vivid dream, or hallucination; not really sure. After the long 1 minute tireless scream, she collapsed into my arms in complete exhaustion. Then she started again. Full throttle sounds, same intensity, not a recognizable sound she had ever made before. It was terrifying.
I barked orders to my son to wake up the neighbour. I yelled to my husband to call emergency. After the first yelling fit, my husband splashed water on her face thinking it was a nightmare trying to wake her up. After the second time I slapped her face to try to get her to come to. After the third time I tried to walk her limp body around the house down the stairs; it was like trying to walk a rag doll. Then slowly she calmed down, and after 10 minutes with the paramedics on the mobile, she started to talk to us and tried to explain what was happening in her head.
She said she was trapped inside her head, it felt incredibly real not like a dream at all, and she couldn’t escape. She had too much of something and couldn’t give it away as no one would take it from her. She had a feeling of being completely overwhelmed, frustrated and in some kind of danger. She explained as best she could, her voice weak, her body still trembling. Her fever after the fit now had broken.
When the doctors arrived they said it was all from a bacterial throat infection. The doctor criticized me saying why did I not take her to the doctors yesterday? She should be on antibiotics for tonsillitis. She continued to ask why I had not given my daughter any water all day. I told her I tried to give it to her throughout the day, but she had a hard time swallowing. She kept at me with her condescending attitude until I started to cry. The doctor seemed very upset that we had got her out of bed to treat my daughter. I asked her what was wrong with her, why was she a doctor if she felt no compassion. Nothing like this has ever happened before in our family. Ange hardly ever runs a low temperature. I am a teacher, I see sick kids everyday; I know a little something about illness and how to help. I did my best, after all I have helped nieces, nephews, half brothers that I saw through many an illness. What alarmed me enough to call the paramedics was the nature of the fit, the extreme fright we all felt; I thought she was having a psychotic break or an epileptic seizure. Each time she collapsed in my arms I thought she had died. My family was petrified as to what the hell we had just witnessed. And this doctor said it was my fault that she was extremely dehydrated and that the fit was only a dream.
I then lost it. If you know me then you know, it is not often but when I lose it, it is not a pretty picture. I tore a very large strip off this doctor’s side and yelled at her in near hysterics. Well I had had enough of this crap, I decided we are going to the hospital, because this lady is an absolute idiot! My husband softly and calmly told her that maybe she should reconsider her choice of profession, as this one doesn’t really fit her very unkind personality. We asked her to please leave our home immediately. Doctor Dominic ?? incase you get her, tell her I say hello! Because she was gravely wrong with her prognosis! And her bedside manner was the worst I had ever witnessed in my entire life. She prejudged me as just another stupid ‘American”! I hate how some Hungarians feel a need to flex their superiority whenever they have the chance towards westerners. But here is the thing, you don’t kick someone when they are down, it is an easy fight taking all your frustrations out on someone who shows obvious weakness. I get it, you a very well educated doctor, show up at my beautiful home on the side of a perfect mountain settling in the middle of the night and find a half-ass Hungarian freaking out about her daughter that now looks perfectly fine. It may seem like a self-righteous move to call you to my home, and for you to arrive to a strangely calm environment; it was the calm after the storm. But the doctor did not listen to what had just happened. She blew it off as exaggeration, a typical dramatic soap opera reaction just like you see on typical American TV. But most Americans (in this case North Americans) could not be farther than this stereotype. However, this very limited experienced person, barely out of university, stuck on the midnight shift, took the opportunity to be judgy, and in that moment she revealed to us all her Xenophobic viewpoints. It was like shooting a blindfolded hostage.
We went to Bethesda children’s hospital, the one that Michael Jackson renovated years ago, and financed a young boy’s life saving operation- we were completely unprepared what the next few hours would be like. I was wearing uggs, left in PJ’s, and Angelina came wrapped in layers of winter clothes. We arrived and explained to the doctor what had happened. They took her fever; it was elevated again nearing 40 degrees. They did some simple tests, asked her many questions and admitted her, and immediately put her on an IV drip to get her fluids up. They took her blood and urine samples. They gave her painkillers and anti inflammatories. Nothing brought her fever down. They guessed Mononucleosis, and suggested a neurologist to rule out epilepsy; thinking her very high fever had brought on a seizure. They did say that this behaviour is uncommon in teenagers, but common in younger kids. She is petite though, so they did not rule it out. I told them she has never had a fever for this long ever.
I did not leave her side. She was very weak, pale and fevered. Aches and pains everywhere, she couldn’t even swallow; her little 45 kilo body was being attacked from the inside and I was completely unable to help. I had tried for 24 hours at home and failed miserably, and now the doctors were having the same puzzle to solve to no avail.
It was touch and go Sunday between managing her pain, skyrocketing fevers, and dehydration. She was eating regularly so we didn’t know the gravity of the situation; an eating trait our family is known for! The boys went home after their visit Sunday afternoon, and I would spend another night holding my quivering child wishing for some answers.
Then a young 26-year-old female doctor asked the right question. Angelina would give the crucial detail that would put them on the right path towards a cure. She was complaining about lower back pain on the left side, pain I had thought the day before was from her spine; maybe she slept wrong or hit it, and it was far lower than where her organs are. This would trigger the doctor to order an ultrasound. Of course we had guessed Mono and liver swelling was a part of that, a routine check would prove us right, but once scanning inside her body, they would find the answer; an ectopic kidney situated low towards her left pelvis with a very short ureter; where bacteria can easily travel up north the short distance to infect the kidney. 1 in 900 have this irregularity, quite common they say. Her tests showed a serious amount of bacteria in her system, 300x the normal levels. Her body was fighting an invasion, a silent war inside her core, not just in her throat but deep inside. The two infections at once was too much for her tiny body to handle.
She did say during a fever that night, that she was playing a video game inside her head, where soldiers were jumping out of a large pool trying to attack her. Her job was to kill them off one by one before they reached her, which was easy she said as they moved quite slowly and their shots were not very powerful. In her dream she could get hit 1000 times and it would not hurt her, but there were so many of them again she felt an overwhelming feeling. I have to wonder if this was her body’s way of telling her about what was going on inside; giving her a visual of the bacteria attacking her organ. This little movie played in her head and her very smart immune system was fighting them off. Her hands and face were white and cold to the touch, I thought it was circulation as I rubbed them warm. Looking back it was Angelina sending all her energy to her warrior cels to kill off the enemy soldiers.
The doctors and nurses were professional and efficient. After the first round of antibiotics there was significant improvement. Her fever only rose up towards 39 once the next day, not even close to the 40+. By the second day she was stable and nearly back to her old self. By Thursday afternoon she was released, on strict orders to go straight home into bed for another week. They said she would make a full recovery, but that we needed to watch if her fever rose past 38 in the future to get her waters tested immediately just in case the infection came back.
Over all our Hungarian hospital experience was good. Most staff seemed attentive, while others were sad, worked to death, and not as happy as they should be. Some nurses took the time to try to understand Angelina and her broken Hungarian, especially the younger new doctors on residency, while others stuck her with the needles like a Christmas pig; hard and fast and quickly moved on to their next patient.
Perhaps they are embarrassed at their working conditions and afraid to stand up for what they need. This seems another remaining residue from communism; being afraid to demand what is needed out of fear of what might happen to them and their important jobs with menial pay.
The only shocking part of the whole thing was the lack of basic supplies. No soap or sanitizer in the kitchen to wash dishes with to kill bugs on utensils and plates, or hand soap in the bathrooms after going. Further there was no paper towel to wipe your hands with afterwards anyways, so water was left to drip all over the floor, then stepped in, and dragged all over the hospital. But the biggest shock was there was no toilet paper anywhere! Believe it, you must bring your own! WHAT??!! So you have 24 children on this ward, some with high contagious diseases; scarlet fever, mononucleosis, two quarantined children that we didn’t ever find out what they had, and parents walking around using the microwaves and fridges, and bathrooms and showers all together after touching their sick kids and nothing to help stop the spread of bacteria and viruses! In Canada this hospital would be shut down!
Also, there were not enough thermometers to go around! We were all sharing the same darn one for the entire ward! Crazy insufficiencies, a total lack of funding. But that’s ok right Mr. Orban? You are building yet another soccer field to fulfill your childhood dream of having Hungary in the world cup like in the Puskas era! Instead of taking care of the future soccer players by providing them with good healthcare and supplying highly trained doctors to keep them healthy; let’s let our sick kids kick a ball around, that should help enough right? My conclusion is that the Hungarian Health Care is in a dismal decline here in Hungary. I have lived in France and Canada both with excellent free Health Care systems in place and Hungary could definitely learn a thing or two from both!
So what else can one do but try to contribute to counterbalance the shortfall. We bought 100 rolls of toilet paper, 4 old school thermometers that read correctly, dish and hand soap, paper towels, and a spray cleaner for the kitchen. If I had the extra money I would renovate the entire kitchen with an industrial strength dishwasher with water hot enough to kill the bacteria and viruses, and a supply of cleansing soap products to ensure that everything is sanitized properly! I was told that staff steals this kind of stuff, as their wages are so low, they could never afford them at home! Honestly, I don’t care who they go to, as long as the overall system improves, because if doctors and nurses would make a fair wage, then they would be in a better place to serve the public and our health care needs.
The fridges and microwave are in desperate need of upgrading. I also noticed that the cleaning ladies used bleach which is great, but they didn’t wipe down the wooden parts of the beds after each patient left, which means that all their germs are still there waiting for the next patient to touch and spread. Windowsills, walls, bedside tables were all miraculously overlooked! For a clean freak like myself, I was in a sheer panic.
Cleanliness was good in the bathrooms and showers, they cleaned them everyday. They had too. We used them all day long. The door handle alone would be an infectious petri dish waiting to multiply. I carried around hand sanitizer, wet wipes and cleaned everything as I went. I decided to clean the microwave on Wednesday, which was a bone of contention with one older nurse, as she wouldn’t let me in the kitchen to use my spray cleaner. They said it was so I wouldn’t bring in bacteria into the food area, but once inside (of course I eventually got my way) it was probably because they were embarrassed that the kitchen was in such a state of chaos! Food on counters for staff to eat, old broken countertops giving lovely living conditions for bacteria to burrow and raise little families of their own. Oh and the spray cleaner had magically disappeared!
Further outside, the parking meter is invisible on the street where the emergency patients park when bringing in their sick children. There is parking in front of the hospital for free, but only a handful of stalls. Each day I watched parking police give out 5-10 tickets as I went to forage for edible food, but I am sure there were more. Yes, us too, a nice little 3000 HUF ticket! To me this seems irresponsible; again kicking and stealing from people when they are at their most vulnerable, as they bring their sick children looking for doctors to help them; most not in their right frame of mind from stress and panic. The government is cashing in on us; the victims of unfortunate circumstances.
The food was bread for breakfast and dinner, but lunch was hot and fresh. That was ok. But they did not provide napkins, forks, spoons or knives for the kids to eat with, or they had plastic ones they were supposed to wash and reuse, but with no soap! I am not sure what they are thinking. I watched parents move into the room with huge bags of stuff. I had no idea that this was a thing in Hungary. One lady looked like she moved her entire house into the ward. She honestly planned well, much better than us with our one pair of leggings each for the week! Thankfully Alfonz brought us with we needed periodically and took our soiled clothes home to wash.
Our situation was unique as we had two parents off work trying to orchestrate Angelina’s hospital stay. Alfonz managed the house and our almost 16 year old teen, driving back and forth with supplies and food as needed; while I stayed in hospital tending to Angelina’s every need while she had test after test. I tried to find things she could eat, walking off the grounds each day while keeping myself well enough to not fall ill to one of those million bacteria and viruses floating around that place. It was a balance, but I could only imagine what taking a week off would mean to a single mom with more than one child. There were kids there alone, little ones too, parents who had no other option but to leave their children alone in hospital. Angelina was one of the very lucky ones.
After 6 long tiring days, with little to no sleep squished on the bed together, with the hall light shining down, hearing babies screaming from being needled; we were finally sent home with a 10 day prescription for antibiotics to fight the infections. She is home cozy in bed recovering with her cat on her lap, although weak, she is better for it! Just getting out of that negative environment was a positive move. Alfonz cleaned the entire house professionally from top to bottom when we thought she had a contagious virus, and I have already done two loads of very hot water laundry to insure no more spreading of any lurgies. I could sleep for a week from the exhaustion, but it will be back to the grind in the morning leaving this to soon be a distant memory!
Message to our president, Mr. Orban. A country is measured by how we treat the most vulnerable and misfortunate among us. Sick children are the most precious assets of any country. We need to provide better healthcare for all our people, treating them with dignity and respect in their time of need. By taking care of them we ensure a strong future for Hungary. No more soccer fields, or big cash payouts to corporations wanting to make a fortune off the backs of Hungarian low paid workers! NO! It is time to give back to your people, and what better way than to renovate our hospitals, build new ones, put an emergency 911 system in place that actually works efficiently, and help doctors and nurses by giving them fair wages, which means enough to live off so when they come to work they are happy to do the most important job in the world ; saving lives. By paying our doctors less than a janitor in more Westernized countries, we are telling them and our society that they are not important. However, they are the most valuable. And sadly we will all find out just how crucial they are when we end up in hospital near the end of our lives. One of these hospitals will be the difference between life and death for many of us. So let’s try for life each and every time. Please step up on this issue, I am asking you for something that is standard in many countries. This could be a make it or break it issue for us Hungarians who are coming back after a few generations away to see if our blood country is a good and viable place to raise our children. But for many expats living here it is more than making a living and enjoying the beautiful city. What about giving Hungarians a fair wages for fair work? Healthcare and social services for the sick and old, good international universities, and job opportunities after their schooling that doesn’t send our young adults out of the country! These must become part of the equation for Hungary to become a respected country. Hungarians need the basics. It is now your job to find out how that can be done.