As you may have read before in one of my previous posts, I have Crohn’s Disease. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s when I was just 8 years old, so I have countless months and probably even years in total of hospitalizations. I’ve been hospitalized for numerous reasons, bowel rest, observation, procedures and surgeries. Plus, I have visited many different hospitals with all of my moves around the United States due to my Dad being in the Air Force. So I have a wealth of hospitalization experience.
I even got to visit one of the best and most beautiful hospitals in the U.S., Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, on a total fluke when Papa Bear and I were first married. He took me for a surprise vacation to Santa Barbara because we were obsessed with the show Psych at the time. He even played the theme song when we entered the Santa Barbara city limits, all while I’m trying not to vomit. Turns out I had been infected with an intestinal bacteria for who knows how long and I ended up staying in that beautiful hospital for 3 days, including Thanksgiving day!
My most recent hospital stays have been due to pregnancy along with other symptoms. When pregnant with Goldilocks I was hospitalized at 35 weeks due to pneumonia. I then, of course, experienced a c-section and hospitalization after that. I have been pretty healthy for the most part during my current pregnancy. It wasn’t until about 32 weeks along that I started experiencing some symptoms I wasn’t familiar with. I was experiencing strong dizzy spells and lightheadnesses, even when lying down. I was having some bowel issues and also pretty strong cramping. I had already asked my OB about the cramping and he said it was nothing to worry about. So I didn’t think to ask him about the other symptoms until it had been about two weeks and during my routine chiropractic visit, my chiropractor suggested I call the OB just to check in about my symptoms.
My nurse told me to come on in to the hospital to be checked out. So we headed over there and upon seeing the doctor he wanted to admit me right away. He wanted to do multiple tests and basically said it would be easier to admit me for the tests and also for observation. I didn’t expect to be there more than 1-2 days. I ended up being there for about 3 days.
Gleaning from my own numerous hospitalizations in the U.S. I have some suggestions about what to bring, as well as what to expect from your hospitalization in Germany. Be aware that I am comparing the U.S. system to the German system. Also that I only stayed in one hospital in Germany and your experience and the experience of others may vary.
What to expect when hospitalized in Germany:
- Expect that you will likely be given a shared room, which is the norm in Germany. If you would like a single room, be sure to make that known. If you carry American insurance it is likely that they will make this accommodation for you since you are billed as a private patient.
- Expect a difference in the room. You will probably be used to a room with an electric bed, a remote to call the nurse and control the TV and maybe other automated things like a keyboard for your TV to go on the internet. My room was simple but suited all my needs. The nurses button was on the bedside table, as well as a button for the overhead light. You had to pay to use the TV if you wanted to watch it, but I didn’t find that necessary as I wouldn’t have been able to understand the shows. There also wasn’t free wifi, to which I’ve become fairly accustomed.
- Expect a higher level of independence. Of course, this will be different for every patient as some patients can do little for themselves. However, I did not have an IV and I was not a fall risk so I was given a lot of independence. Breakfast and Dinner were both self-serve as a typical German-style buffet. They both usually consisted of a selection of cold cut meats, cold cheeses, some type of salad, various broth/soup selections, cream of wheat and bread. Breakfast was almost exactly the same thing, except with more bread choices and less soup choices. Lunch was the hot meal and would be brought to you. It was great to choose from a pretty decent selection. Choices were typical German meals such as goulash with rice and roulades (a German rolled meat dish). There was a tea, coffee and water station where you could get all your drinks and also recycle your water bottles.
I was also responsible for changing my own bed linens. Or at least, I’m pretty sure I was meant to do that. The linens were provided in the room and no one asked to come in and do them, so Papa Bear helped me change them when he visited.
- Expect a difference in in-processing. In-processing and registration has been a big change I’ve had to get used to. It’s very different here, or at least at the hospital I visited. I didn’t experience much in the way of standard in-processing during this hospital stay. That may have been because the head of OB called up for my room directly but I’m not sure. I’m accustomed to a deluge of questions ranging from my daily medications to my conditions at home. However, during this hospital stay I was asked about my medications on day two and also signed papers on day two. But no standard questions for their records like I’m used to.
- Expect the hospital to be much more environmentally-friendly. This can be said for Germany in general, but the hospital definitely made great strides to reduce their environmental footprint. All the water bottles were glass so they could be recycled. Only reusable mugs were used for drinks. Meals were served on ceramic platters. Even the plates used to carry laboratory equipment were reusable! And I also got a good look at how they provide post-natal supplies like pads and mesh panties. Those items are stocked in paper-towel like dispensers in the bathroom. I’m sure they come in some sort of packaging before they’re stocked in the dispensers, but it’s probably a lot less packaging because they can buy in bulk. I look forward to seeing more ways they conserve after I have little baby bear!
- Expect to have some language barriers. Well, you probably already expected this, with it being Germany and all. The majority of my stay I was alone, without Papa Bear to translate for me. So I did the best I could with the minimal German I know. Every doctor I met spoke phenomenal English. And many of the nurses spoke English too. Occasionally I would have a nurse that didn’t speak any English and we were able to get by with using Google Translate and hand signals. The staff were all fantastic and really made an effort to make sure I was being understood and cared for during my stay.
What to bring when hospitalized in Germany:
- Ausweiss (Identification card, if you have one)
- List of medications including their German pharmaceutical name equivalencies if possible
- A good supply of your medications just in case they take a day to supply them for you
- Snacks and maybe instant soups/pasta which can be made with hot water
- Drinks if you want something different than coffee, tea or water
- Reusable water bottle if you prefer to drink from one instead of the mugs they provide
- Laptop or tablet
- Towels (The ones provided are rather small)
- A light blanket (A comforter is provided but a light blanket may be nice if you sleep warmly)
All ended well with my hospital stay. My blood work was completely normal and all my vitals were normal. I was given an infusion of B12 just in case I was lacking, along with some other vitamins. Even though I would have preferred to be at home with my family, I’m definitely grateful for this “dry-run” hospital stay so I could see what it will be like before my c-section in a few weeks.
Have you stayed in a hospital overseas? What differences did you experience?