I open my eyes to a Niagara of gauzy pastel blues and yellows, softly waving in the air. Appropriately, a waterfall of cacophonous Catalan chatter sprays my ears. I am entangled by intubation.
It is visiting hour at Josep Trueta hospital in Girona, Spain, where I am awaiting the prognosis of what has initially been diagnosed as a subdural hematoma, which is doc-talk for a clot of blood under the dura mater that covers my brain. The pressure is incessant. There is pain. They conduct a CT scan and tell me clot is the size of a deck of cards.
Yesterday, while I was quietly reading on the balcony at our hotel room at L’Escala, a sudden, sharp pain appeared behind my right eye. I tried to walk it off, to no avail. Finally, I confessed the obvious: Louise called for an ambulance and here I am, hematoma and all, in a very nice hospital (named, interestingly, after the man who invented the plaster cast). This is the Intensive-Care Ward, so I’m keeping company with a dozen patients in similar conditions of distress, separated by the pastel blue and yellow curtains mentioned above. Everyone is speaking, loudly and to my ears, unintelligibly. The headache, blissfully, is gone. So, I hope, is the hematoma.
Surgery is the Hail-Mary pass for this malady. As it’s described by my handsome Spanish neurosurgeon (the term “McDreamy” comes to mind) it’s not a comforting thought, requiring power tools commonly found in a home workshop. (I thought I heard the words “Black and Decker,” but with the accent, perhaps not.) Hoping to avoid mechanized intervention, McDreamy is trying to “dissolve ” the hematoma with medication, which is far preferable to garage mechanics. Time will tell.
Thus begins an experiment with expat healthcare. I’ve been told the Spanish version is excellent (and free if you’re a Spanish taxpayer, which I am not). This will be an interesting fiscal experiment, which I will report on these pages, assuming I live long enough to pay the bill.
Aside from the unwitting central character, there are three significant players on stage today:
- Jordi Perez Bovet, my neurosurgeon (he shudda been a cardiologist, with his heart-melting Cary-Grant accent and looks — a man who once told me “I learned English from Hollywood movies”).
- Nadia Lorite, Jordi’s assistant, whose sweet brown eyes and morning “Hola!” prove that there really is a better way of waking up than Folgers in your cup.
- My lovely Louise — laughing, adapting (she collects languages the way she collects shoes – and that’s a compliment), charming everyone she meets. All this in spite of the pesky Scirocco named Tom that blows about her feet and continually threatens her equanimity .
Here in the sands of the Spanish Costa Brava, I have found these three gems. This event would be as unbearable as…well…brain surgery if they weren’t looking after my well-being. I am blessed.
Muchas gracias, mi tres amigos.
As for the hematoma, I suspect there will more to follow.