Posted by: glenswatman | December 21, 2011

20111211-20 SPAIN Alicante hospital

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SUNDAY 11 DECEMBER – Steve begins the day with a cortisone drip.  I walk across the road to a bar with Wi-Fi and have a mammoth catching up session on line.  We play Scrabble to pass the time as Steve is fed drip after drip (platelets, glucose and 2 bloods).  He must keep his arm straight and low so playing cards or reading is difficult.  Tomorrow they will put in a catheter for the chemo drips and remove the arm one.  I have put a posting on Alicante group of Couchsurfing explaining a little of my situation and asking if there was anyone who would like to meet for a chat or had a spare bed for the occasional overnight.  Marion replied and arrives around 4pm.  We head off towards the castle in her car.  She’s 36 years old and as a construction architect is presently unemployed but actively seeking work.  She was over in Bristol a week ago and is waiting for a reply from a company in London about a job so is very happy to practise her English.  The castle has stupendous views in all directions and the city looks even more attractive as the lights start to come on.  A video presentation explains how the French held it at one point, were toppled by the British and the Spanish regained it by tunnelling in from the side then upwards and blasting us out with a huge bomb.  We drive down to the old town and walk along the ramblas to a bar to take tapas and a drink.  Marion is a really nice and kind lady and says that at the moment she is neither working nor going on line looking for jobs as she thinks she will get the London one.  So with plenty of free time we make a plan for her to pick me up tomorrow so we can drive up the coast to check out the different campsites with a view to me moving Eddie there for a couple of months.  I get back just before 8pm and Steve has had plenty of attention with different tests but is also weary from just lying around – funny how that works.


MONDAY 12 DECEMBER – My goodness is it only a week since this all kicked off.  This morning Steve cannot eat or drink until he has had blood tests, an ECO (whatever that is) and the catheter inserted.  I meet Marian at 10am and we head up the coast to check out campsites.  All 3 would do but the middle one Camping Bon Sol ticks the most boxes and would be my choice.  From just down the road there is a tram into the centre of Alicante then it is either a short bus ride or 20 minutes walk to the hospital.  We stop in San Juan where Marian shows me her apartment block then we have lunch.  Notice that prices here are considerably higher than in the Brit populated resorts but the food is also nicer.  When I get back Steve has had all his testing done and the Doctor explains the ECO was to check that neither his liver nor kidneys were enlarged.  The catheter is stuck in his neck which makes him feel like Lurch as he has limited head movement.  I have quite a battle with our motorhome insurance company SAGA when I contact them to explain our situation and that we may need to have someone else driving the motorhome.  The biggest issue is that it is going onto a campsite and Steve won’t be in it, as he is the named driver on the policy this means we may not have cover!  We have a bad night as they have to leave a pump type drip on and Steve’s neck is aching.  He wakes up feeling really cold and I have to get more covers.   Apparently the sheer quantity of fluids going into his body is cooling him down.


TUESDAY 13 DECEMBER – This morning they make me leave the room whilst they do the lumbar puncture.  It is almost like a major event as the Doctor has a nurse and 3 students with him and also calls in 2 ward nurses and Doctor Fernandez.  They had difficulty getting it in and Steve had problems lying face down and pulling his ankles up with his hands then avoiding cramp in his calves.  Anyway it’s done and the results will be about 3 days and show whether there is leukaemia in his spine or not.   Alison & Bob arrive in the afternoon complete with a folding bed for me.  Alison has a cold so I sit in the corridor chatting to her whilst Bob is in the room with Steve.  Later on we go out for a meal together.  Alison has brought a flask of homemade spicy pumpkin soup so we have that to look forward to later.


WEDNESDAY 14 DECEMBER – We’ve both had a better night’s sleep but still feel weary.  Doctor says today is a day of rest for Steve.  I walk down to Alicante and call in to the free museum where they have some amazing figures from the carnivals.   Many have rude and funny depictions including a child peeing on a book and a cow passing wind and blasting the people behind.  At the Consulate I meet the people I have spoken to and confirm our medical coverage.  Saga call me back and say we will have full coverage for the transfer and on site, shame I had to kick up such a fuss to get it.  Spend the afternoon back on the ward, reading, playing Scrabble and napping.  Marcia is discharged after a 6 week stay which is great news but means we don’t have them to swap papers and magazines with.


THURSDAY 15 DECEMBER – In the morning I give Steve a lower leg, foot and head massage and he seems to enjoy it.  I walk up to the shopping centre and establish why we have got through €25 on the phone in 1 week.  Yes calls to UK are 1.18c a minute but with 41c connection and after 10 minutes it costs 5.9c minute – happy movil, pah.  However there isn’t anything much better so I stick with Happy Movil and buy a phone with SIM and €25 credit for €29,99 (£26) so that Steve can have a phone at the hospital whilst I am in the motorhome.  At least calls between happy phones are free although I suspect when I read the small print there will be a connection charge!  Back at the hospital Steve has started the chemo with 4 different drips going in at the same time.  Claire books flights to come over here in January at the same time as I have to go back to England for an operation.  We are doing a bit of an exchange, she gets to look after her Dad and I get to look after the kids, sounds good.  Late afternoon they put Steve on an inhaler to counteract any fungus and bacteria.  Whilst he is on this and for 3 hours after I have to either leave the room or wear a mask.  He struggles to do it and breaks out in a hot sweat but by putting a cold flannel on his head we get through it.  Later in the evening they wheel him off for another chest x-ray.  At least he is not having any adverse effects so far.


FRIDAY 16 DECEMBER – With no attachments through the night Steve has had a good rest.  This morning he enjoys the “weetabix” and milk that I have bought for his breakfast, the Spanish breakfast is bread and jam every day.  I’ve arranged to meet John in our motorhome at the Lidl across the road at 11am.  I arrive early but at 11.15am receive a text asking where I am as he is at Lidl and can’t find me.  Would you believe there are 2 hospitals on the Gran Via ring road and both have Lidl’s opposite?  We meet up and park so that John & Shirley can visit Steve (Shirley stays in the outer room as she is just getting over a cold).  John says Steve is looking much better than when we were with them the day before he was rushed into hospital.  Reckons his face is much plumper and a far better colour.  John drive us out to Camping Bon Sol at El Campello.  It’s a very basic campsite but quiet and friendly.  We walk around and meet Chris and Irene from Bridgewater who are here for a month.  From the bottom of the campsite it is less than a 5 minute walk downhill to the tram stop where John & Shirley make a connection to get back to Torrevieja.  On site I met my neighbour John whose wife died of cancer.  He is a barrel of laughs with doom and gloom stories but does invite me to join people from the site who go out to dinner together on Saturday night and on Sunday afternoon meet at the English club for a chat and line dancing.  I also meet and Irish couple Brenda and Shamus who stay here all winter and offer any help needed.  I spend a lot of time on the Internet and really feel at home, it’s as if Steve is just out for a walk although I know he won’t be back for a while.  Steve phones in the evening and after a 2nd day of chemo has no ill effects but wouldn’t mind me visiting tomorrow so he can get the football news!

CAMPING BON SOL 1 €300 (£260) month Inc elec and Wi-Fi – ALICANTE HOSPITAL 12

SATURDAY 17 DECEMBER – The tram system here is excellent and very cheap, €1.25 (£1.10) for 1-hours travel in 1 zone by bus and tram and by buying a card with 10 tickets it works out at 75c (65p) a go.  Initially the tram follows the Costa Blanca behind the beach then heads inland and into a tunnel underneath the castle to get to the centre of Alicante, in all about 25 minutes.  I connect with a bus and arrive at the hospital to find the protest in full swing.  It’s been going on for many days and from Steve’s room we have heard them circling the hospital hooting horns and parading banners.  Don’t understand it completely but it seems to be about pay for the cleaners and this is backed up when I enter the hospital and find the whole of the ground floor strewn with rubbish.  Looks like the aftermath of the mother of all parties!  I’ve brought the old laptop into the hospital (knew we kept if for some reason) so that Steve can watch movies and photos to pass the time, teaching him how to do this is a bit of a challenge.  We play lots of cards and Scrabble as well and every so often Steve has a bit of a nap.


SUNDAY 18 DECEMBER – Every other morning they ask Steve not to eat before he has had blood taken so we feel we know the routine.  This morning he gets up and I wash his hair in the sink before he has a shower (trying to fit it in before they connect his drips for the day).  However we find out we were too quick as it turns out he should have had his blood taken before he got out of bed.  The Doctor comes round and tells us the blood tests show the treatment is working well.  Steve feels a bit unwell after lunch with indigestion type pain in his chest but also a hot sweat and difficulty breathing.  I alert the nurse and within a minute 2 doctors and 2 nurses are checking his heart and pulse then get him into bed and on the heart machine as a precaution.  Turns out this is one of the side effects of the chemo but they like to be thorough and all the tests were fine.  I stay with Steve whilst he has a nap then set off back to the campsite.  Neighbour Alan is off back to England tomorrow and gives me the keys so I can use his bike which will be handy.  After 14 days of being at the hospital every day I am planning on staying here tomorrow.


MONDAY 19 DECEMBER – After pottering around, doing the washing etc I realise I haven’t had breakfast – seems the nurses are not going to deliver.  After some marmite on toast I set out on Alan’s bike and ride along the coast to El Campello.   I can see Benidorm in the distance with the huge sky scraper hotels.  El Campello is pretty small, has a Lidl and a couple of other supermarkets and an English shop with everything you might crave from home.  At the far end by the port I find the free camping motorhomes and stop to chat to an English couple who have been there for 10 days without problem.             I arrive back and give the van a bit of a wipe over to get rid of the black streaks and also do a thorough clean out of the fridge as it still has bad smells from being switched off.  Steve calls and reminds me to download some Liverpool clips that a friend has sent and also to try and get some English programmes.   At the moment I’ll do anything for him and end up spending the whole afternoon battling to find a way to download some programmes from the BBC with eventual success.


TUESDAY 20 DECEMBER – Our Couchsurfing friends Karen & Jean Michelle from Altea are going into Alicante today and combining it with a visit to Steve so pick me up en route.  Jean Michelle has a bit of a cold so opts not to visit but Karen comes in and has a really good chat.  She explains about the protests outside the hospital in that the cleaners have not been paid for a long time and are threatening to stop work.  She’s brought us lots of goodies including homemade carrot cake and a lamb tagline.  It’s also good that she can translate a few signs that I don’t understand and get a bit more info from the nurses.  We get a double dose of visitors as John & Shirley pop in after picking up their daughter Danielle who has flown in from England.  There’s just enough time left for Steve to watch the Liverpool match the Mark recorded for him and some other TV stuff, at least today did not drag for Steve and in fact he says he hasn’t felt this well in ages.  Steve reckons the lamb tagine is the best thing he has eaten since arriving in the hospital, amazing just how much he can eat when the food is nice.



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