This is half family and half patient experience stuff so bear with me. I will reassure you I am going to breeze over the hardcore stuff, just don’t consider me a emotionless robot!
It’s been a health intensive few weeks for me. An afternoon call from a disorientated father has resulted in me having to get my mum and I out, to a cliché that happens to many of us with a parent at ‘that’ age.
My dad’s been hit by a stroke that’s left him a little way from the capable fixer, never needing or asking for help that he has been all my life. I have become the adult in our relationship overnight. He is fine, on track to get better, sorted mentally and now discharged to a rehabilitation ‘hotel’ for the slow journey to getting him back on his feet. So don’t go getting sentimental on me and filling the comments box with sympathetic emoticons – this is a company time not therapy!
I know this country well, having lived, played and worked here throughout of my life. It’s a changed place. Spain is in depression. Suffering from unshifting thirty percent regional employment and a national debt that’s spiralling out of control. A gloom pervades this Costa. As I drive to and from the hospital avoiding the strays, the hospital remains a beacon of positivity, organisation and calm. Here the system works best with an extended family, who live locally and take turns to stay with their sick relative, tending, nursing and doing much of the menial and administrative jobs. It’s a system that adapts to cope with those that don’t have this Mediterranean advantage. In this emotional time, midst an economic mud we have found a pearl, an organism of care not a machine of health. Phew.
George, our Spanish/Scouse translator asked whether I was a doctor given my ‘confidence’ with medical terms; MRIs, thrombotic strokes, and secondary care procedures. My Mum is still laughing about this. Jorge looked confused when I explained that my normal world is helping define stories for doctors and patients. “Who needs to do that?” He asked. “You need me to explain what they are doing. They don’t need telling – they’re doctors”. “Yes but…” said I. “Perhaps not the time” my Mum said. The comedy of this arrived over breakfast one morning, alongside a charm of a nurse who in pigeon English describing my dad whilst moving him up the bed as “a dead weight” which proved that the blackest of humour arrives as the blackest of times. “Not quite” we replied pretty much at the same time.
Equipped with a broken Iphone which I timely dropped on the floor in Malaga airport, a medical app, that I reviewed damningly the other month and an unashamed (cheers John W!) ability to ask the most basic of questions. My Dad’s doctor soon realised that ‘communications planning’ is going to be my default mode. I have to remind myself that I am not sitting behind the mirrored glass or midst a research group. The doctors here don’t seem as easy going as the ones nicking off with cans of coke and the free sandwiches in market research. I was tempted to suggest we run a workshop to get some answers, but I had the feeling the next pill would be for me if I didn’t stop ‘getting’ involved.
What hits me now, back at home, and with Dad out of crisis is the environment. Whilst sitting the hours out, we couldn’t be anything but calmed by the it. It felt the lowest common denominator of healthcare; the cleanliness of the space has been a some form of solace. It’s spotless, there has never been a case of MRSA here and it’s a destination for European standard care. The option to go private results in a room on your own and not shared with another – simply nothing else can improve. As an ‘end of bedder’ the cleaning schedule disrupts you constantly. Seemingly every 4 hours the room is wiped down, floors bleached and a thoroughness that insist you exit the room. You are not the focus here, the programme is, and you sit within these confines, as a child in a room full of decision making adults. A perfect approach for a crisis situation.
I have no experience of ‘this’ in any other healthcare system, no comparison to offer. The UK doctors I know speak well of the Spanish system. Our hospital provided translator sought to quell in his mind, the most typical of British fears “our hospital is run by doctors not accountants; this is not your healthcare system”. I can say only that where he is has been the least of our worries.