Csíkszereda Musings

My life in and around Csíkszereda, also known as Miercurea Ciuc.

Archive for the ‘health’ Category

To the lighthouse

Posted by Andy Hockley on 27 April, 2008

The hospital I was in, which is reserved for lung cases and infectious diseases (in separate wings) with the TB ward lying somewhere in the middle, sitting on the pulmonary fence, is in a beautiful old building. Think mittel-european house of some minor voivode. (More Colditz than Stalag-Luft III. Oh sorry, I forgot I was going to try and lay off the prison references). A bit crumbling, but looking onto a nice courtyard, and with views in all directions, and located not actually in Csikszereda, but in the former-village, now-suburb of Csiksomlyo (Sumuleu Ciuc in Romanian). When I got tired of reading it was pleasant to spend time watching the Spring arrive – the tree outside my window went from bud to full-on blossom during the week, the snows on Hargita mountain gradually receded, the birds in the courtyard fluttered around collecting nesting materials and the like. It was all very tranquil.

Sadly though, this hospital will not be a hospital for very much longer. You see the building is owned by the church (the Roman catholic church in this case). It became a hospital during communism when it was nationalised, but now the church want it back (as under post-communist rules they are allowed to). I’m not quite sure what they want to do with it (the former orphanage in the same area reverted to RCC control a few years ago, and as far as I can tell they haven’t touched the place since). To me, it would seem that having a hospital in the building goes some way to fulfilling the church’s supposed raison-d’etre – you know about helping people and all that – but instead they will probably just use it for accommodation for the pilgrimage weekend, and leave it lying dormant for the rest of the year. It’s a real shame, and a bit crap really.

In other religion related news, today is Easter Sunday in the Orthodox calendar. As I understand it this means that roughly 1975 years ago, Jesus of Nazareth was crucified and was resurrected a couple of days later. Then a few weeks later, he repeated the trick, just to head off the doubters. That’s commitment for you.

Anyway, Happy Easter Romanians and anyone else of an orthodox bent.

Posted in csikszereda, health | 1 Comment »

The English Patient

Posted by Andy Hockley on 22 April, 2008

So, as you may have surmised, I was indeed admitted to hospital last week. I went in on Wednesday, and was expecting to be there for a week, but my parole hearing today (Tuesday) went well, and I got let out a day early for good behaviour.

So now I’m home, struggling to cope with the sheer randomness and unpredictability of non-institutional life. It’s all very strange.

First things first – I was eventually diagnosed with pneumonia and pleurisy in a kind of double whammy of pulmonary trauma. If you look up pleurisy on wikipedia, you get a list of famous people who snuffed it from the disease. Wordsworth, Charlemagne, Cezanne, Hardy. Luckily as the list gets more contemporary, the results get more slight – Steinbeck, for example, merely had a rib removed. Not that I really wanted a rib removed, but given the option of the Steinbeck or the Wordsworth, I would have plumped for the Steinbeck. In addition, I had very high blood pressure and an enlarged heart. All in all quite a selection.

Erika went off to buy me some pyjamas and slippers, vital parts of hospital uniform, which I didn’t previously possess, and on Wednesday morning at the appointed hour I drew up, clutching my new nightwear and various items of foodstuff to tide me over in case the Romanian hospital food didn’t really meet my needs. After a few more tests (“Please spit in this cup”), I was shown to my new room. This room, I later realised was effectively the VIP room. Perhaps because I was foreign, or a bit rubbish at Hungarian, or just very important in some other unspecified way. [I think they use it for problem patients too, so maybe I fit into that category]. The VIP room had it’s own en-suite bathroom (well, a shower and toilet) and only two inmates (while all the other rooms on the corridor had 4, and had to share the bathroom at the end of the corridor) I changed into my pyjamas and slippers and dressing gown, what the hip-patient-about-ward is wearing these days, and slid my bags and so on under the bed. I chatted with my roommate (the director of the town’s “culturehouse” – VIP room I told you), and quickly began to get into the routine.

It was the next morning that the bad bit of the routine became apparent. At 6am (I’ll repeat that time, as it’s a little unreal at first glance), at 6am, the door was noisily opened, the lights (of the bright retina-searing fluorescent type) were turned on, and the first injection of the day was administered. For me this involved the insertion of a needle in a vein, and the slow intravenous drip-drip-drip of 500ml of antibiotics. In terms of sheer brutality – the bare room, the bright lights, the insane hour, the needle – it must be akin to Guantanamo.

I’m exaggerating of course. The difference between the two are many. Guantanamo is on a tropical beach for a start.

On the downside, the regular injections of sodium pentathol, which I imagine in my seen-too-much-TV way to be a feature of “enemy combatant” life, are administered by bull-necked crew-cut marines, rather than by attractive young women. And then there are the snarling dogs, and the bags on the head, and the electrodes, and the probability of never being allowed out, and never getting a fair trial.

After the rude awakening of the 6am jab, the day settled into it’s regular flow. 6.45 am (ish) drip is completed, needle removed; 7am shower (this wasn’t a mandated time, it was just the time that there seemed to be some hot water); 8 am breakfast (bread roll, cheese or meat – as far as I was concerned then, bread roll); 8.30 am cleaner comes in; 9am blood pressure checked; 9.30 am pills brought. Not quite sure why I needed to have them hand delivered every day, and not just left for me to take them when I was supposed to but perhaps it’s a way of preventing prisoner suicide bids. They should really have taken my belt from me.

At this point I think I must have done this extended prisoner metaphor to death so I will attempt to leave it alone now, since it must be getting a tad tiresome. I can’t promise it won’t return, but I’ll do my best.

To continue with the exciting day outline: Noon lunch; 1pm doctor’s rounds; (long fun-filled gap) 6pm second intravenous drip of the day, coinciding exactly with dinner appearing (a tad annoying really, it’s not like there couldn’t have been a way in which to stagger these two major events of the day); 10pm lights out.

As you can see it was a fun-packed existence. There were a few bonus moments though – Once we got a surprise 4am visit from a delirious patient, roaming the corridors randomly waking everyone up, which added a certain je ne sais quoi to the evening (and also to the 6am wake-up). There were two trips out in an ambulance, too – once to the cardiologist and once to the throat specialist (there must be a Latin-derived name for a throat doctor, but I have no idea what it is). I also managed to break a few rules while there. On Saturday afternoon, for example, Erika walked up with the kids in tow. Rather than have them come in the ward, they stayed out in the garden and I got dressed and came out to join them. We had an enjoyable hour soaking up the late afternoon spring sun, in the courtyard garden of the hospital, and then they headed home and I went back to my cell room. It was then I was informed of my terrible error in … putting on my clothes. This apparently is definitely against the rules, and I should have gone out in my pyjamas (and then got told off for getting cold). I obviously had no idea of this clothing transgression, but when I mentioned it to anyone they said “Well, of course you can’t put your clothes on” like I was an idiot. Not quite sure why the rule exists – so you can always tell who the patients are? It doesn’t necessarily work that way, though, since the nurses wear dressing gowns over their uniforms when it gets a bit chilly in the hospital.

So, gradually, the minutes intravenously dripped by, slowly becoming hours and days. I had no need to carve notches on the walls to see how many days I’d been inside though, as I could conveniently count the track marks on my arm. (Or at least I could for a while, until my veins, sussing out what was going on started to bury themselves further and further into my arms, pulling the muscles over their heads in an effort to avoid the needle, and thus meaning that each session started to involve two or three holes each).

I should at this point say that despite my whining above, the experience of being in hospital was really very good. The nurses were all extremely friendly and professional, the doctor was fantastic (I gave her the URL of this blog, so she’s probably reading this, but I’m saying it because it’s true not for any other reasons), the food was…well, the food was food, the place was spotless, despite being in a run down old building, and on top of that I got to read a stack of books. I can’t compare it with hospitals elsewhere, because I haven’t been in one for this length of time, but I reckon that despite the pressures everyone is under in an underfunded system, they manage to do a great job of taking care of patients.

At the end of it all, my blood pressure is still pretty high – though as a complete layman, it seems logical to me that if you stick a litre a day of extra liquid into someone’s system (as they did) then the blood pressure would be bloody high. I know it doesn’t work like that, but I don’t really understand why not. But everything else seems to be getting better. I have to take it easy for a little while, and have not strain myself or be too active. Does anyone know where one can hire handmaidens to feed one the occasional grape?

There’s another post to be written about the building itself in which I was incarcerated treated, but I need to go for a medically mandated lie-down now. But I’ll leave you with a question: When old men play up in their role as hospital patients in order to force young female nurses to treat them like children is it some kind of odd sexual perversity, loneliness, or some kind of search for a mother? I’ve no idea.

Posted in health | 7 Comments »

Faux Cough (and die)

Posted by Andy Hockley on 18 March, 2008

Over the past week I have been afflicted by the cough from hell. I have no idea whence it came, but I really wish it would fu-cough back there. My throat feels like it has been cut to ribbons by the constant sharp wracking coughs which convulse my body every few minutes. Indeed by Sunday, so sore was my throat that I discovered it is no longer possible to drink orange juice as the acid stings too much. I honestly felt that sooner or later one of my coughs would actually break through the red raw lining of my throat and start me bleeding. It hasn’t happened, but it still feels like it might. I think since Sunday (the low point pain-wise) what has happened is the my throat has just become numb. The side effect of this vicious ailment is that I have barely slept in a week – the cough intervals at the tail end of last week were averaging out at around 2 minutes, which obviously doesn’t give you the chance to get much shut-eye. The cough’s frequency has slackened off since then, and is now down to about 10 minutes , so there is more possibility of sleep, but it’s not exactly simple. Indeed the overwhelming symptom I have now, surpassing the cheese grater ground glass coughing, is exhaustion. I’m also about to lose my voice.

The doctor, who I saw last week, assured me I didn’t have an infection, but that my throat was “a bit red”. No shit.

[/Moan moan moan self indulgent bullshit moan whine whinge]

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Blame Denmark

Posted by Andy Hockley on 4 December, 2007

Toys and games tend to have these labels on them saying things like “Not suitable for children under 3”, and the like. Until yesterday, I assumed that the main reason for this advice/warning was to do with small pieces that could easily be swallowed. Paula, though, grew out of the sticking everything in her mouth phase some months ago, so I imagined that that, at least, probably wouldn’t be much of a problem, as long as we kept an eye on her. Sharp things we obviously keep out of the way, but she likes playing with some of Bogi’s toys, which, of course, are not technically for the under threes.

One of her favourite things to play with is Lego. Yesterday afternoon, for example, while she was with me, she expressed a desire to play Lego. “Andy,” she said (like Bart calls Homer Homer, Paula calls me Andy most of the time), “Andy, Legozunk” (There is no noun that cannot be verbised in Hungarian. Hence ‘Legozunk’ which means, roughly, “Let’s Lego”). Anyway, I got the Lego down, and we sat down together to legozni. This isn’t Duplo or one of those other pre-lego lego things, but real normal lego. While she started to busy herself sticking blocks together, I was making a small plane for her.

Suddenly, in the middle of my deep concentration at the effort of putting together some small plastic blocks, she piped up, “Andy. Lego!” and pointed to her nose. As I know her nose is not made of lego, and knowing also that she is fully aware of that fact, I panicked thinking perhaps she’d stuck some lego up her nose. I put her head back and looked, but couldn’t see anything. But something was obviously bothering her. I had her blow her nose, in the hope that if there was something up there, she’d easily get it out. Nothing. But she kept telling me that it tickled. So off we went to the nose hospital. They do cater for more than just noses, dealing with ears and throats too, but it was the nose bit that was of interest to us. We met Erika and Bogi outside the front entrance, and went inside.

I’ll gloss over the next bit, but at the end of a session of screaming and crying, the nurse had removed not one, not two, but three small bits of lego. So that’s why they say some toys are not suitable for children under three. Who knew that they’d want to experiment with pushing small objects right up inside their nose? Well, when I say “who” knew, obviously many people knew. In fact I suspect I was the only one who didn’t. I’ve already heard from numerous people since this incident “Oh, yes, when I was young I stuck a bean up there”; “My brother got a tic-tac up his nose”; “…peanut…”; “…beads…”; “…pumpkin seed…”; “…copy of ‘War and Peace’…”; “…The Hanging Gardens of Babylon…”; etc. etc.

Anyway the lego has now been put out of sight in a box on the highest shelf in the house. It may return to the regular shelves in about two years.

Posted in health, paula | 1 Comment »

Chicken Varicella

Posted by Andy Hockley on 7 May, 2007

Varicella is not, as you may have thought, a type of pasta. It is in fact more commonly known (in English at least) as chicken pox. Varicella is just the official name of the virus. Although to be more accurate the virus is actually known as “Varicella-Zoster” which sounds less like a pasta and more like a ski resort in Switzerland. Interestingly (or not), in Hungarian it is known as Bárányhimlő which means “lamb-pox”. The reason it’s called chicken pox in English is nothing to with chickens, just that it was perceived as a small and decidedly un-deadly version of smallpox, and the humble chicken seemed to fit the bill. I’m assuming it got named after a cuddly little fluffy lamb in Hungarian for the same reason. I’m afraid I have no idea as to what it is called in Romanian. Perhaps hamsterpox or something.

Anyway, cuddly and fluffy it may be by name, but cuddly and fluffy it isn’t necessarily by nature. Paula has had it since Thursday and this weekend has been extremely unpleasant for all of us (her particularly). Not only does she have a raging fever, but she is covered from head to toe in itchy spots which are driving her mad (and, indirectly, us too). In my investigative reading of anything I can find on the internet which might suggest ways of reducing her irritation, I have discovered that there now exists a vaccination for Varicella, which she could have had from 9 months old. I bloody wish she had, and that we’d known about it. Let this post be a strong piece of advice for all parents to go ahead and get your child vaccinated. Even if it’s not offered as a semi-compulsory jab in your state health system, it must be possible to buy the vaccine and have a nurse administer it. Do it. Believe me. It cannot be worth watching your own child attempt to tear her hair out in anger and frustration and exhaustion (did I mention she hasn’t slept either?), and to actually wonder, in all seriousness, whether it is possible to buy a baby sized straightjacket to stop her scratching.

One of the more intriguing things about using the internet as your primary resource for health tips is that it throws up all sorts of contradictions – especially across languages. For example, all English language websites I have found recommend a cool bath as a way to ease the itching. Whereas Hungarian ones say you shouldn’t have baths, only showers. We’ve noticed this before, but it seems particularly pronounced in the case of chicken/lamb pox. The most baffling thing is that apparently calamine lotion, which is used worldwide for the treatment of chicken pox sores (and many other dermatological needs), is actually banned in Hungary. There’s something about it causing infection – even though everywhere else in the world people are slathering it all over their pus-y and blistered children. It’s quite quite bizarre. (Fortunately it is not banned in Romania, so while Erika is nervous about putting it on – having read all this anti-calamine propaganda – we have managed to get some and are using it)

Posted in health, paula | 3 Comments »

Chicken Varicella

Posted by Andy Hockley on 7 May, 2007

Varicella is not, as you may have thought, a type of pasta. It is in fact more commonly known (in English at least) as chicken pox. Varicella is just the official name of the virus. Although to be more accurate the virus is actually known as “Varicella-Zoster” which sounds less like a pasta and more like a ski resort in Switzerland. Interestingly (or not), in Hungarian it is known as Bárányhimlő which means “lamb-pox”. The reason it’s called chicken pox in English is nothing to with chickens, just that it was perceived as a small and decidedly un-deadly version of smallpox, and the humble chicken seemed to fit the bill. I’m assuming it got named after a cuddly little fluffy lamb in Hungarian for the same reason. I’m afraid I have no idea as to what it is called in Romanian. Perhaps hamsterpox or something.

Anyway, cuddly and fluffy it may be by name, but cuddly and fluffy it isn’t necessarily by nature. Paula has had it since Thursday and this weekend has been extremely unpleasant for all of us (her particularly). Not only does she have a raging fever, but she is covered from head to toe in itchy spots which are driving her mad (and, indirectly, us too). In my investigative reading of anything I can find on the internet which might suggest ways of reducing her irritation, I have discovered that there now exists a vaccination for Varicella, which she could have had from 9 months old. I bloody wish she had, and that we’d known about it. Let this post be a strong piece of advice for all parents to go ahead and get your child vaccinated. Even if it’s not offered as a semi-compulsory jab in your state health system, it must be possible to buy the vaccine and have a nurse administer it. Do it. Believe me. It cannot be worth watching your own child attempt to tear her hair out in anger and frustration and exhaustion (did I mention she hasn’t slept either?), and to actually wonder, in all seriousness, whether it is possible to buy a baby sized straightjacket to stop her scratching.

One of the more intriguing things about using the internet as your primary resource for health tips is that it throws up all sorts of contradictions – especially across languages. For example, all English language websites I have found recommend a cool bath as a way to ease the itching. Whereas Hungarian ones say you shouldn’t have baths, only showers. We’ve noticed this before, but it seems particularly pronounced in the case of chicken/lamb pox. The most baffling thing is that apparently calamine lotion, which is used worldwide for the treatment of chicken pox sores (and many other dermatological needs), is actually banned in Hungary. There’s something about it causing infection – even though everywhere else in the world people are slathering it all over their pus-y and blistered children. It’s quite quite bizarre. (Fortunately it is not banned in Romania, so while Erika is nervous about putting it on – having read all this anti-calamine propaganda – we have managed to get some and are using it)

Posted in health, paula | 3 Comments »

Catching Up

Posted by Andy Hockley on 25 April, 2007

Got back home on Monday evening, with much relief. A week is hard enough to be away, whereas I was gone for nearly 4. In my absence, Paula has stopped climbing on everything (or rather she’s no longer obsessively climbing on everything), and is now veryinto walking around on tiptoes. She is also calling everyone bigger than herself “Anyu” or “Anyuka”, which is a bit disconcerting. (For non-Hungarian speakers, these are roughly equivalent to “mum” and “mummy”, but its unusual even here for babies to skip over the interim “mama” step before going straight to the more commonly used version). Bogi on the other hand has come down with chicken pox (every year I go to to the same conference in the UK in April, and every year while I’m there, Bogi picks up some childhood ailment – last year mumps, this year chicken pox). Fortunately it’s a mild case and she isn’t itching, she just looks dead spotty.

Now, the next stage in the revolving door family has kicked in, as Erika left this morning for a project meeting in France. We are obviously an international bunch.

Romania made the international news last week twice – once for the political turmoil, with the government suspending the president, pending a referendum on impeachment which he will clearly win -an act that strikes me as being bafflingly time-wasting. But there you go. Secondly because one of the teachers killed at Virginia Tech was a 76 year old holocaust survivor from here.

More to follow, when I have a moment after the kids have crashed.

Posted in health, paula, romania | 3 Comments »

Catching Up

Posted by Andy Hockley on 25 April, 2007

Got back home on Monday evening, with much relief. A week is hard enough to be away, whereas I was gone for nearly 4. In my absence, Paula has stopped climbing on everything (or rather she’s no longer obsessively climbing on everything), and is now veryinto walking around on tiptoes. She is also calling everyone bigger than herself “Anyu” or “Anyuka”, which is a bit disconcerting. (For non-Hungarian speakers, these are roughly equivalent to “mum” and “mummy”, but its unusual even here for babies to skip over the interim “mama” step before going straight to the more commonly used version). Bogi on the other hand has come down with chicken pox (every year I go to to the same conference in the UK in April, and every year while I’m there, Bogi picks up some childhood ailment – last year mumps, this year chicken pox). Fortunately it’s a mild case and she isn’t itching, she just looks dead spotty.

Now, the next stage in the revolving door family has kicked in, as Erika left this morning for a project meeting in France. We are obviously an international bunch.

Romania made the international news last week twice – once for the political turmoil, with the government suspending the president, pending a referendum on impeachment which he will clearly win -an act that strikes me as being bafflingly time-wasting. But there you go. Secondly because one of the teachers killed at Virginia Tech was a 76 year old holocaust survivor from here.

More to follow, when I have a moment after the kids have crashed.

Posted in health, paula, romania | 3 Comments »

Blasted Health

Posted by Andy Hockley on 3 February, 2007

Sometimes I wonder whether Romania is really the best place to bring up my children. Hot on the heels of news of some respiratory infection that may or may not be flu or pneumonia, which is sweeping the nation, and the revelation of a European survey (mentioned here) which says that Romania is basically the unhealthiest country in Europe, comes news that one of Bogi’s classmates has been quarantined at the hospital with scarlet fever. Scarlet fever? I thought that had gone the way of smallpox and was now something you only read about in Victorian novels. Not so in Romania, it seems, where scarlet fever is apparently alive and well. I suppose it fits in with the horsecarts and the villagers heading off to the fields armed with scythes, but blimey.

(You’ll be happy to know that it is cured quite easily with penicillin, just in case)

Posted in health | 1 Comment »

Blasted Health

Posted by Andy Hockley on 3 February, 2007

Sometimes I wonder whether Romania is really the best place to bring up my children. Hot on the heels of news of some respiratory infection that may or may not be flu or pneumonia, which is sweeping the nation, and the revelation of a European survey (mentioned here) which says that Romania is basically the unhealthiest country in Europe, comes news that one of Bogi’s classmates has been quarantined at the hospital with scarlet fever. Scarlet fever? I thought that had gone the way of smallpox and was now something you only read about in Victorian novels. Not so in Romania, it seems, where scarlet fever is apparently alive and well. I suppose it fits in with the horsecarts and the villagers heading off to the fields armed with scythes, but blimey.

(You’ll be happy to know that it is cured quite easily with penicillin, just in case)

Posted in health | 1 Comment »