15 minutes in a Hungarian public hospital

I don’t know why Scott and I perpetually choose to do hard things. Get a PHD in a foreign country- hard. Spend 8 weeks of the summer apart- hard. Save instead of spend- hard. Have a baby in a foreign country- arguably harder.

I’m sure any prenatal journey has it’s ups and downs, but choosing to take the public option route in Hungary is a world of it’s own- particularly for an outsider whose Hungarian knowledge is limited to street lingo. I haven’t quite mastered doctor’s office Hungarian, nonetheless OBGYN Hungarian.

On Friday I went to get another standard blood test. I had to be there at seven, but had a few hurdles awaiting me. We just moved, and I had to find our bank to get cash because card isn’t accepted. Check. I then had to navigate the public transportation system with a new route to the hospital. Would be easier if many of the tram/metro stops including the one we live at and the one I was going to hadn’t been changed in the past two months. Check. Once arriving at hospital navigate my way. As I walked up the steps and took a look at the crumbling building in front of me, I couldn’t quite understand why so many government dollars have gone to changing metro stop names when the hospital where I might give birth has crumbling walls. Ah well.. keep walking. Head down dimly lit halls with their gray walls and grim workers.

Take a seat where I thought I remembered coming before. I arrived at 6:45- quite early for 7am appointment. At 6:57am I see Aniko, the Hungarian nurse from the doctor’s office. She says, “Szia Melissa.” Hi Melissa and gestures for me to follow her. She points for me to have a seat while she goes into her office to change out of her slinky summer dress into her nurse gear.

She calls me in to draw blood. The room is bare. A couple of tables, cracked floor tile, gray walls… charming. I apologize to her for missing my Monday appointment. Literally I said, “Sorry no come I Monday. Cheese (gesture eat) Friday (gesture vomit)” I think she totally got the message that I ate cheese at a cheese festival on Friday night and proceeded to have food poisoning for the next five days. Totally clear.

She asks me a question and I have no idea what she is saying. She points to her arm and crotch and says, “When?” Excuse me. She does it again. Still message is not coming through. She looks frustrated. I sit and think, think, think. About four minutes later I got it. When had I come for the last test!? June something or other. I don’t remember! Then I said, “Sorry. Four minutes I understand” in my lovely caveman Hungarian.

Blood test, and then the best part. I’m holding down the gauze to stop the bleeding after blood test and she hands me a cup and a tiny vial- the kind that they use to take blood. So, I am supposed to walk down the hall holding down the gauze to prevent further bleeding, go into a bathroom stall, get my pants down while still holding gauze, somehow urinate and then pour the urine from the cup to vial all while ensuring proper clottage of the arm. I asked for tape my making a noise that sounded to me like tape and then pointing to arm. Tape isn’t complimentary in the phlebotomy business in Hungary. Message immediately transmitted and understood. Not to brag or anything, but my non-verbal is pretty good since I teach a foreign language.

Now, the bathroom leaves something to be desired. You can’t fully close the bathroom stall door, so you just hope no one walks in while you”re a) urinating in cup or b) pouring urine from cup to vial c)derobing to make the whole thing happen. Also, better hope you don’t get urine on your hand during delicate pouring  process because there is no toilet paper to wipe it off or hand soap to say goodbye to the germs you’ve just encountered in the hospital.

You then pay the nurse cash (cause you don’t have public health insurance) and leave her a little tip since she makes approximately $400 a month and she had to put up with your not speaking her language in her country crap.

Then you run to the closest place that sells food and eat, eat, eat since your baby is hungry!

The end.

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11 Comments

Filed under Cultural Mishaps, Culture, Our Daily Life

11 responses to “15 minutes in a Hungarian public hospital

  1. Well, that reminds me Turkey… Well, maybe just a litttle better than that Hungarian hospital but trust me, you don’t want to go to a Turkish Public Hospital. Well, I don’t want to go private ones cause those are also thieves. I hope you won’t have any problem during the birth.

  2. You are a champ. If you ever want me to go with you…for support and a laugh…and maybe a little translation too and I mean little…I’d be happy to accompany you. Also, bummer about the cheese festival. We were there Friday night too. After one little bite I decided to forgo further tastings and get ice cream instead. Yikes. –Allie

  3. Nancy Clark

    Oh my, Melissa! You certainly can capture the details! I’ll add a quote one of my Facebook friends just posted.
    “Expose yourself to the circumstances of His choice.” -Amy Carmichael
    …and you have!
    Love,Nancy

  4. Holly

    I was nodding my head in agreement as I read your post. I visited many Nepali hospitals, and even went under in the operating room, and your description sounded similar. And, btw, choosing the hard road means you are risking more and forced to really trust God to intervene. It’s more fulfilling to live that way 🙂

  5. Please! Easy is for boring people!

  6. Sherry

    Wow, Melissa! Pregnancy is a “hard thing” not matter where you are, but your ability to navigate the cultural differences is plain inspiring. You’ve got this, friend! I know you have a surplus of wonderful moms to tap into, but if you ever have questions or feel overwhelmed and need to vent, I’m an e-mail away! Sending you love and patience!

  7. Home birth sound good about now?

  8. liz howeth

    yeah, i was thinking home birth, too. good job, chappy! all of these challenges are making you an even stronger person.

  9. Pingback: Who would do that?! | Our RANK Adventure

  10. Pingback: Recommendations for a pregnant friend- part 1 | Istanbul Moms

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