Romania is a handful…good thing I am healing nicely!

I’m in Romania! And I must say, the trip from London to Bod, Romania was nearly effortless on my part. Even though in total it took about ten hours, I’ve found myself more exhausted just schlepping my luggage from one end of London to the other. I took the city bus from East Dulwich at 4 am to Liverpool Street Station, from there hopping on the Stansted Express train at 5:15 to Stansted Airport….a small International Airport north of London. Many of the lesser known and low cost airlines fly from there including Easy Jet, Thomas Cook, Pegasus, and the most well known and the one I will be flying…Ryanair. My flight to Bucharest cost a whopping $33, and that was with the optional additional cost of choosing a seat and a checked bag.  The base cost for my flight was 5 pounds. US airlines need to get on board with this. More people would take weekend trips to other states if the airlines would make their prices more reasonable.

I am the type who needs to get to the airport at LEAST two hours before my flight. None of that running through the airport bullshit for me. So of course I was through security and in the waiting area by 6:30am for my 8:40 flight. I was so early that my gate wasn’t posted yet, but that was fine with me, I could sit my happy relaxed buttocks in a restaurant and enjoy one last official Full English breakfast. I also exchanged a $5 bill and a 10 lb note for 50 Romanian Lei, as I wasn’t entirely comfortable not having any cash on hand in Romania. The exchange rate for the Lei is 1 lb =5.29 Lei, and $1=4.21 Lei

The flight was uneventful, the shuttlebus from Bucharest to Brasov was easy to find..and three hours late I was picked up in Brashov (pronunciation) by Colin, the owner of the home I will staying in for the next two months! He very kindly took me to dinner, and by 8 pm I was cozy and warm in a lovely house in the middle of the village of Bod.

For the past week, Colin has been driving me around the area, taking me food shopping and introducing me to local friends of his whom I can contact in case I have any problems, or just want some company! On Thursday I met his dentist, and scheduled an appointment to see him today (Monday the 30th)  to have a cavity filled… for the whopping cost of $25. (100 Lei) He is a very nice man, and came highly recommended…despite the fact that he speaks no English. Colin was leaving on Friday, so I knew I was going to have to make the trip from Bod to Brasov on my own. Colin had warned me that buses in Romania don’t always follow the schedule, or even have the same pickup/dropoff points from day to day, but I figured…how bad could it be?

Pretty flippin bad, as I found out today. Colin showed me where the train station was in Brasov, which was where the bus from Bod would drop me off. He showed me on a map where the dentist office was. We had walked around that area, so I felt fairly confident that if a bus could drop me off at “The Black Church” (a large Lutheran church near the dentist) that I could then find my way. He had also shown me the three possible bus stops in Bod…and explained that sometimes they stop at all of them, sometimes just one. And….I discovered today…sometimes NONE.

Wanting to have as much information as possible, I googled the bus schedules, and the website looked impressive…with times and locations easily understandable. I found out which bus I needed to catch when I got to Brasov, and I felt fairly certain that I had a handle on things. Since my appointment was for 3:30 pm, I decided to catch the 11:30 bus, getting me to Brasov by 12:30…giving me plenty of time to get on the second bus and make my way to the dentist. I was really, really nervous about seeing the dentist, as I am the biggest baby on the world when it comes to dental work.  Stab yourself in the hand with a knife and need plastic surgery? No problem. Have a cavity filled? No. Have a cavity filled in a foreign country with a dentist who doesn’t speak any English and whose equipment is the same as what my dentist Dr. Thompson used in the 70’s? NO!  But there are things in this world that you have to do, and even if they scare the living shit out of you…you need to change your messy drawers, put on clean big girl panties…and catch the bus in a small Romanian village to a Romanian city to have your tooth drilled so that you don’t end up missing one of your bottom front teeth and therefore severely limiting your dating pool.

So, I set off today and walked to the bus stop.. the one that had an actual “bus stop”, you know, one of those little cubbies you wait under. I thought since it looked the most official, that it would be my best bet. I was wrong, although to be fair, I don’t think there were any buses at any of the other stops either. Not that I could know for sure as it would have been impossible for me to run back and forth and check. I waited from 11:30 till 2pm, then chucked it. There was a gentleman who waited with me from 1-2, but I’m not 100% sure he was actually there for the bus. I dunno, there was just something about the way he kind of shuffled around..starting further away from me, and then over the hour moving closer and closer until he was about 10 feet away that made me think he had some other motive for circling around. Perhaps he was just working up the courage to ask for a Tic Tac. Anyway, by 2 pm I knew it was too late to make my appointment, I was cold and cranky, and as my ‘companion” was moving ever closer…I decided to call it quits and head home.

Of course, I now had the problem of contacting the dentist to inform him that I was not coming and to schedule a new appointment. I’ve been here for a week, my Romanian is not nearly to the level required to have that kind of conversation, let alone understand what he was saying to ME. So I spent the next 40 minutes before the call translating on paper from English to Romanian exactly what I was going to say to him on the phone while also trying to anticipate what his response would be in Romanian, hopefully recognizing it and translating that back to English.  In case you were wondering, “Next Monday at 3:30″ in Romanian is ” Luni la ora trei jumătate” ( pronounced “Loon, ora trey zhoomutateh”) Well, it may not be that exactly, but after many “Da’s” (yes) and “mulțumesc’s” (thank you) we got it sorted…and now I have another week in which to worry about it. I think next Monday I will take a taxi…

My hand is doing well. the surgery was over a month ago now. As surgeries go, it wasn’t that bad really. I had to go through the usual rigamarole of removing all of my clothes and donning one of the hospital gowns. In case you are curious,they are the exact same kind in the UK as they are in the states. There was a moment of amusing confusion, as the nurse told me to remove almost all my clothing and any jewelry I might be wearing as the metal interferes with some sort of medical device thingie….but I could keep on my pants. I thought that was odd…but obeyed. When she came back, she saw me standing there wearing only the gown and my jeans and said, “I’m sorry, you will need to remove your trousers”… and that is when I remembered that “pants” in UK speak means “underwear”. Oops.

I waited in a lounge with three other women similarly robed for about 2 hours until I was called back. Everyone was exceedingly friendly. The anesthesiologist very politely explained that he was going to numb my entire left arm by sticking a long needle into my shoulder and poking it about until he hit the brachial nerve. I did not enjoy this very much, but it wasn’t as bad as watching the musical Oklahoma! I was told it would take approximately 10 minutes for my arm to go completely numb. My arm began to tingle and feel like heat was rushing through my veins, and after a few minutes I began to lose control of my arm, so the doctor carefully placed it across my belly and covered me with a blanket.  The proceedings were all very civil.. nay, almost jolly! I was wheeled into the operating room, where the team was waiting for me. I say team, as there were 7 people in there bustling about…turning on lights, moving things around, making machines go “beep”. I had a pair of surgeons…two handsome men who would have fit right in with the actors on E.R. or Grey’s Anatomy. In fact…everyone in the room was attractive. They slid my gurney next to a table, and I looked about the room, fascinated by everything. The nurse and I started chatting, and I could feel the weight of my arm laying across my belly but wasn’t nervous at all. I was happily chatting away when I happened to glance to the left and saw an arm laying across the table, perpendicular to me. I actually asked the doctors…”Who’s arm is that?” One of the laughed and said, “It’s yours! Whose did you think?” Well, that was ridiculous, as I could still “feel” my arm, it was right where the anesthesiologist had left it!  Except when I looked down, it was gone. I looked at the arm lying on the table, and I have to tell you, it was the oddest sensation, because that arm had nothing to do with me. My brain in no way acknowledged it. You know how when you fall asleep on your arm, and you wake up and it feels totally numb? Yeah, this was NOTHING like that.  THAT WAS NOT MY ARM. (Except of course, it was…)Right before the surgeons dug in, the nurse asked if I liked George Michael. I replied yes, so my surgery began with the tune “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” playing through the speakers.(He had just died the day before)I was so disconnected from my hand that I was able to watch the surgery without any discomfort at all, either mentally or physically. At least, I was able to watch until I asked the surgeons one question too many and the nurse was tasked with keeping my attention on her instead of my hand.

Eventually it was all over, and the doctors said it had gone well. I was wheeled back into the lounge where I was offered tea and a sandwich and then allowed to get dressed. This was a bit of a problem as not only was my arm numb…I couldn’t move it. Have you ever tried to put on a bra under these challenging conditions? It proved too much for me and I had to get the nurse to help. Basically, with my right hand I picked up and moved my left arm about and she maneuvered the bra into position. Clearly she had done this many times.

And that was it! I walked out of the hospital with my arm in a big blue sling and took the bus back to where I was staying. There was one scary moment when I banged my arm on the side of truck as I squeezed between it and a pole and I became convinced I had broken my arm but couldn’t tell because I was still numb. (I hadn’t)

I get random pains in my middle finger as the nerves repair/regrow and sort themselves out (at the rate of 1mm per day).  In one spot it feels like its been burned, in another it feels like pins, and occasionally I get what I call a “lightening strike’ when one nerve fires for no damn reason and it feels like lightning shoots down my finger.  About 1/4 of the finger has no feeling at all.  I’ve been doing my hand therapy and massaging the scar as instructed. It’s a little tight…so I have to massage it with lotion three times a day for ten minutes so I don’t lose full extension of my middle finger. I need that for when I drive…

I can’t end the saga of my hand without giving a huge shout out to the NHS. For everything they have done.. from the initial visit to A&E, to the consultation with the plastic surgeon, the actual surgery and two follow up visits including physical therapy.  In every instance their one any only concern was taking care of me, and providing the best medical care. I am immensely grateful.

I’ve added a slew of pictures below…some of Romania and some from London before I left. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be one place for the next two months!

Goodbye England!
Hello Romania!

My bus from Bucharest to Brasov
The view on the drive
My host Colin and his Land Rover
My home for the next two months.
The village of Bod to the right of the house
And to the left
Bod in the fog

In a parka I borrowed from Colin
Colin, and my new friends Flori and her husband Alex.

BRASOV

The Black Church, my landmark

FOOD AND DRINK

Love the name!
That is a 2 litre bottle of beer. Cost- about $2…or 8 lei
Tuica, a traditional Romanian spirit. The wooden ladder in the bottle adds flavor and color. Also called “palinca”
Shepherds cheese named “telemea”made by an honest to god former shepherd I met. Its delicious, and usually made from sheeps milk.

LONDON

Waiting outside the National Theatre early in the morning to get day of tickets for Amadeus
Tower Bridge
On Tower Bridge
The Tower Bridge glass floor
View from the bridge looking at the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, as in Dr. Who…”The Battle of…”
The Shard

The Thames
There was a mirror over the glass floor
Walking through St. Katherines docks on the way to The Dickens Inn
The Dickens Inn, where we had lunch
Waiting to see Amadeus
Two of my favorite people, Hannah and my friend Rob…in the NT after Amadeus
Me and the Spawn…
Hannah and Max at “Winter Wonderland” in Hyde Park
For all my FSU friends…

 

Should I go in and check it out?
Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace selfie!
Sign in a Tesco that cracked me up

HAND (A teeny bit icky.)

In my gown, ready to be called back for the surgery
My big blue sling!
This is not my hand. (It is my hand)

At my first post surgery appointment before the bandage was removed.
Cleaning it with saline
The final unwrapping
And there it is

Looks a little funky
And re-wrapped in a much more user friendly bandage for one more week till the stitches can be removed
A week later, lets take out those kinda gross looking stitches!
Done!

And here it is now.
Still looks like a bit of the finger has been scooped out, but looks so much better!

 

 

 

 

” A Silly Christmas Stabbing”, part 2…

Booyah! I’m back! In more than one way, to be honest. I had to take a little bit of a break recently, as after my daughter left London I found myself sinking into a bit of a depression.  In truth, I think it was a perfectly natural reaction to going through the stresses of trauma, hand surgery, plans going awry and having to say goodbye to my daughter. We did have a lovely time together despite my mishap and the consequential rearranging of our holiday plans…because that is what we Carltons do…we fucking get on with it.  I had the stitches out today and all seems to be going well, other than the constant pain caused by the nerves trying to get their shit back together after having been so rudely sliced apart. (For anyone just jumping in here…I quite badly stabbed myself in the hand on Christmas Day here in London while trying to “de-stone” an avocado. As you do.)

So, anyway, I’m ready to continue my story, if you are ready to hear it. WARNING- ICKY THINGS AHEAD. If you are squeamish, I have broken the paragraphs into “PLEASANT” or “PUKESOME“. Choose wisely…

PUKESOME (scroll down for Pleasant)

After bleeding all over the floors in the loo and the A&E waiting room, I was finally taken back into the sanctum-sanctorum…the treatment area. They sat me down on something, I don’t know what…raised my hand in the air and unwrapped the bandages which were now completely soaked through. When they finally had them all off…I could see the blood gushing out of the wound…seemingly pulsing in tandem with my heartbeat. (I had cut an artery)Now…as I have said…I am not a very squeamish person, but that sight was apparently the dead end of what I was able to handle, and I started to feel queasy and very close to passing out. Now, there were medical people buzzing all around me, but Hannah managed to keep right in the middle of the action like the awesome Spawn that she is. I told her I felt queasy and faint, and then asked the young man in blue scrubs attending me if he would mind terribly if I put my head between my knees. Somehow Hannah had gotten her hands on a disposable emesis basin (emesis is Greek for ‘yucky things that come out of people’) and handed it to me. I now had my head between my knees and was feeling less faint, when one of the people in scrubs pressed VERY HARD right on the open wound in the attempt to stop the bleeding…and according to Hannah, I said some things that signaled my displeasure. Very loud things, very…’sweary’… things. Things you would definitely not say in front of the Queen if you were invited to tea. I of course do not remember anything but excruciating pain and an overwhelming feeling of “WTF?” I may have actually howled. I asked if a doctor was going to see me, and the young man dressed in blue scrubs and still wearing his gold Christmas cracker crown from family dinner quietly and calmly informed me that HE was in fact the doctor. I will admit…I was skeptical..as he looked to be no older than 20 and had absolutely NO sense of urgency to his manner. In fact…NO ONE in the A&E did. Not even the other patients. Hannah remarked on it later…it was so different from the typical cacophony of an American ER.  Hannah and I were the only agitated people in the whole department…and it was weird. That “stiff upper lip” thing is real.

A stretcher was brought over and I was finally able to lie down. Someone had dressed my wound and the bleeding had slowed, but they still wanted me to keep my hand raised in the air. The ‘boy in blue’ started wrapping gauze around the light overhead, and Hannah and I looked at him, both a bit puzzled. Hannah watched for a second, then asked ” When are we going to see a doctor?” I of course started laughing as the ‘boy in blue’ explained yet again that he was in fact the doctor. (Turns out his name was Sam. Dr. Sam. No surname…just Dr. Sam) By this point Dr. Sam had firmly anchored the gauze to the overhead light,wrapped the other end around my arm a few times, then tied that end to the overhead light as well…keeping my arm elevated. It looked a bit shabby, but seemed to work. Hannah quipped ” What… were you a doctor in WWI?” A nearby nurse laughed…Dr.Sam did not. (By the way, Dr. Sam looked a lot like the actor Ryan Cartwright from the TV series Bones, who played the British assistant to Brennan who gets blown up)

Finally, Hannah and I were able to relax for a little bit. Well, we tried to anyway. I was now becoming fully aware of the damage to my hand, and the impact it would possibly have on its mobility…not to mention that our holiday plans were almost certainly fucked. We had both been working in crisis mode up to that point…and the reality of it all started to seep in as the adrenalin wore off. Neither one of us had any idea of what was going to happen next, and no one seemed in any hurry to address it. We both were a bit in shock…and a few tears finally broke through. I can’t tell you how grateful I was that my Spawn was by my side. As desperately sorry as I was for ruining her Christmas Day…there was no one in the world I would have rather had with me. She even demanded that they check my blood pressure, as no one had done that up to this point…which we thought was odd.

Eventually the nurse returned to re-re-dress the wound. I apologized profusely to her for yelling earlier, and then seconds later did it again when she doused the open wound with water to clean it. Why in holy hell does water hurt so friggin much? (Again, I don’t remember my exact words except I do know I ended my second explosion with the phrase “SHIT BALLS!” That I remember. I’m a classy broad.

PLEASANT

Eventually Dr. Sam came back, and explained that because the damage was extensive I would need to be seen by a plastic surgeon, and since they had none there, I would have to go to a different hospital for my wound to be appraised. X rays were taken, and we were given an appointment for 11am the next day at St. Thomas’s Hospital in Central London.  And we were done…both of us exhausted. We booked an UBER, and were back in the flat by 9:30pm…expecting that to be the end of our evening.

When we walked in the door, the first thing I noticed was the cause of the incident still malevolently sitting there on the kitchen counter.( I bet you didn’t know an avocado could look malevolent? Keep an eye out people…I’m just sayin’…)

It’s just an avocado, right? It’s not even gory…yet this image makes you shudder…

Hannah and I were getting ready to pour ourselves two very generous glasses of wine, and I was “revenge eating’ the unsullied half of the avocado when I received a text from my friend Chick, asking if we were back from hospital and were we still coming over for drinks. It took all of  two seconds for us to decide that HELL YES…we were still coming over for drinks! And so, thanks to Chick and his family, the end of our Christmas Day was filled with laughter, friends and food.  They even re-heated some turkey with all the trimmings for us, as we had missed our own planned dinner of steak and taters. (Which we ended up having for Boxing Day!)

We went the next day to St Thomas’s, and eventually saw the plastic surgeon. She examined the wound, and informed me that I was most definitely going to need surgery as soon as possible to repair the nerves, but that the good news was that the tendons did not appear to be severed.  I was scheduled for surgery for three days later on the 29th, and needed to be at the hospital by 7:30AM.

I was heartbroken, as Hannah and I had already booked and paid for train tickets for the both of us to spend four days in Scotland, leaving the next day. We discussed it, and I was adamant that there was no point in the both of us missing out, not to mention wasting two train tickets.  She had friends meeting her up there, so wouldn’t be alone…and I had friends here, so I wouldn’t be either. And then when she returned, the surgery would be over and we could go on with the rest of our plans. I managed to convince her, and the next morning, the 27th…she was on the train to Scotland. I felt so much better knowing at least one of us was going to have fun for the next few days.

Stay tuned for the third and final chapter of this saga…tentatively titled- “That’s not my arm. I don’t know where that came from”

I have pics below…there is only one that might be considered slightly upsetting, so have put it last. If you don’t want to see it…stop at the pics of me face swapped with Gene Wilder, and Hannah face swapped with Obama. Personally, I find those pics far more disturbing than the last one, but to each his own.

Thank you,

Rebecca

Sometimes, its either laugh or cry. I’m not 100% certain which one I am doing in this pic
Hannah and Chick discussing things.
Christmas yum!
St. Thomas’s Hospital, right across the Thames from Parliament

 

Waiting to see the “plastic”
After getting things sorted at the hospital, Hannah and I took a bit of a stroll around London. Look what we found!
Agh!
AGH!
I am definitely not happy in this pic.