Playing the game: another hospital appointment

Going to a hospital consultation, in a country where I only speak a little of the language, is not dissimilar to my time spent as a child playing adventure games such as Monkey Island, on my old Amiga computer. Yet instead of following the misfortunes of the hapless Guybrush Threepwood as he struggles to become the most infamous pirate in the Caribbean, the focus is on me, an English girl; half-deaf and with limited Spanish, trying to fathom her way around a Spanish hospital system. Yeah, it doesn’t sound as interesting, and it’s not, but it presents a puzzle in itself nonetheless. As in such adventure games there are questions, feelings of apprehension, and puzzles that must be solved before progressing with the story and moving forward in the game.

My game begins with the intense feeling of nervousness whilst sitting in the waiting room. I sit asking myself various questions: Will the specialist speak English? Will they listen to my Spanish and take me seriously, even though I’m obviously not fluent? Will they slow their speech down so I can understand some of the words? Will they be OK with writing down the names of any necessary tests, so that I can go home and Google them? Will I even hear them when they call my name!  My main hope is that they will be patient with me.

The next part of the adventure is the actual consultation. If I am not fortunate enough to meet a specialist who speaks English, I feel the difficulty level increase immediately, and uneasiness starts to claw at me. Trying to make sense of what a specialist is saying, involves me grasping at the words of which I know the meaning of, and putting them together as quickly as I can. Sometimes I find myself listening and trying to concentrate so hard, that I actually end up not concentrating at all. Sometimes I succeed in listening carefully and I manage to understand some words. However, in the time it takes me to make sense of the words, I end up missing the rest of what has been said. On occasions I am handed papers and may be told to take them to another department or area of the hospital, or to use them to inform another member of staff as to the nature of a follow up appointment. The next level follows my journey as I walk around the hospital following signs, and then coming to the realization that I have no idea where I’m going, or why I’m even walking around clutching my paperwork in the first place!

Four weeks after my appointment with the new ENT specialist, I went to the hospital for my referral with the maxillofacial doctor. The upper jaw is referred to as the ‘maxilla’, and the type of doctor I would be seeing, specializes in treating problems related to the hard and soft tissues of the face, mouth, and jaws. I went to the hospital by myself. As usual, my game began with me sitting and waiting anxiously in the waiting room. A mixture of questions were eagerly pushing themselves forward; fighting to be at the forefront of my mind. I scanned the faces in the room. There were people here of all ages. I had found myself sat next to an old man, who kept coughing loudly into a crumpled handkerchief. Whilst battling to ignore the interrogation of persistent questions in my mind, I couldn’t help but glance at a few individuals around me; studying their faces, and wondering why they were here. I’d focus for a while on someone’s features; looking at the shape of their jaw, and assessing the symmetry of their face, until I felt they had sensed my stare, and were about to look back at me. I’d then quickly move my eyes away from my subject.

My name was called, and I walked into a small room. Immediately the specialist started speaking in Spanish. Difficulty level up! I started to answer her questions, and I apologized that my Spanish wasn’t good. She reassured me by saying it was OK. The doctor had a young face, dark hair and radiated compassion. She listened to me as I explained how I had suddenly lost my hearing. She was writing everything down. Then she examined my jaw. She asked me to open my mouth as wide as possible and she felt the joint. She then asked me to close it. I repeated this a few times and she asked if I had any pain in the joints. She placed a tiny piece of card with measurements on, next to my front teeth, and told me my teeth were 3mm to the left, off centre. Then she told me that I was going to do a test. If the results of the test were negative, the treatment would be physiotherapy and wearing a night-time mouth guard. But, if the test showed that I have…then…Oh dear, my skills of following the Spanish conversation were dwindling. I had missed some important information. I told her I didn’t quite understand. She told me not to worry, and the main thing was that first I would need to do the test. I asked her to write down the name of the test and condition she was referring to, so I would be able to research it later at home. Then I was handed some papers and told to go to the receptionist.

Next I went around the corner to the receptionist. As she was speaking to me there was also another woman in the small room, speaking very loudly on the phone. I couldn’t hear my next instructions.  I apologized to the receptionist and said that I didn’t understand and that I couldn’t hear very well. She kindly accompanied me out of the door, handed me some more papers, and directed me to take them to a window down the passage. I thanked her.

Next level. I then walked forwards as far as I could go – which is the direction I was given, and wandered around for a bit. Then it hit me, the moment of realization that I didn’t know what I was doing or where I was supposed to go, or why! I spoke to a nurse who was talking to another nurse in the corridor. She directed me and told me I needed to get a ticket and then go to a window. I walked again in the direction she told me, but didn’t find a ticket machine. Hmm puzzling…I spoke to a man who was sitting at the Information desk in the entrance, and he printed me a ticket. Oh, there wasn’t a ticket machine – this man was in charge of tickets! Then he pointed to the first window and told me I was next. Next for what, I wasn’t sure! I handed the woman behind the glass screen my papers, and she was very patient as she spoke to me. I had to put my ear into the small opening of the glass, so I could hear some of what she was saying. I managed to make appointments for the test and also a follow up appointment. Then I went back to the receptionist in the maxillofacial area, and showed her my papers. She checked them. She seemed happy with my accomplishments and we said our goodbyes.

When I returned home I Googled the words the doctor had written down for me. The ‘gammagrafíatest was a ‘bone scintigraphy‘.  I would be having an injection of a dye of radioactive material. This dye would then travel around my body and emit radiation. Then a camera would take pictures of how much of the dye accumulated in my jaw bones. It was a test to rule out a condition called ‘condylar hyperplasia‘ which is a rare bone disease that affects the jaw bone, and causes asymmetry in the jaw amongst other things.

Anyway…Game over, for this day at least!

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Author: myhearinglossstory

Hi, My name is Carly. I am 34 years old and I am currently living in Spain. I am originally from a small seaside town in Yorkshire called Bridlington, and have also lived in China and Thailand. I am an Early Years primary school teacher, and have been teaching for nearly 12 years. I love walking in the countryside, getting lost in Madrid, going out for breakfast, taking photos, listening to music, storytelling podcasts, baking, running, drinking wine, and eating spicy food. This year I experienced sudden sensorineural hearing loss in my left ear. I have started this blog as a way to inform my friends and family about my progress, for anyone else who is going through a similar experience as me, or for anybody who is interested in learning about this type of hearing loss, and the way it can affect everyday life.

33 thoughts on “Playing the game: another hospital appointment”

  1. Wow, just when I think this story couldn’t get any more interesting, you zing me! I don’t recall ever reading any mystery novel with more twists and turns. This is exactly why I refer to you as a warrior. I can’t imagine trying to navigate around a hospital in a country where I don’t know the language, even if I had perfect hearing! I’m envisioning myself going in for a routine echocardiogram and ending up with a heart transplant instead!

    I have much more to say (THAT shouldn’t surprise you). See email.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Al. Thank you, as always, for reading. What a lovely comment too! I’m starting to think that maybe I should start insisting people call me ‘warrior’!! – I love the nickname 😛
      The hospital appointments are always difficult, but the healthcare here has been really good 🙂 ..also, now my Spanish medical vocabulary has definitely improved!
      Thank you for the Email….It’s always great to hear from you 🙂 Have a lovely weekend. Carly

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  2. Wow your grasp of Spanish is fantastic – even when you are going through medical investigations in English it can be a minefield but to cope with it in another language is amazing, well done xxx

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    1. Hello Anita. Thank you for the great comment 🙂 I think it’s more of a case of me learning techniques to try to make sense of everything 🙂 I am much more confident now in asking the doctors to write important words down for me, so i have some idea of what’s going on! I hope you are relaxing lots. Love Carly xxx

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  3. Kudos to you Carly for being able to get through this difficult trial. I know I wouldn’t be able to do what you’ve been able to do in a foreign country where I wasn’t familiar with the language. You may have already looked into this but I just googled translator apps for the iPhone and found this article on the top 5: http://heavy.com/tech/2015/04/best-translation-translator-app-voice-iphone-android/ Not sure how helpful they can be. I agree with Al, you are a warrior!! Oh, and I heard from Sherri today and I told her you wished her well. She’s doing better but she has to take pain meds for pain in parts of her head and her ears hurt but she was able to use her treadmill today for a few minutes so she’s making progress.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Steph! How are you? Thank you for the lovely comment 🙂 I think I can only navigate the Spanish hospital because I have to – I’d rather know that all my specialists were going to speak English 😛 Thank you for sending the translator apps…I usually use Google Translate or WordReference, but think the ones you suggested might be worth a try too.
      I hope Sherri is in less pain today and is starting to adapt a little to her new way of hearing. Take care.
      – Carly

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Carly, I’m doing well. If I were in your situation because there is no other alternative, I know I’d do the same as you and deal with it as best I can but I also know I’d be frustrated. I think Google Translate (I use this too) might have been the first one on the list. I can hardly wait for the day when our phones will be able to translate entire conversations. Although the drawback to this is it would make us lazier than we already are 😉. Have a good day and Sherri sent me a text on Sunday. She’s feeling better day by day.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I used to live in Spain when I was a child! Thank you for sharing your story. I have a friend who lost her hearing in one ear after a viral infection. Being a nurse, anything related to medicine interests me. Nice to meet you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Ipuna. Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂 Ooh, whereabouts in Spain did you used to live?! I was wondering, how is your friend with the hearing loss doing? Does she use a hearing aid? Nice to meet you too 🙂
      – Carly

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello Carly, I lived in Madrid. My step-father was stationed out there when I was younger. My friend, Kristi, doesn’t use a hearing aid yet. She has chose to just live with hearing from one ear for now. I’ve suggested that she check out other options.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, I’m in Madrid too 🙂
        Glad your friend is doing OK without a hearing aid – I think that many people with single-sided deafness find this is their best option. If your friend was interested in trying an aid, a CROS hearing aid might help her – it picks up sound from the deaf ear and sends it to the hearing ear – some people have really good experiences with this type of aid…
        Take care
        – Carly

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thank you! I will share that with her! I was 4 yrs old when I was in Madrid. I just remember loving the bread and ice-cream. The bull runs (if I’m remembering correctly) were entertaining too (not sure if I’d think that as an adult!).

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  5. Just reading your post raised my anxiety level. I can imagine your trepidation and I would have felt stressed if I didn’t understand what was being said (about me). I also do the same wondering in the hospital, looking at people and trying to imagine what they came for.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hello Carly 🙂
    Poor thing !
    I am English, my Spanish is so-so (restaurant savvy) and have been through the Spanish Health System, the old hospital in Ronda, Andalucia. So I know exactly what you are going through. I gave up going a year ago, had all the tests, IVs, tablets, kept me in for days of tests …….. no clue how to fix my balance & vibrating hands, but they kept filling me with concoctions that googling their side effects were really scary, inc. death. I don’t have the stress of many hours of travelling and wondering what the heck they are going to do to me any more. I felt so much better ! 🙂
    I do hope and pray that they find a fix for your ear as soon as possible.
    Big hug. Ralph ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Ralph. Thank you for your comment and for reading. I was surprised to meet someone who has also been through the Spanish healthcare​ system. I am finding the care ok but my condition is so under researched that all the specialists have been able to do is try different treatments that could maybe help and then see what happens…the language barrier has made things extra difficult.
      Are you still in Spain ? I hope you are well. Take care.
      – Carly

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello again Carly 🙂
        The hospital did exactly the same with me as they hadn’t a clue what to call my condition. The last name they thought of was Lewis Sumner, so were basically experimenting with me. When I gave up going to the hospital I did try acupuncture privately in Gibraltar which meant a whole day of travelling for two hours of needles. I think it could have possibly worked, but the travelling countered whatever good she did with me and the total cost was around €100 per session including travel. So I gave that up and at the moment have no treatment at all which seems to be doing me good as I am staying stabilised.
        Yes, I have been living permanently in this small mountain village just south of Ronda, Andalucia, for 13 years. Love it here.
        You are in Madrid, yes ? Boy, I bet it is busy, busy, busy there and I do hope that you are enjoying the city.
        As I said before I hope and pray that they can fix your ear Carly. I bet you have googled your problem ear and you could probably fix it yourself by watching YouTube. lol
        Anyway, have a lovely week my new friend. Ralph ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hello Carly 🙂
        That’s great that you are trying acupuncture. Maybe you should have a go with hands on healing, you never know, your ear may pop back to normality. I hope so. 🙂 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hi Ralph. I am undergoing a variety of alternative type healing at the moment..I’ll write more about it in future blogs… exactly, you never know what can happen from hands on healing…it is something I feel should be given more consideration from the medical world…
        Take care
        – Carly

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Hi Carly 🙂
        That’s great that you are trying different things. I hope that at least one treatment will work.
        While I was undergoing acupuncture in Gibraltar, Francesca was massaging my feet and I reckon that her doing that had a lot more effect on me than the needles. She was quite shocked when I told her that the heat in her hands was due to hands on healing and that she should pursue that as well as acupuncture.
        Anyway, good luck my friend, I am praying for you 🙂

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  7. I’m sorry I’ve missed so many of you posts. Some I read in my email and don’t make it over to comment. I’m sorry about that.
    You are amazing!! I get turned around and confused in a country where I speak the language, I don’t know how you navigate a hospital system, alone, when you don’t speak the language. horrors.
    I’m curious to find what the test shows.
    I’ve been asked if I have TMJ problems as that can cause a lot of my symptoms, I’ve had my neurologist and dentist check and they say it’s fine, but I’ve been warned I should have a specialist look. I wonder. Not something that would be easy to do.
    good luck. I hope they find something, Carly.
    xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Wendy. I will be posting soon about my trips to the dentist and other types of therapy…I have also been doing a bit of research in TMJ problems, and will write about this too. Take care and have a great weekend.
      – Carly

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