From food poisoning to appendicitis

22 Nov

The ideal solution for a few extra holidays

Anything to stay longer in the sun, although… It started with food poisoning but a few days later it turned out to be appendicitis. A good way to test the European Health Care system, and get a few extra days under the sun from the insurance. Even though my departure to Asia is coming closer more quickly than I’d physically manage…

Rebellious food

Something was bound to happen, it was hanging in the air. Last week, I ate a lovely paella, except that some animal in there was a bit too wild for my stomach. Some hours later, the rebellious seafood had found its way out in a rather liquid form, via top or bottom. Eeek. A few days later, my 2 travel companions went through a similar story, except that they didn’t agree with a Spanish (Arab really) imitation of Balinese food. Thank Dios room service came to clean the bathroom every day.

Doctor that does torture in all tourist languages

So when a few days later I had some more cramps in my nether regions, I though it was some food poisoning again. I had been drinking tap water, audacious world traveller as I am, resistant to anything… (wishful thinking). But when I’d been folded double because of stomach ache about 2 days, I gave in and dragged myself over to the ’24 horas medico doctor läkera Arzt medecin’ (I told you Gran Can is not really Spain).

Save me from Blumberg

After a few minutes in fetus position in front of the doctor’s doorstep, who of course was away for hotel visits, I thought my saviour arrived. How wrong could I be! I did explain him where the pains where, but those (wo)men of science always need to experiment themselves. That’s when he did a Blumberg on me…

The verdict in numbers...

A Blumberg is the technique of relaxing the patient’s belly by a gentle massage, softly but firmly pressurizing a sore spot and then pull back all of a sudden. The pressure was ok, but when pulling away his hands brusquely I jumped onto the ceiling, not sure if I’d better stay there or come back down. My Blumberg was ‘very positive’, noted down with 3 +++. I surely didn’t see the positive side of it then.

That was how the suspicion of appendicitis was established, but to find out for sure, he would have to do a blood test the next morning. However, to allow me to sleep despite the pain, he gave me an injection ‘en el culito’ (in the bum). Not sure what was worse, the injection or the stomach pain. Now I was agonising on both sides of my body.

  • I must have looked miserable enough, because the Doc offered me to drive me back to the apartment in his car …

The verdict: appendicitis aguda

Straight to San Roque Hospital - the most modern around

Next day, 10am, after a peaceful night (I wanna know what was in that syringe, it definitely kept me über-zen), I crawled back to the doctor for a blood test. Waiting for the results, I soaked up my last rays of sun at the pool, as I was suspecting not to feel its caress on my skin for the next few days. Indeed, the results came back from the lab, and the verdict was clear: under the knife, before the useless little piece of intestine would burst. Who on earth invented the appendix?!

A voyage through health insurances

I packed up my bags, bent over double, and off we go by taxi sito presto to San Roque hospital, in the middle of the Canary desert, torrid wasteland all around. At ‘check-in’ they told us to go to emergency, which is on the other side of the building, a few 100 meters away. After climbing up a ramp, which is made for ambulances rather than people in pain, we stumbled upon ‘the emergency room’.

They asked me for my health insurance, but none of the 5 MediCards and insurance papers & numbers I had with me pleased them. So they wouldn’t let me in, till my health insurance sent them a fax saying they’ll cover my costs.

Health insurance one: international emergency centre.

This is what they did to me when they finally let me in

First a bit of music, to get in the right mood. When I got through to an operator, he needed to ask me a ‘few’ questions to open a file: name, phone number, traveling alone or accompanied, arrival, departure, address in Belgium, address in Spain, airline, arrival, departure,… 10 minutes later when I was about to faint he told me that ‘unfortunately your health insurance office is already closed’ so the emergency call centre could not find out on a Friday afternoon whether I’m really covered or not, so they  could not fax an authorisation for admission, till they get a statement from me saying that I’ll pay all the costs in case I’m not covered. They would fax this statement, I had to sign and fax it back, and the they would fax an authorisation statement for me to go in… I always loved ping pong

Travel insurance 2: international emergency number.

My first meal I got after 3 days suffering

For French press 1, for Dutch press 2, etc. For car insurance press 1, for health care press 2, etc.” followed by another waiting tune to get into the mood. I’m probably half dead by now. They also needed to open a file and asked me the same questions as insurance 1. Great – I needed to sit down. After 5 minutes they called me back to let me know that for Spain it is not them directly but some Spanish subsidiary doing the honours. So they would pass on my file. Great.

At that stage I just signed the hospital declaration that I would go in as a private patient and cover my own costs. So far for compatible European Health Care systems…

Show time in the (operating) theatre

All the fuzz for these 3 little holes

It only took half an hour more of sitting & sighing in the waiting room till I was let into ‘triage’. Doctor looked at me, started asking again the same questions, nicely typing up my answers in her computer, attending some phone calls at the same time. Of course she just had to do a Blumberg as well and get me off the ceiling again. She soon ran out to get a surgeon for a second opinion, who AGAIN pulled a Blumberg on me. That’s enough Blumbergs for the rest of my life.

Then things got into a rapid. Wheelchair was wheeled in. Driven through hallways full of masked people. “Please undress”. Lovely blue apron to cover up my bits. Green plastic bags on my feet (they must have smelled because of all the commotion). Shovelled up on a table on wheels and rolled to the operating theatre.

It was damn cold there (and they left me waiting there for half an hour). When it was my turn to go on stage, I was shivering and shaking so much that the anaesthetist had problems poking her needle between my vertebra (epidural). I just started humming a song against the cold and pain, which got us all laughing some more, adding to my pain.

  • And then it went dark…

Welcome back to this world

I want a joystick bed like this !!

I went in at 15h45 and came out around 18h, in one piece, minus a little useless piece. The right side of my tummy nicely wrapped up as if it were Christmas already. I was in a fluffy bed, one with a joystick to make it go up and down, legs or back or all of it together. Cool. I had ample practice when I was doing clinical trials with syringes & tests & co (more here).

I didn’t dare move too much till I had seen a doctor, but doctors obviously don’t like working on weekends, so it wasn’t before midday that I got to see 2 minutes of him (must be a job requirement: don’t talk to patients). However the surgeon showed me how to sit up (rolling on your side, sticking your feet out and pushing your chest upwards with your arms). As soon as I was sitting he left, saying I could get out of bed and take a shower etc. And he disappeared.

Being vertical again didn’t agree much with me after being folded double for days or lying on my back. The world started spinning, cold sweat broke out, my intestines were taken by surprise,… and I was attached to a drip so couldn’t go anywhere. So by the time the nurses ran over, to my emergency buzz, my tummy had already rejected all it didn’t like, on the pristine bed sheets. When the nurses came in, I’m not sure what shocked them most: me being naked, me hung from the drip trying to escape or the result of 3 days bad digestion…

  • Well you can only make one first impression. And I must have done a great job at it.

Lots of liquid food...

Some mysteries to solve

  • When they removed the bandages after my shower adventure, I saw the 3 little holes in my tummy (that’ll be a super sexy scar, better than a tattoo). How on earth can they remove something from your body (supposing one’s appendix is bigger than a cm) through holes smaller than a cm?
  • I’m also amazed by the link there must be between the appendix and the eyes. After the operation all of a sudden I couldn’t read my text messages anymore (nor see what I wrote – sorry). The letters had gone too small and wobbly. I sure hope this goes back to normal…
  • Two other unsolved mysteries are the shaved thigh and the soar throat. A square patch of my left thigh has gone hairless, so I wonder what the purpose was… Or did they only realise at the last moment my appendix was not going to be found in my thigh. And I had this rough deep throat sensation in the back of my mouth. Let’s hope it’s a breathing tube they put in it…

Let me find out…

  • one mystery solved: when being operated, they use all kind of electric machinery, and they stick a patch to the thigh to earth me (like in 3pin plugs) in case there’s a short circuit going through my body (horror). And when they remove the patch, you get a waxed thigh – for free

And the first day only liquid drop food

Otherwise all is well

  • In the mean time both insurances have called me (they’ll probably end up paying double at the rate they are going out of their way), they’ll pay me a few extra days in a hotel in the sun, till I’m ready to travel (should be before I leave to Asia on 26 November!!)
  • I manage to control both my front and back now (the exits), as well as top and bottom of my body again (not walking folded anymore).
  • I pee normal yellowish white again, after having peed fluorescent pink-peach colour
  • After the operation my little soldier was fast asleep for 24 hours, but this morning he was raising its little head to great me (quite a relief).
  • I got a Spanish neighbour in the room with appendicitis as well, so we can exchange horror-stories. The only thing is HE SNORES but luckily I always travel with earplugs (you never know you’ll be sleeping with, as this situation proves).
  • Fluorescent result of the liquid food

    I’m allowed food again but am on ‘Dieta Blanda’ which could be translated as ‘tasteless food’, at the Spanish eating hours of course (breakies at 9h – lunch at 14h – cookie & coffee at 17h – dinner at 20-21h). And the noise in the hospital is worse than at the market (especially Sunday visitors time, dios mio ;-)

  • And I must give you some good advice: always think twice about the style of undies or pyjamas you take on holidays… you never know… (now I do ;-)

Thank you to everyone who Wished me Well – love ya!


  • Getting operated was only one step – getting back to ‘normal’ another: seeing normally, walking normally, eating normally and especially SHITTING normallyRead why here


PS Health Insurance – The Sequel

La dieta blanda - no taste allowed

On Sunday, only 2 days after my operation the surgeon blows in again unexpectedly, and the usual 2 seconds of attention later he ‘dismisses me’ – I’m cured halleluiah, but not saved yet. I quietly stick around for lunch and at 14h I ring my health insurance to find out what they want to do with me, now that I don’t have a flight back and no pillow to rest my head anymore.

Health Insurance 1:

They were so kind to inform me that my health insurance works with a Spanish company ‘taking care’ of their miembros. So I ring the Spanish number ‘en español’, and they couldn’t even find the file I had to open during minutes on end while I was fainting upon check-in.

They do find me in the end, and ask me to fax them the ‘informe de alta’ (proof of leave) signed by the doctor and the ‘informe Fit to Fly’ (required by airlines). Of course the only fax machine being at the entrance of the other side of the hospital. One hour after sending the fax, I gave them a ring to find out how they were doing. Guess… they requested me to fax the ‘informes’ again.

So I rang Travel Emergency Insurance #2 instead:

And back to blogging ;-)

They were very friendly and when they told me they would call back, they actually did (from their French call centre in French). Très bien. They even called me back to apologise they were taking so long. And in the end they found me a hotel… in LAS fxxking PALMAS, the capital 150km away on the other side of the island.

Sigh. They would call back. And after 4 hours of insurance battle they found me a nice 4 star hotel, right in the middle of Playa del Ingles party town. Not that I’ll be able to do any of that (I barely managed to drag myself to the pharmacy one block down the road – to get supplies). So I’ll have a night in luxury, and hopefully get back to Brussels in one piece – just in time to move on to Asia ;-)

  • Good night!

One Response to “From food poisoning to appendicitis”

  1. chris 22 November 2009 at 21:15 #

    jesus lord! and you took so many photos!!!! glad that u survived! Nasty experience, but i can see that you are still high-spirited, like always! You are the best!

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