Five days ago, on the 13th December, was my one year anniversary of the heart surgery that has changed my body, my life and my perception of the way medicine is practised in the country I live in, for ever. There is no going back.
Some of my horror stories, in small doses, are to be found in other posts on this site.
At this point, one year plus later, I am not doing all that well emotionally. I can’t not relive that worst period of my life, which lasted from 14 to 19 December 2016. (My first night after the op was spent in Intensive Care, which was wonderful. After that, for my sins, I was moved to what in the UK they call a “High Dependency Ward” and which here in French-speaking Switzerland is called “Soins continus”.) “Soins continus” started their “service” the way they were intending to continue: by ignoring me, although I was more wide awake than most morphined-up patients coming out of Intensive Care after open-heart surgery.
When I was afforded any attention whatsoever, it quite often resulted in me being scolded or treated with contempt by nurses. (And later, the surgeon, but of course by then he was very angry about my lack of reverence for his august person. And a female patient who complains lucidly about the conditions of her “care”? Next thing you know, the peasants will be revolting and lobbing bombs at the hospital! You can’t allow this kind of thing to start happening.)
A few of the nurses were not like that – but on my first day in Soins continus, that was what it was like. No one showed me any kindness or reassurance whatsoever. No one even acknowledged my presence until I called out. (At this point I realized “I will refuse any more morphine, because if I let them continue to drug me deeply, I could die in here, given how uninterested the staff are.”)
So what was my sin? Looking young, when most of the cardiac patients are old (or look old)? Being blonde, not grey? Not being Italian, like most of the nurses on duty that day? Not sleeping like a log for 48 hours, because that’s what they expect most post-OHS patients to do?
So, one year later, I am in therapy for post traumatic stress, which is really hard, and frankly I hate going to see my therapist, because it kills me that she is so nice to me. At the CHUV they were not nice to me. They clearly did not see the point. (By the way, the therapist is not paid for by my medical insurance, because she is not a pill-prescribing psychiatrist. And she studied for her qualifications in several English-speaking countries, which means that her credentials are no good here. It also means that she knows how people outside Switzerland, especially women, experience the rather rarified, sexist atmosphere here.)
I don’t like being a basket-case who cries often. I am not a crier. My parents died young and I have had a very independent and eventful life. Crying has never been a part of my way of surviving whatever I needed to survive.
The shock of realizing that the faith I had placed in my home of 30 years, Switzerland, was misplaced – in spite of the wealth, the cleanliness, the lack of unrest, the relative lack of poverty, etc. – THAT shock is still with me.
One year later, with my pacemaker, my side-effects that no one seems to know anything about, my feeling of being lost in a weird universe much worse than I already thought it was, is still painful.