Scattered Post-Hospital Blog Post

To those who are concerned (and not to whom it may... sorry, lame pun): 
Yes, I am fine! I am out of the hospital and on a 10-day heavy does of antibiotics and various other pills. No, I'm not going home; I will be back in Valmiera on Wednesday. 

To those who are totally confused:
I had about 100 blog posts lined up, but by now I've forgotten all of them because something rather significant and frustrating happened - namely, tonsilitis/strep throat/systemic infection that required a 5 night hospitalization. In Liepāja. Liepāja is around 300 km from Valmiera, a seaside town (and the westernmost city in Latvia) that in the summer is a popular vacation destination. We had a week long break from school, as did the rest of the country, and Katharina (a German exchange student), Jordan and I decided to go to Liepāja. We found a funky and inexpensive hotel, Hotel Fontaine, with an ethnic imports/military surplus store in the check in area. The only bad thing about our room was that it was cold. We started a fire in the furnace once when apparently we weren't supposed to, and I'm pretty sure they thought we were stupid, as every day we had at least two hotel workers come and warn us about the stove - to put it bluntly, "Don't go fire or you will die." Not sure if she was referring to actually going in the stove, or don't "make the fire go"... Anyway...) I'll go into details and post pictures from Liepāja when I have my USB cable (actually, I'll steal some of Jordan's so that this blog can have pictures), but right now I will write about the most interesting part of the entire vacation - after it ended.

Me outside of our hotel, before the now-infamous Ailment of the Almonds.

I had a sore throat before I left Valmiera, but I get sore throats all the time, and I get over them. This one, apparently not. Each day it got worse and worse - by Monday, swallowing was painful, and by Tuesday, swallowing was barely tolerable. Upon inspection in the mirror, I knew I needed to get medical attention. All the clinics were closed, and I didn't feel like taking a cab alone at night. On Wednesday (after waking up at about 10), I took a taxi to Liepāja Central Hospital and went to the ER. After trying to get someone's attention for about 15 minutes, I successfully managed to explain that something was wrong with my tonsils. To be admitted I had to show ID. As my passport was still in Riga with AFS, the only ID I had was my ISIC card (which is no good for official documents) and a photocopy of my passport. The photocopy was enough, and I filled out a brief form with my addresses in Latvia and the US. 

Then I was taken to an exam room, where I waited for 15 minute periods. In between each period of waiting, someone would come in, ask me to sign something or take my temperature, and then leave. After about an hour, a doctor finally saw me. Now, no one in this hospital spoke English. This doctor spoke no English. And so I would like for everyone to take a moment to appreciate the fact that I was able to describe my symptoms and answer all her questions - including those about insurance - in Latvian. She basically asked me a bunch of questions, and then took one look in my mouth and said, "You need to stay here tonight."
Just frying some lavash in the hotel kitchen...

That's when the calling started. I first called my host brother and let him know, and then our hosting coordinator (whose cell phone doubles as the emergency number). Then I gave the phone to my doctor... and halfway through the call, my credit died. And so I was left without a way to communicate to the outside world. So, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit. If worse came to worse, I could probably have called from a hospital phone. But that would have been a hassle, particularly when connected to an IV. 

The first day and night were the worst. I had no way to call out, I couldn't respond to texts from the 3 friends who knew I was in the hospital, and I had no communication with the outside world. There was also the hospital-culture-shock, which I will talk about later. Mostly that night was spent feeling scared, in pain, and alone. The second day the calls started pouring in, including from my parents. 
They had gotten an email from AFS saying that I had been admitted into a hospital in Liepaja complaining of angina and irritation of the almonds.
Yes, I felt the need to bold that. Angina was some Latvian word related to tonsilitis and strep throat that had nothing to do with the kind of heart pain that old people get, which caused everyone undue panic. As for the almonds, mandeles in Latvian means both almonds and tonsils. Although I could barely talk for the pain and swelling, I explained to them that this had nothing to do with heart pain or nuts. That call was interrupted by another one from AFS Latvia, who finally figured out that I was alone there. AFS-US had already realized that, and they told my parents that the insurance had it covered for one of them to fly to Latvia and stay with me while I was in the hospital. 
As we all know, Allie cooking ends with Jordan having to open
the window  due to the visible (and stifling) fumes of smoke
from  burning butter. Luckily, Latvian smoke alarms are pretty much non-existent.

When my mom called for the second time and said my dad was coming to the hospital, my first reaction was to say no. When she offered to give me the number of a family friend who works at the American Embassy in Latvia, my first reaction was to say no. It had been so ingrained in my brain that I was supposed to be independent, deal with whatever problems came my way on my own, etc. -  but then I realized that I had done everything I was supposed to do. I took responsibility for myself. I got myself to the hospital, alone, I checked myself in, alone; I explained my symptoms and answered all the doctor's questions, without even a dictionary; I contacted the right people and done the right thing, despite how sick I was. Now that other people could help me - why not let them?  

The embassy turned out to be a fuzzy friendly place (at least over the phone), and nothing like the giant scary bureaucracy it seems from afar. Before anything else, every US Embassy's number one purpose is to help US citizens abroad. They did everything they could - they got a translator on the phone with a doctor so I could make sure I knew what was going on; they Googled the untranslatable "angina" until we finally figured out that it was a blanket term for tonsilitis; they called me multiple times to make sure everything was okay. And I got a cute little flag pin with Latvian and American flags.

As for my dad coming, it was more complicated. Of course I want to see my dad, but I'd thought I wasn't going to see either of my parents for 10 months. That's what every exchange program - and exchanger - says is best for cultural adjustment, etc. I had been under the impression that I wouldn't see anyone from my natural family until the last days of June. To see anyone earlier, no matter the circumstances, felt like a failure. But at that point I was feeling so horribly sick that I just quietly gave my approval. By the third day my dad would arrive in Latvia. AFS US were the ones who suggested he go; AFS Latvia repeatedly told me it wasn't necessary. Was it necessary? No, not necessary. But I have 2 sets of parents across the globe, and if I'm going to be hospitalized for 5 days, I should at least be able to have one parent with me. My host parents couldn't miss work, and my dad could. So instead of being alone in a hospital, it makes perfect since that he should come, especially considering travel insurance pays for it.
It still tasted good. (This is the first day the throat started to get really bad,
so the lavash was kind of painful to eat. You can tell I'm getting sick -
note the beginning of swelling in the jaw/neck area.)

The third day I was suddenly overrun with visits from strangers (albeit kind ones.) Some random AFS volunteer stopped by for an awkward minute-long non-conversation (I still could barely talk), and then our hosting coordinator's mother came by with fruit and a toothbrush and stayed with me until my dad arrived at around 1 with his embassy entourage.  

This is way too much for me to write tonight. It's my first night out of the hospital, and despite how much I want to be a good blogger and not leave a half-finished story, I'll save the rest for tomorrow. I can't wait to sleep on something that doesn't remind me of a prison cot...

1 Response to "Scattered Post-Hospital Blog Post"

  1. Steve Says:

    Glad to hear you are doing well. Jordan's explanation created more questions than he answered.

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